“I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down”- Nehemiah 6:3a (ESV)
Most nights in the Blount household, we attempt- strong emphasis on attempt– to lead our kids in a just-before-bedtime routine of “Bible story and activity” and prayer. Lest you are tempted to be impressed, you need to know that this time regularly descends into utter toddler delirium; we feel like we’re winning if we get one kid praying and less than two in bed without injury or severe discipline.
That said, we’re learning…and one thing we’ve learned recently is that if we find a story that really connect with our crew, it’s a good idea to repeat that story over and over again until they are ready to move on. And if we can employ an interactive way to visualize and “act out” the story, that’s an added bonus. Quality over quantity, right?
Recently, the story of choice has been that of Nehemiah, our resident Old Testament wall builder. Our middle son, Jude, gets a real kick out of building walls of blocks “with Jesus’ help” in the face of the “mocking” of the “bad guys” (usually a role filled by Mom or Dad). We’re at least four weeks removed from his first exposure to this story (in the FC Depot Kids Ministry, by the way…love our incredible volunteers!), and he isn’t slowing down with it.
Cards on the table, I love this story. I love Nehemiah’s vision for his city. I love his boldness in approaching the king of Persia. I love his apt leadership of the Israelite workforce. And most of all, I love his unmoving perseverance in the face of many obstacles to the completion of his mission.
This perseverance is most brilliantly expressed in Nehemiah 6, when the book’s namesake is approached by his opponents with an invitation to come down and meet with them. Recognize that this invite is not an innocent, casual “let’s-get-together-for-coffee” request; it was instead borne in conspiracy, and presented on the heels of several chapters’ worth of insults and threats. Though Nehemiah’s enemies had changed their tone here, their intent remained the same- to derail the Israelites’ efforts, and put an end to Nehemiah altogether.
Nehemiah’s response to these guys is strikingly simple, but absolutely brilliant- “I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.” That’s it. He doesn’t get huffy; he doesn’t argue with them; he doesn’t even really make much of a case for why he can’t come down. He simply says to them, “I believe in what I’m doing here, and I won’t be convinced to stop.” And in the chapters that follow, we see Nehemiah do just that- persevere in his work, seeing it through to completion.
As we wrap up our Decisional series this week, we talked about not just making decisions, but maintaining those decisions over the long haul of life; in short, we explored the “why” and “how” of perseverance. The reason we chose to land the series here is pretty straightforward- decision maintenance is difficult, and every day we are tempted to abandon our biblical convictions in the face of the many varied “curves” that life throws at us. But if we believe that God has led us to a certain decision, we can’t jump ship on that direction the moment playing it out becomes inconvenient. In Nehemiah’s words, we can’t “come down from the wall.”
I don’t know what it is for you today, but I know that all of us, at some point, wrestle with this tension in our decision making and maintenance. We get anxious. We grow fearful. We struggle with doubt. We long for an easier, less “curvy” path in following Jesus. Nehemiah’s example teaches us that when we face these very real struggles, we must do two things- remember that the work we are doing is great, and draw on God’s grace and strength to enable us to persevere.
If you’re on the verge of giving up on a decision today- of going “off road” in search of a shortcut- ask God to give you vision to see and believe that you are “doing a great work, and you cannot come down.”
When your marriage or another relationship grows difficult, remember that you are “doing a great work, and you cannot come down.”
When you are tempted to give up on shepherding your kids toward Jesus, abandoning them to the winds of culture, remember that you are “doing a great work, and you cannot come down.”
When you are consumed with anxiety and tempted to quit on financial obedience, remember that you are “doing a great work, and you cannot come down.”
When you are ready to throw in the towel on praying for someone’s salvation, and on sharing the Gospel with them in relationship, remember that you are “doing a great work, and you cannot come down.”
I know this isn’t easy. If it were, I wouldn’t be writing this, and you probably wouldn’t be reading it. But in the face of the “curvy roads” of life, I implore you to recognize and respond to the reality that the destination of following Jesus- of maintaining the godly decisions to which He leads you- is more than the worth the cost of perseverance.
Remember that as you walk, step by painful step, you don’t walk alone. As Paul tells us in Philippians 4:9, “the God of peace will be with you.” Do you believe that today? If so, will you tell your anxieties, fears, and doubts that no matter how much they might tempt, you’re going to “stay on the wall” and finish what God has called you to do? It is my hope and prayer that you will, and that in the end, God will be greatly glorified in and through your life and decisions.
Where and how do you need to persevere in maintaining a decision today?
What must you do to remember that “you are doing a great work, and you cannot come down”?