A Note of Encouragement to Ministry Leaders from Nehemiah 6
We are in the month of January and the weather is cold and the daylight is short. As ministry leaders, we can start to lose energy and focus. In this season, a disproportional amount of people leave staff or make poor decisions. Considering this, we need to be proactive and be aware. Distractions will come, thoughts of the grass looking greener on the other side will cross our mind, agitation with one another and fatigue can set in, and we need to be aware and to grow resilient. Thinking about this, three action actions and responses come to mind from Nehemiah in Chapter 6 can be valuable.
- Faithfulness to your calling requires resilience against distraction. Resilience is an actual skill set we need to develop. In Nehemiah chapter 6, in verse 3, Nehemiah has been through a long season of ministry. He has received a calling, raised support, built a team, they have labored on the wall and likely were fatigued. In verse 3 distraction shows up. Two guys come to Nehemiah, and say “Come, let us meet together.” Nehemiah’s response to them is a model to all of us: “And 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?” And so, for me, that distraction might not be two guys, but something else. There are lots of distractions calling for my attention to take my hands off the plow of faithfulness to the calling God has given me. So, we need to learn what Nehemiah did and that is to say, “I am doing a great work, and I can’t come down.”
- We must remain resilient because distractions are persistent. It’s not one and done. In verse 4 it goes on and says, “And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.” It’s healthy and wise to go into this season, knowing distraction and opposition is also resilient. They are persistent so we need to be disciplined and to be faithful and remain resilient.
- The discipline of resilience leads to the joy of completion. In verse 15 it says, “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days” and I thought if Nehemiah wasn’t resilient against distraction, he would not have gotten to the joy found in verse 15. Completion only comes with resilience. Nothing worth doing is not going to come without some required resilience to cross the finish line even in the difficult days.
The word “finish” reminds me that we don’t work for our own spiritual completion, we actually work from it. Jesus on the cross said “it is finished” so our reconciling work to the Father had been completed because of the resilience of Jesus. He said ‘no’ to the devil in the temptation in the desert. He remained faithful and who, even in the Garden of Gethsemane, prayed “is there any other way Father, yet, not my will, but your will be done?” From His finished work, we can be complete in Him. What does that look like? For me, practically it looks like:
- Treat your soul well. The season will be difficult, distractions will come, I’ll be attempted to lose heart or focus, but here is where I double-down on my spiritual disciplines. The big things are the little things such as daily time in the Word of God, sincere and private prayer life, etc. As soon as we waiver on those, the whole ball starts to unravel, and we lose sight.
- Treat your body well. Exercise and move your body. When I just get cranky or depressed, I lose energy and want to eat bad food and or become sluggish.
- Get outside. To know the sun is a real gift from God. The sun is only up for a limited number of hours, but it’s still important to be outside. If we don’t enjoy winter, we can find ourselves hating or loathing and running from winter. It’s here, whether we embrace it or not, so get a good coat, grab it, and get outside. When I take a walk, and with my wife, it’s been helpful.
Stay resilient friends as the Lord was resilient for us.
Gavin Johnson, co-lead pastor at Citylight Omaha