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Nehemiah was a man with a calling. His heart ached for his people in Jerusalem who were struggling to get settled after returning from their 70 year captivity. After receiving the support of King Artaxerxes, this cupbearer to the king journeyed to the holy city and rallied the support of the people to rebuild the broken down walls. But jealousy among neighboring tribes made the work increasingly difficult.

Sanballat and his associates tried to convince Nehemiah to stop his important work of restoration. Instead of directly attacking the leader, these distractors tried to draw him away from the city by seeking to hold a meeting with him. They wanted to capture him and either kill Nehemiah or put him in prison.

Notice how Nehemiah responded: “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 6:3). But Sanballat was not easily swayed. He sent messengers four more times without success. Then this conniving adversary tried to start rumors about the leader revolting against the Persian government, hoping to somehow have the wall-builder removed. Nehemiah didn’t budge.

Time Alone with God

After reading about Nehemiah, I had to ask myself, “What work has God called me to do? And what diversions has the enemy set up to pull me down from my high calling?” First and foremost, the Lord asks me to commit my life to Jesus every day, without fail. Every morning, after a brisk walk, I turn my heart heavenward through Scripture, religious literature, and prayer. Nothing is more important than this time alone with God (see Mark 1:35).

Next, God calls me to be a servant to my family. My priority relationship on this earth is with my wife. The neighbors don’t come first, the church doesn’t precede her, and even our children do not come before my spouse. Listening and caring for her heart is to be a top concern (see 1 Peter 3:7). But, following her are the extended members of my family—children, grandchildren, parents, brothers and sisters. Only then do I serve the church and community (see Galatians 6:10).

I must admit that I am not totally successful. It seems every day there are “Sanballats” who call and email and seek to pull me away from building the wall. All of these requests and diversions could mostly be categorized as “good things.” But they are not my priority. I find courage in the example of Nehemiah. He was not a man easily distracted. His eye was single to the most important task at hand.

When you are trying to make your family a priority, and Sanballat calls to you, how will you respond? Can you say, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down”? Be determined to set your goals in place and follow them. Then pray, “Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9).

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By Curtis Rittenour. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION © 1982.

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