What makes a work great?

We’ve talked a little about Nehemiah’s great work, the one he knew he had to keep doing. So what makes a work great? 

Here are some suggestions (from my conversation with Nehemiah):

  • Something about it makes you weep. When Nehemiah hears about the condition of the walls of the city of God, it breaks his heart.
  • It’s bigger than you. Hugely so. Rebuilding a city? Putting wells in every village in a country in Africa? No homeless children in your community? One particular person in your neighborhood knowing that they are listened to and loved?
  • You have to take lots of small steps that don’t seem like they will get you anywhere. Each stone that Nehemiah’s crew moved seemed insignificant compared to a two-mile city wall. But each stone needed to be moved.
  • Doing the work transforms you. Nehemiah was a seasoned leader when this was done.
  • God calls you to do it. I know. This one can creep people out. But Nehemiah clearly believed that God was giving him this work. We don’t always understand the mechanics of God’s calling. And we have clear and tragic examples of people who attached the name of God to their own projects. But Nehemiah was clearly responding to the direction that God had given him.
  • It matters enough that you ache when you can’t accomplish it quickly enough, and it’s big enough that you can’t accomplish it quickly enough. Every day working on a great project excites you, drains you and (some days) blesses you.
  • It is not about you. This is tough. A great work is about others, not about you. So my weight loss is great, but it isn’t a great work.
  • It takes so long that you can’t do it in a day, but the choices of each day matter in whether you can get it done. Every day you have to choose to take those steps we mentioned earlier. Every single day.
  • You may not know anything about how to do the work. It may have nothing to do with your job. In fact, it may cause you to leave your job or may turn into a job.
  • You cannot not do it.

Maybe you’ve been thinking about great work. Maybe you’ve been looking at the work in front of you and thinking, “It’s well and good to talk about Nehemiah. Of course his work was great. It was God’s work.”

When you look at the work that God has in front of you, whether study or children or ashes or dust, it may not appear great. But appearances deceive.

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