“Now it happened?that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono.’ But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?'” (Nehemiah 6:1-3).
When Christians seek to evangelize, they often find themselves at cross purposes with the culture surrounding them. Agendas and priorities differ. This is rather obvious and certainly natural. It is the very reason why evangelism is urgent. The world does not seek or care for the things of God. When we urge those things upon it, there is reaction and often rejection and conflict.
During my last trip to Bangladesh I was frequently frustrated by interruptions from “outsiders” who wanted to see me and discuss business. Their business was far more important to them than to me, and had little to do with my purpose for being there, which was primarily to teach classes at Khulna Bible College. Frequently they would come just before time for class to meet, and at other times I would be called out of class to visit with them. Courtesy seemed to demand that I accede to at least some of these demands. Sometimes I did not know the identity of the visitor or the nature of his request to meet with me, so felt unable to refuse at least a brief interruption to gain this information.
I have no reason to believe that these uninvited guests wished me harm, as Sanballat did to Nehemiah, nor to believe that they were deliberately trying to obstruct our efforts at the school. Nevertheless, their demands were obstructive. The distractions which they provided cost time, energy and attention that were needed in the work that I was doing.
Often our distractions are not quite so obvious. However, they are still very real and very obstructive. We just never seem to have all the time we need for personal Bible study and devotions, for family time, for worship services and fellowship, and for “being fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10). Our work, unexpected guests, and many other things keep us busy. Often these are good things in themselves ? there may be nothing “wrong” in the things that fill our schedules. But they are not the most important things. They should not be, and are probably not, our top priorities. Their great evil is simply that they prevent us from ever getting to those priorities. We never accomplish our true purpose.
Nehemiah had the solution. He kept his eye firmly on his goals. He knew who he was, what his job was, and what was necessary to accomplish it. Why should he drop his task to meet the agenda of his enemies? He would not be distracted. When we have the same sense of purpose and urgency for the tasks God has given us, we may be as successful as Nehemiah. May God bless us that that will indeed be the case.

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