Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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20. Dealing with Distractions – Part 1

Nehemiah 6:1-4

Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained—though we had not yet set up the doors in the gates. So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono.But I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?”Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply.

Last time we saw that in every chapter Nehemiah is confronted with a different challenge. And now as we continue in our series “Building in the Battle” Nehemiah is confronted with the danger of distraction. It’s here in chapter 6 that we discover how to deal with deadly distractions. Every one of us is susceptible to getting sidetracked, let me ask you this, do you have any unfinished projects lying around just collecting dust? Are there things you have been meaning to do but somehow you have never gotten around to starting or finishing? It’s easy to get sidetracked isn’t it? We all have good intentions but sometimes we just don’t have good follow through. It takes tenacity and focus to finish the things that we start because there are always going to be competing distractions.

  1. INVITATION – Vs 1-4

Notice that the chapter starts with the enemies, there will always be those who stand in the way of God’s Will. Also notice that the enemy was well aware of not just the work but the progression of the work. The work on the walls has been completed and all that is left to finish are the doors in the gates. Nehemiah is so close to being done but if he stopped now the walls would be worthless because even though there are no gaps in the walls there is still a major weakness, without gates there are still gaps. Without gates we are exposed to the garbage, and vulnerable to attack, strong walls without gates are a recipe for disaster. The enemy tries to distract him at a critical point, the completion of the gates. This is the fourth time that we have come across Sanballat, and every time we read about him, he is standing in opposition to the work of God. The enemy is not just going to attack once he is going to come at you again and again. Remember Satan tried to tempt Jesus three times in the wilderness. The Book of Nehemiah reminds us that life is a battle from beginning to end. In Ephesians 6:12 the Apostle Paul warns, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood…but against the powers of this dark world.”We meet these powers of darkness in our text today. Here in Nehemiah 6, we discover that the devil has two main tactics. The first is fear. Satan is prowling around, as Peter says in 1 Peter 5:8, “like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”Not only does he deploy fear, but he also utilizes flattery. 2 Corinthians 11:14 reveals that Satan “masquerades as an angel of light.”He comes with enticing promises and flattering words, assuring us that what he proposes will not harm but help us. This was the tactic he first used in the garden of Eden to deceive Eve. Regardless of which evil method he employs, whether it be fear or flattery, his aim is to distract and destroy us. We need to be on guard against all of his approaches, just as the apostle Paul preached in 2 Corinthians 2:11 that “We are not unaware of his schemes.”We need to be on guard because Satan is both a lion that devours and a serpent that deceives. The enemy comes with an invitation, today there are many invitations we can be involved in. It feels good to be invited, but it’s here that Nehemiah teaches us that the secrete to dealing with invitations disguised as distractions is to first know your mission and to organize your priorities around your purpose. The Devil tried to deceive and distract Jesus at the very beginning of His ministry with three invitations.

  • The first focused on the lust of the flesh (Matthew 4:3–4). Jesus was hungry after fasting for forty days, and the devil invites Him to convert stones into bread, but Jesus replies with Scripture, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.
  • The second temptation concerns the pride of life (Matthew 4:5–7), and here the devil uses a verse of Scripture (Psalm 91:11–12), but the Lord replies again with Scripture to the contrary (Deuteronomy 6:16), stating that it is wrong for Him to abuse His own powers.
  • The third temptation concerns the lust of the eyes (Matthew 4:8–10), The devil took Jesus to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you, if you will kneel down and worship me.” Again Jesus went back to the word and said ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’

The way to deal with distractions is to know God’s Will, and the way we know His will is to be in His Word. Nehemiah knew what God had called him to, so when he was invited to Ono he was able to discern not only the distraction but the danger, vs 2 “But I realized they were plotting to harm me.” Ono was located on the seacoast near the Gaza strip. It was a beautiful resort area, that would have appealed to a weary wall builder. But because Nehemiah knew God’s Will he could walk away from this tempting trap, Nehemiah said, “Oh, no!” to Ono. What are some of the Oh no’s you need to say? Because if you don’t discern the distractions and decline, you will be deceived and dive in.