Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.”
This year there is a lot of things you could do but there is one thing that you’ve got to do. Now that one thing is different for all of us. There is one thing that based on what’s going on in your life (your relationships, your marriage, your finances, whatever it might be) that if you could figure it out and do it, it would leave you in a much better place a year from now than where you are right now. And, this isn’t going to be new information, this one thing is something you’ve thought about, this one thing is something that someone has suggested to you, this one thing may be something you even tried before but for whatever reason you lost focus, you lost track, you got distracted and you didn’t focus on the one thing.
Now I don’t know what the one thing is for you. It’s different for all of us but all of us have one thing this year if we don’t get anything else done, if we don’t get anything else accomplished, there is one thing we need to focus on and get done this year. When I’m talking about one thing it could be one of these things:
* A habit that you need to break.
* A goal you need to accomplish.
* A project you need to complete.
* A relationship you need to restore.
* A relationship you need to end.
* A character you need to develop
* An attitude you need to change.
* A debt you need to retire.
So again this is my list. Your thing may not be on this list but I’m sure there is something that is a part of your life; there is something that this year if you don’t get anything else accomplished, there is something you need to do. It’s that one thing.
So, I’m going to tell you a story from the Old Testament and I’m praying that during the story whatever your one thing is will come to mind. In fact your one thing may have already come to mind.
Think about this, wouldn’t it be great if whatever your one thing is if something happened this year and at the end of this year you dealt with it. Imagine how much better your life might be.
So the story of Nehemiah takes place in about 444 B.C. It takes place around Artaxerxes I. He was the King of Persia. We would call him an emperor because Persia was the dominant world force at the time. Nehemiah was the cup bearer to the king which we would consider a wine taster, somebody to make sure that the wine hadn’t been poisoned. Nehemiah also was a friend, Nehemiah was an official, he was a Jewish man. We don’t know if he had ever been to Israel because over a hundred years before this the Babylonians had conquered Israel, destroyed the temple, and destroyed the walls. Over a hundred years later Nehemiah working for King Artaxerxes I, he gets this burden for his city and he hears how terrible things are in Jerusalem and so he does a very risky thing.
He prayed a big prayer before and he went before the king and Nehemiah Chapter 1 tells us about that prayer. And he goes to the king and he says King, look things are bad with my people and I’d like to go back and bring some organization, bring some leadership to my people. How would you feel about giving me some time off? Now he wasn’t an employee of the king, he was a slave and slaves don’t get time off but he said would you give me a slot of time to go and help my people and King Artaxerxes says I’ll do better than that. I will make you the governor of Judea, basically the mayor of Jerusalem and I will give you whatever you need to help you get your people in shape but you got to come back. You can’t stay away forever. So Nehemiah spends a lot of time preparing for this trip, gets a whole bunch of money, gets a bunch of lumber, building materials and he heads back to the City of Jerusalem.
Now here is what you need to understand and it’s hard for us to wrap our minds around this. Because the walls had been torn down for so long their entire national self esteem was tied to a city that was basically just open to anybody who wanted to come and anybody who wanted to go. The surrounding region was led by some very strong military leader and they would steal from the city, the would steal the crops, I mean the City of Jerusalem and the surrounding area, it was just the stomping ground for whoever wanted to come, whoever wanted to go.
So there was no national pride, there was no sense that God is with us, they had forgotten their history. Nehemiah shows up, he sees the city and it just breaks his heart even further and he takes an entire day and night to travel around the city and to meet the people and to talk to the people and he comes to this conclusion. If I don’t get anything else done while I’m here, I’ve got to get this wall rebuilt. The most important thing we can do, I mean there is an economy that needs to be sustained, there are leaders that need to be put in place, there is all kinds of problems but the one thing I’ve got to do while I’m here, we’ve got to get the wall rebuilt around this city. It will give people protection, it will give people a sense of national pride and it will protect us from our enemies. So Nehemiah calls all the people together who live in the city; all the people from the surrounding region and he casts this unbelievably compelling vision. Nehemiah pulled the people together, he said here’s the problem we need to solve, here’s the solution, here’s why we need to do something about it and here’s why we need to do something about it now. And the people rallied together and they began to rebuild the wall around the city.
Now this was a huge, huge task and it took everybody to be involved and they began to make progress. Well as they began to make progress the people from the surrounding regions thought uh-oh if Jerusalem gets the wall rebuilt they will become powerful, they may raise an army, they might be competition for us in this part of the world and so the surrounding regions felt very, very defensive and very threatened by the fact that Nehemiah was rebuilding this wall. Now the leader of the opposition was a guy named Sanballat. He had a lot of influence in the region and Sanballat decided we have got to stop the wall. So, they began to send spies into the city to start rumors, they began to infiltrate, they began to try to discourage the people. When that didn’t work they actually sent armed forces against the people to attack the workers on the wall. Nehemiah had to pull everybody off the wall, arm the men so some people would stand guard, others would work on the wall. So they just caused lots and lots and lots of problems but no matter what happened the wall continued to go higher, higher, and higher. So finally they got to the place where the wall was almost complete and they were about to rebuild the gates and Sanballat realized this isn’t working.
