So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month of E’-lul, in fifty and two days. (Nehemiah 6:15)
We are a highly distracted society. We carry our telephones with us. We pack our lap-tops and iPads around to coffee shops where we can access the internet and check on endless email. Those who are really up-to-date on technology carry their telephone, email and internet in a compact gadget that fits comfortably in the palm of the hand. So many automobile accidents are caused by people talking or texting on their cell phone while driving instead of paying attention to the job at hand – driving! Even during church services, grownup adults continually check their iPhones for messages, sports scores or check their Facebook for updates. Then at home the distractions continue with over 200 channels from which to choose on television. It’s a wonder that we get anything accomplished, especially as it relates to the work of God.
Nehemiah had a task. God had placed in his heart the desire to rebuild the fortifications of Jerusalem. Unlike us whose distractions are often self-inflicted, Nehemiah’s distractions were from without, from enemies who wanted to derail his God-given assignment. First his enemies laughed at him (Nehemiah 2:19). Then they mocked and ridiculed (Nehemiah 4:2-3). Next they threatened attack thereby demoralizing the people (Nehemiah 4:11). Then there was dissension within the ranks due to abuse of the poor by the nobility (Nehemiah 5:7). When these distractions failed to stop his progress, his enemies resorted to plots to assassinate him (Nehemiah 6:2, 4). Through all of this, Nehemiah maintained his focus on the goal of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and the task was completed in just fifty-two days.
Paul encourages us to focus on our God-given goals with these words: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Sometimes the distractions that keep our mind off of the things and the work of God are not self-imposed as in the case of Nehemiah. Sometimes those things are distractions placed there by our enemy, and yes, those can include our gadgets or the entertainment, in whatever form, we seek. But the Devil is not omnipresent and does not deserve all the blame for all of those distractions; we can do pretty well on our own. So, whether our distractions are assaults from without or self-inflicted, we should keep in mind: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;” (Hebrews 12:1-2). John the Beloved put it this way, “all that is in the world … is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:16-17). Stay focused on the job at hand, and on what is truly important!