Vision: Don't Be Distracted
Realise The Importance Of The Work
Nehemiah was a man of great vision. While in exile from Jerusalem, the Lord gave him a dream and a call.
It involved rebuilding the walls of his beloved home city. In doing this, Nehemiah knew he would also be restoring the soul and dignity of a shattered nation.
The vision, once received, burned within him like a flame, a flame which eventually gave light and hope to an entire generation.
The vision so affected him that it changed his appearance. Even his master, the king, noticed the change. Do you have a vision which so deeply affects you that other people notice the change?
There is a marked difference between human goals and divine vision. Goals can be set without any help from above. You take a piece of paper, think about the ten things you most want to achieve this year, and then make a list. That's goal-setting.
Vision, on the other hand, cannot be generated, it must be received. Vision must begin with something greater than human motivation - it begins with divine revelation.
The vision Nehemiah received involved an exciting but daunting task - as does all godly vision. It was a vision for which he would need all the wisdom and courage he could muster; especially as the political heavy-weights of his time were openly opposed to his plans.
Finding that they couldn't sap Nehemiah's energy or destroy his determination, his enemies tried to distract him from the task. Distraction is sometimes more dangerous than outright opposition, because it is more subtle.
We read about some of the attempts to distract Nehemiah in Nehemiah 6:1-14.
Distractions came like a wind designed to blow out the flame of vision. But wind can do two things: extinguish a fire or make it burn stronger. Nehemiah the visionary took a wind sent to destroy and turned it into a wind that builds.
The first potential distraction Nehemiah faced was that of compromise. Sanballat, his chief opponent, extended what looked like an olive branch of peace: 'Come, let's meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono,' he said.
Sanballat was offering to talk things through and perhaps to find a common ground. But you can bet there would be strings attached.
We all crave acceptance, which is why this attack on vision and the visionary is often one of most effective.
If you read between the lines, Nehemiah's enemy was saying something like this: 'Look, I'm willing to concede that there could be some merit in this plan of yours. Perhaps I've been a bit too hasty in opposing it.'
'On the other hand, you're a pretty stubborn person yourself. If you can just cool it a little, if you can back off on some of the more radical parts of your vision, perhaps we can reach a compromise, a win-win situation.'
Satan cannot override your will - in fact, even God won't do that. So, to get you to do what he wants, Satan must work through suggestion. He tries to sow wrong 'imaginations' in your mind.
He tries to create new images by questioning the pictures God has already placed in your heart. Like a computer virus, Satan cannot create anything original; he can only warp what is already within you. That is, if you let him.
Thankfully, God has given us the ability to bring down those false imaginations before they have a chance to take root (2 Corinthians 10:5-6).
Sanballat was offering Nehemiah respectability, which is the death of vision! Whenever we settle for the comfort of living without criticism, we settle for a life of non-achievement. Whenever 'win-win' is our ultimate bottom line, we're living more on the side of political correctness than prophetic correctness.
The life to which Jesus calls us to is one of great danger and risk. As one sage once put it, 'It's better to be criticized than ignored.' Another said: 'Nobody ever built a statue to a cynic.'
What did Nehemiah say in response to this offer? 'I'm too involved in an important project to leave it to talk to you.'
'Look,' he's saying, 'I'd like nothing better than to meet you and chat about how my work cannot last. About how I'm building with the wrong materials, using the wrong workers, with the wrong motivations.'
'Frankly, though, I haven't got time. I'm doing something vital. Why should the work stop so I can waste time with you?'
Some Christians are missing the real influence God wants to give them, simply because they're hanging around the wrong people. People who want to compromise their vision. People who want to offer them respectability. People who offer to 'discuss' the vision, but who do so with hidden agendas.
Nehemiah could resist the distraction because he recognized the importance of the work and of his part in it.
In the end, if you don't feel important, you will feel impotent. It's time to face your future with courage, holding tight to your God-given vision and refusing to let any compromise distract you.