Nehemiah talks about focus

This is from my weekly enewsletter about Nehemiah called “A Great Work“. Nehemiah is talking here: 

“What you are reading is a God-driven case study of how we built the wall first and then the nation. What you are reading leaves out all the parts about my momentary doubts, my hesitation before plunging in. Because those aren’t nearly as important to the whole story as the habits that were formed, the discipline that developed over years.

“First, I tried to get my priorities from God. I find that if I know that the project or the work or the day is consistent with God’s priorities, that self-discipline is easier. Not in a guilty way, but in a clarifying way. If there are six projects in front of me and one is consistent with God’s way of talking and writing and teaching, then the decision about what to do next if much clearer. If two of the six are, it’s a little harder, but I can get rid of four choices.”

I stopped him. “But when do you know when to go? When is it clear that it’s time to move?” I was thinking about all the times that I couldn’t decide what God wanted.

Nehemiah hesitated. “I know this is a big deal for you. But I’m not sure exactly what to tell you. For me, when the king said ‘what’s bothering you?’ I knew that it was time to commit. When we were dealing with all the attacks from Sanballat and Tobiah, I knew that it was my job to lead and protect.

“Maybe I needed to just keep moving. Because second, and very related, I talked with God. All the time. Four months at the beginning. When I talked to the king. When we were facing attacks. Even at the end of the story, when we list several last challenges, I included my prayer just to show you the kinds of things we talked about. I know that it sounds like bragging, but I was just being honest with you readers about how honest I was with God.There were lots of times I didn’t talk to God. But I made sure that there were several of my short prayers included in the book. I didn’t want anyone to think that I was a great leader just on my own.”

He stopped, suddenly emotional. I tried to help him out.

“You know, just this week I saw a video from Bill Hybels. He talked about a guy who had morning coffee with God. He picked a rocking chair, turned it toward a nice view, had a place to put his coffee cup, got up 15 minutes earlier, and talked with God. Hybels talked about a couple decades of hearing the results of those conversations. That sounds like you. We just read some of the results, forgetting that you and God had talked a lot.”

To read this whole enewsletter edition, see “Nehemiah helps me focus.”

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.