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The Threat Of Isolation

I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop?
–Nehemiah 6:3

Nehemiah’s enemies tried to use fear to keep him from finishing his God-given work. First of all, they threatened him with isolation. Nehemiah 6:2 says, “Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.’” Nehemiah’s enemies were saying, “Okay, you win. Come and meet us so that we can talk out our differences.” But Nehemiah said no. He was unwilling to compromise his convictions. God never calls upon us to compromise our convictions. Yet there are people who say, “You are being too rigid about this or that. You do not want to be known as a fanatic.” That is what Nehemiah’s enemies were saying. “Come meet us halfway. You do not want to be all alone in what you are trying to do.” But Nehemiah said no.

Why did he say no? First of all, his refusal to compromise was based on discernment. Look at the last phrase of verse 2: “But they were planning to harm me.” Nehemiah saw through the motives of his enemies. How do you get that spirit of discernment? Some of it comes from the Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit guides us and helps us to be discerning. Some of that discernment also comes from experience. Nehemiah had a graduate degree from the university of hard knocks. He had been around the block more than once, and he could see through his enemy’s motives. He had a discerning spirit.

He also learned through discipline. Look at verses 3-4: “So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘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?’ They sent messages to me four times in this manner, and I answered them in the same way.” Nehemiah was saying, “I talked to you time and time again about what we are doing. Now why would I leave what God has called me to do and try to talk to you again?” Was Nehemiah being arrogant? No, he was just being focused. J. I. Packer, in his commentary on this passage, said, “As no amount of theory will help a would-be golfer who will not keep his eye on the ball, so no amount of wisdom will make one a leader if one cannot keep one’s priorities steadily in view.” Many times the good is the enemy of the best things in life. You may be tempted by all kind of good things, but if you expend your resources and time on good things, you will not have time for the very best thing to which God has called you. Truly successful people have learned how to say no to the good things. My mentor in the seminary, Dr. Howard Hendricks, used to say, “Men say no to at least one thing every day just to stay in practice.” That is good advice. Learn how to say no to good things so that you might focus on the best thing. That is what Nehemiah did–he had the discernment and the discipline to say no.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Overcoming The Fear Factor” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.

J. I. Packer, “A Passion For Faithfulness: Wisdom From The Book Of Nehemiah” (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1995), 129.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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