So he decided a different strategy. Sanballat decided to try to distract Nehemiah from the work and to actually get him outside the city and once he was outside the city to put him to death because they realized if we can kill Nehemiah certainly the people will become discouraged and they will give up on this crazy idea of rebuilding the wall. And, in Nehemiah Chapter 6, we find this encounter between Sanballat and Nehemiah as Sanballat tries to distract Nehemiah from the work. So, here we go,
Nehemiah 6:1, “Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates)”
Nehemiah 6:2, “that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm.”
So these guys realized, there is no way we’re going to stop this unless we stop Nehemiah, so they write Nehemiah a letter and they give it to a messenger. So Nehemiah gets this letter and he reads this letter and they’re saying hey let’s spend some time together but Nehemiah knew they don’t want to have lunch, they don’t want to have a discussion, they’re trying to harm me so that the work on the wall will stop.
Nehemiah 6:3, “So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down…” You tell Sanballat I’m doing a great work right here and I cannot come down.
There is something in your life, there is a wall in your world that you need to climb up on and make sure you complete whatever the task is, whatever the thing God has given you to do or you just know in your heart you need to do and you need to say with Nehemiah right here in this spot, in this relationship, in my work, in this part of my life and this part of my profession, I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.
1. Know The One Thing God Has Given You To Do. “Know what your wall is”
Well they didn’t give up. In fact here’s the rest of his response. Nehemiah 6:3, “…Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Why should I stop? I’m doing a great work and I cannot come down. By the way, just give them this message, why should I stop doing this great work and come down and spend time with you? How does spending time with you benefit the great work that I’m doing on the wall?
Nehemiah 6:4, “But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.”
So they sent another message, okay well how does your schedule look? You know, get your people to call my people. Surely there is some point in which we can meet. You’re not going to work on the wall 24/7; come on Nehemiah, just take a break. Hey Nehemiah, when it’s convenient for you let us know, we’ll meet you anywhere on the plain of Ono, we just want to get together and every time they invited him off the wall, every time they invited him off the wall he sent them the same message, I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.
2. Be Determined To Complete Whatever The Task Is. “Pay attention to a breach on your wall”
Now here’s what is so significant for us. If Nehemiah had come off the wall and if Nehemiah had met with Sanballat and his friends they would have taken his life. Did you know that there are things in your life and there are things in my life that if we do not complete them, if we do not focus on them, if we do not deal with them they have the potential to ruin our lives as well?
* There are things relationally that if you don’t give attention to; they have the potential to destroy, to use Nehemiah’s term, to kill your future marriage, to kill your future relationship with your kids because you didn’t pay attention to a breach in your wall.
* There are things that if you don’t give attention to them and decide I’m staying on the ladder until we finish this wall that have the potential to ruin you financially.
* There are things that have the potential to actually physically kill you if you do not pay attention to them. If you don’t pay attention to it, it could literally take your life.
* You say that’s not like spiritual stuff. Of course it is. God gave you your body. You can’t help anybody without a body. Did you know that? I’ve never seen anybody with a spiritual ministry without a physical body. There are a lot of things you can’t do without a physical body. Your physical body is part of God’s will for your life and for some of you, you know what your wall is and you’re not paying attention.
* If you’re a college/high school student, single adult or teenager, come on you’re smart, you know the critical things don’t you? You know the things you’ve got to do. You know what the wall is for you. You know where the breach is for you. You know what sets you up for disaster in the future. You know what sets you up for success in the future and once you know what that is you are responsible to decide this is my wall, I’m doing a great work and I will not, I will not, I will not come down. You’re cute but I’m not coming down for you. That’s a good opportunity but I’m not coming down for that. I’d love to hang out with you guys, it will be a year from now, I’m not coming down. I know what it is that God has called me to do; I know what it is in my heart that I need to do.
We know the great work that we have an opportunity to do. We know the opportunities we need to focus on. We know the relationships that need our attention. The challenge for you as you face this next year is this, will you climb that ladder; will you stay on that wall until you finish what you know in your heart and what your Heavenly Father has made clear to you needs to be accomplished.
It takes Nehemiah kind of Determination to complete your ONE THING! I’m doing a great work and I cannot come down.
Nehemiah 6:5-9, “Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. 6 In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, thatyou and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. 7 And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together. 8 Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.” 9 For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.” Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.”
