Do the great work you are doing.

First published September 10, 2012

neh cover

Nehemiah was leading a team that was rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem. 24 centuries ago, this meant a lot of heavy lifting.  It also meant, as it would mean now, a lot of intimidation from the people who would lose influence when the walls had gates to keep them out.

They were mostly bullies, these intimidators. They rattled swords and spread rumors and huffed and puffed. They weren’t able to do much to blow the walls down.

After trying threats, they tried trickery. “Come out to meet us,” they said. “We just want to talk.” Nehemiah knew that this was a trap. And so, of course, he didn’t go. But his focus wasn’t on the trap as he responded. His focus was on the task at hand.

“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”

Every time I read that recently, I want to stand up in respect. Or fall down, heart convicted.

Say that out loud. “I am doing a great work.”

Doesn’t that give you chills? Or maybe, as it does for me, doesn’t that make you wish you could say that about what you are doing?

Nehemiah was rebuilding walls around “The City of God.” He had come 900 miles to do this work. He had prayed and planned and risked his life. He was completely committed to this project. It mattered.

It happened a rock at a time, a gap at a time, a conversation at a time.

Maybe, though you don’t see it that way, you are doing something that matters. Maybe you are rebuilding the walls of protection for children whose lives have been wrecked. Maybe you are rebuilding your own life. Maybe you are just starting to build a foundation of following Jesus.

Go ahead. Say it again. “I am doing a great work.”

And then say no to the distractors and turn back to your work. Because it is great.


These words led to A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works.  This book is a series of conversations with Nehemiah exploring how he followed God and led people. In these conversations, I explore prayer, opposition, distraction, injustice, and staying faithful to the end of life. I loved writing it. You may enjoy reading it.