Last week, I referred to the book of Nehemiah to share how we can expect certain results to follow us when we follow God. Nehemiah was a man who followed God faithfully when he felt the call of God to rebuild the damaged wall around Jerusalem. When he stepped out in faith, he found favor and received supernatural support, and we will see those same results when we obey God. However, Nehemiah also encountered something else that we are sure to experience when we try to obey God: distraction. While it isn’t as pleasant to think about as experiencing favor and support, it is just as true that distractions will follow us when we follow God.
When Nehemiah came to Jerusalem, he was able to rally a group of people together to join him in his effort to rebuild the city walls. The people were enthusiastic about the work and committed to the vision. However, not everyone was excited about the plan. Nehemiah explained, “When Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said ’What is this thing that you are doing?’“ (Neh. 2:19, NKJV). I can imagine that hearing such a response was probably disheartening to Nehemiah’s natural emotions. He genuinely felt the call of God, and he had sacrificed so much to accomplish what God had put on his heart. Still, there were those who ridiculed him.
There are several options of ways Nehemiah could have responded. He could have stopped to explain the work they were doing in an effort to justify his actions. He could have argued with them to try to prove he was right. He could have questioned himself and hesitated to continue the work. Thankfully, however, Nehemiah didn’t choose any of those options. Instead, he simply answered, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build” (Neh. 2:20). I love his response! He was saying that no matter what others may think, we’re going to obey God, and the results will speak for themselves. Nehemiah remained focused on the plan God had put in his heart, not the voice of the distractors.
This is such an important lesson for all of us to learn. As much as we would like to have 100% support from everybody around us, that’s not likely to occur. There will always be distractors out there who can get you off track if you’re not careful. A couple of years ago, I felt led to apply to become the high school principal in our county. When I was selected for the position, the vast majority of people I encountered were extremely supportive. However, I ran into a couple of people along the way who could only shake their heads and try to convince me I was making a huge mistake. Nonetheless, I knew deep inside that God wanted me to take that step, and I had to make a decision to lift up God’s opinion instead of dwelling on the naysayers.
Always remember the message of Hebrews 12:1-2, which exhorts us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus” (NKJV). Notice that we are supposed to look to Jesus, not to the critics. We cannot afford to let contrary opinions get us distracted from God’s plan. So, while you can expect distractions to come when you step out in faith, you don’t have to let them control you. Just keep following God!