Well the fact that Nehemiah wouldn’t come off the wall did not discourage his detractors and did not discourage his enemies. They came up with all kinds of new things. One thing was they started a rumor about him. They started a rumor that they hoped would leak all the way to King Artaxerxes so that King Artaxerxes would yank Nehemiah out of Judea and the rumor was that Nehemiah was trying to establish a kingdom and he was trying to make himself King of Judea and the reason he was rebuilding these walls is so that he could raise an army and rebel against Persia and rebel against King Artaxerxes and they thought perhaps if we get this rumor going Nehemiah will feel like he needs to leave the city, leave the wall, go back to Persia and convince the King and Sousa that hey these rumors you’re hearing, they’re not true. They thought maybe he would run for his life to defend his life to the Emperor and to the King. And when Nehemiah heard about these rumors he just shook his head and said I’m not leaving the wall. I’m not leaving the wall until the wall if finished.
Nehemiah 6:10, “Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.” 11 And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!” 12 Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me. 14 My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid.
When that didn’t work they tried something else. A friend of his, he thought was a friend, named Shemaiah called him over to his house and he went to see Shemaiah and Shemaiah says hey listen Nehemiah, you need to know you have enemies even in this city. There are Jews in this city whose livelihoods are being threatened by this wall. There are Jews in this city that have commerce deals and marketplace deals with the people outside of this region and the fact that they’re not going to be able to take advantage of the high interest rates that they’re charging your people and our people, they don’t like this wall and there is a group that plans to murder you in your sleep. Now Nehemiah because I’m your friend I’m telling you this. Here is what we need to do. We need to go right now to the temple and you need to cling to the altar because in that day and age if a man or woman fled to the temple and clung to the altar then the law said that you couldn’t put a person to death until they had had a fair trial if they clung to the altar and so there was all this kind of legalese going on and Nehemiah looked at him and said I don’t believe you. And even if it is true I’m going back to work on the wall. We’re not coming down, we’re not going to stop until this wall is complete. I’m doing a great work and I cannot come down. I’m not going to let the rumors pull me off, I’m not going to let the threats pull me off, I’m not going to let the missed opportunities throw me off, I’m not going to my fear of the King of Persia pull me off. I’m doing a great work right here and I cannot and I will not come down.
3. Don’t Let The Enemy Stop Or Disrupt You.
Nehemiah’s story tells us that eventually they finished the wall. Here is how the author writes it. He says it this way.
Nehemiah 6:15, “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.” Fifty-two days which is amazing, they rebuilt the wall in fifty-two days. It wasn’t the entire ancient City of Jerusalem but it was a smaller section of Jerusalem but still it was quite an accomplishment to rebuild the wall from the ruble that had been laying there for over a hundred years in fifty-two days.
Nehemiah 6:16, “And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.” There is nothing supernatural in the whole story. These are just men and women that knew in their hearts something needed to be done. This was a leader that understood I can’t come down from the wall and God honored their hard work; God honored their discipline, God honored Nehemiah’s leadership and at the end of the day what happened was so almost miraculous that everybody understood. Even their enemies, wow there is something going on here. This bears the thumbprint of God Almighty.
* Let me kind of push you a little bit with some specifics. Okay? For some of you, your portion of the wall is a habit that you need to break. A devastating habit that is beginning to ruin and take control of your life and you know it’s true. That’s your wall. That’s your wall. You may do a lot of things this year; you can do a lot of things this year, that’s the one thing you must do. You’ve got to get that under control. This is the year where you say you know what, I’m not going to be controlled anymore by something in a bottle and whatever I have to do, whoever I have to confess to, this is the end for me. For some of you it’s tobacco addiction. Come on, you smoke. Don’t smoke. Just stop.
* All I am saying is this, if that’s your wall, come on, come on, come on, if that’s your wall you have got to decide I’m doing a great work, my health is my great work; my future is my great work; being there for my kids, my grandkids is my great work, I’m not coming down. For you it might be some sort of internet addiction. Come on, this is the year.
* This is the year. What is your wall? What is that habit?
* It’s a decision you have to make and it takes Nehemiah kind of determination to stay on the wall until it’s dealt with.
* What about school? Some of you, you just need to go back to school. That’s your wall, finish.
* Now look, I get that. Listen, some of you, you know this, your marriage is going like this. Right now it’s here but a year from now it’s going to be here and five years from now it’s going to be there and you know that. Don’t spend another year pretending please. For your sake, for your kids’ sake; for your step kids’ sake, for your grandkids, come on.
* It could be the opposite. Maybe you’re in a relationship that you don’t need to be in, and you know that’s not a good relationship for you. You know that if you stay in that relationship it will continue to take you in a direction you don’t even want to go.
* If you know that’s what you need to do and if you’re a Christian, come one, if you’re a Christian and you know in your heart it’s something God wants you to do that’s your wall. I’m doing a great work, I don’t care what anybody says, I don’t care how afraid they make me feel; I don’t care about the fact that I don’t know if there is anybody else for me, I’m doing a great work and I’m not coming down until this is resolved in my life.
So whatever your one thing is, whatever your one thing is for this year my hope, my prayer for you, my hope, my prayer for us is that we’ll walk out this door, and we will do it and when the enemy starts whispering and when the people around us start gossiping and when our parents and even our parents-in-law don’t understand we’ll just whisper, I’m doing a great work and I cannot come down.