Let me end our series of blogs on Nehemiah by reminding those of us who are reaching the zenith of our career or ministry that the most critical times are when we are closest to victory… or coming down the mountain from the other side. Mountain climbers know that these are the most dangerous moments; as we near the top or begin descending from it. So it is in life. In Nehemiah 6, we read about the last moments of his run to complete the wall of Jerusalem. He has almost crossed the finish line when he met with three common dangers:
- The danger of distraction. We can lose our focus in trivia at any time in leadership. But the temptation to relax as the goal is in sight can be a fatal flaw. Nehemiah was invited to non-essential matters and responded clearly by saying, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.” Keep your focus on the goal… you’re almost there!
- The danger of fearful thinking. Nehemiah was threatened by his enemies who promised that they would spread untrue rumors to the king in Persia if he continued. Nehemiah knew “they were doing this to make me afraid.” The enemy knows our weak spots. He knows the power of fearful thinking in moments like this and their power to paralyze us. Nehemiah responded by praying, “Lord, strengthen my hands.”
- The danger of compromise. By far the greatest temptation Nehemiah faced was to run to the temple to protect himself from those who threatened his life. But he knew that by doing so, he would violate a clear command from the Word of God that he not do that. In moments of fearfulness or conversely in moments of overconfidence, we can begin to think that we are exempt from the price we pay when we give up our integrity to our own selfish ends. “Should such a man as I flee?” Nehemiah asked himself? His answer, thankfully, was a resounding NO. You do not negotiate with the enemy in moments when victory is almost in sight.
And so we read finally, that “in fifty-two days the wall was completed.” While the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was finished, the work of rebuilding the people of Israel into a covenant people, worshiping God in Jerusalem as He desired, was yet to come. (See Chapters 7-13) But for now, the victory lap for Nehemiah was well-earned and well-deserved.
And may the same be said of us all!
FOR MEDITATION: In the month of Elul, on the 25th day, the wall was completed in fifty-two days. Nehemiah 6:15
FOR REFLECTION: Though the dangers faced by those finishing their race are unique in some ways, in others they are common to us all. John Newton wrote, “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come…..” Nehemiah could have sung that song… LOUDLY. We will come to the victor’s circle only after we successfully navigate the dangers that seek to stop us. Trust God, as Nehemiah did, to “strength your hand” for the work. And every time, He will!