“I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?”
~~ The book of Nehemiah, Chapter 6.
In my last post, I made the point that as leaders, we must be ready to expect attacks. And I introduced 2 costly mistakes I made in leadership:
1. Not being adequately prepared for battle, therefore making myself vulnerable to attacks.
2. Allowing myself to be influenced and directed by the wrong people, instead of by God alone.
If we are to be effective in our leadership as women, we must soak ourselves in the Spirit, through prayer and scripture, so that we can withstand the fiery arrows that come flying. And they will come!
Today, I want to wrap up this last point about being influenced by the wrong people. Have you ever been in a position where you knew in your gut that a decision was about to be made, and you had reservations, but because you wanted to “keep the peace”, and appease the strong personalities, you didn’t speak up? Or maybe you have had someone on your leadership team who appears weak in the faith, and to bolster their confidence or help them along, you allow them to influence the direction of the ministry, hoping that it will lead to a strengthening in the faith and a positive fruit-bearing result? But instead, it led down a path that God never intended the ministry to go.
I love the story of Nehemiah and his example of effective leadership as he stepped out in God’s call to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. It’s a fascinating read and there are so many leadership points to be drawn from his story. Nehemiah’s leadership example is hallmarked by these 2 issues that are still prevalent today for those who face leadership challenges:
1) God had a work for Nehemiah to do for the benefit of His people, and Nehemiah followed God.
2) The devil has a plan to thwart the work of the Lord and often uses powerful and persuasive people to accomplish his plan.
In the first chapter of Nehemiah, we read that he is visited by his brother, telling him that “the wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.” Nehemiah was greatly saddened by this news, and wept and prayed to God. We know that the king noticed Nehemiah’s saddened countenance and Nehemiah told the king about his desire to go and rebuild the wall, and it says in Nehemiah 2, “and the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.” Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem and inspects the devastation and meets with the city officials, and shares with them his vision and call to rebuild the wall, as well as his conversation with the king, that God’s gracious hand was upon him.
They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.”
You see, God had a GOOD WORK to do. But soon we see that there those who were not thrilled with the “Good Work” Nehemiah wanted to lead the people to do. Nehemiah was a bringer-together of the people and we see that his confidence, his support from the king, and his desire to strengthen the people by rebuilding the wall must have seriously intimidated and threatened those in power who were hovering like a black cloud of oppression over the people of Jerusalem. It says that when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of the plan, they scoffed contemptuously. “What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” they asked. We can see they are already twisting and distorting the facts. And so Sanballat, Tobiah, and Gesham conspired to bring down Nehemiah and thwart the work God had called him to do.
Throughout the rebuilding of the wall, we see that these men attempted time after time to discourage, defeat, and distract Nehemiah and the people. They continually mocked them, and then began to threaten with attack. Even so, the people continued working with “enthusiasm”. So they escalated to manipulation and lies, as they tried to trick Nehemiah into meeting with them. I love his response, “But I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you? They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination.“
Over and over again, we see these men seek to distract and deter Nehemiah through sending letters filled with lies and rumors, sending messages through people he had once trusted to try and trap him so they could discredit his name. They went to great lengths to plot and even made up a story that the Jews were going to rebel against him, and sent one of his trusted friends with this false message. It must have been so hurtful for him to realize someone he trusted was involved in their scheme. And it would have been so easy for him to believe this person. But it says, “I sensed that God had not given Shemaiah this message … he had been bribed in order to trick me and accuse and intimidate me.” It must have been exhausting for Nehemiah to deal with this threat. It would have been so easy for him to give in, to let his guard down, to give them the benefit of the doubt, to try to play “nice.” But what do we see him do? Throughout the process, we see that Nehemiah immediately goes to the Lord when he is intimidated by these men — and it even mentions a prophetess, Noadiah!
Nehemiah and the people finished the work in 52 days, and the book of the law was read among the people. God prevailed and his enemies were afraid. These men attempted to distract Nehemiah from his purpose. But Nehemiah was wise enough to know this and refused to play their game. He made decisions time and time again that reinforced his commitment to the work of rebuilding the wall, and refused to be drawn into relational issues and conflicts that would wrongly influence his direction, and ultimately by design of the enemy, take him away from God’s task for His kingdom plan.
Our decision-making is affected when we allow ourselves to be influenced by the wrong people. Bill Hybels in his book, “Courageous Leadership”, says, “The local church is the hope of the world because it stewards the only message that can impact a person’s eternal destiny. If we really believe that, how can we not want to put our best decision-making ability to work in the local church body to which God has called us?” He warns us to be careful of faulty belief systems and those who adhere to a belief system other than one founded upon God’s Word. Decisions that are informed by faulty belief systems lead to all kinds of corruption. “What you believe to be true in the core of your being will influence the decisions you make throughout your leadership life.”
What can we learn from Nehemiah? Seek God. Stand strong. Lead courageously and with conviction. Build up people. Pray specifically for guidance at every turn. Follow wholeheartedly. And to keep the big picture in view at all times. God is faithful to finish the work He has called us to do, when we remain faithful to obey His commands!