I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?Nehemiah 6:3b
These erstwhile enemies suddenly become Nehemiah's friends and invite him to a conference down on the plain of Ono. It is located down on the seacoast near the Gaza strip. But Nehemiah senses danger:
they were scheming to harm me he says (Nehemiah 6:2). Some commentators suggest that they were trying to trick him into leaving Jerusalem, where he had armed support, to come to a conference where they could set upon him and perhaps kill him. Nehemiah evidently senses this. He firmly declines, saying,
I am carrying on a great project, and I cannot go down.
That is a great answer. Note the reasons he gives. On the surface it seems a surly response to their invitation to meet together. It sounds brusque and blunt. But Nehemiah sees through their scheme and refuses to go along, even though they pressure him four different times.
You too may experience continuing pressure to change your mind and go along with something that is wrong. Many have fallen after a proper refusal simply because they gave in to repeated pressure. But Nehemiah persists in his refusal. Here is his reason:
I am doing a great work, he says.
I have a great calling. God has committed a tremendous project to me, and if I leave, it will be threatened.
One of the most helpful things that we can do to resist temptation is to remember that God has called us to a great task. This is true of every believer in Christ. I do not care how young or how old you are in the Lord, you are called to a tremendous work today. That task is to model a different lifestyle so that those who are being ruined by wrongful practices will see something that offers them hope and deliverance. If they see in you peace in the midst of confusion, an invisible support that keeps you steady and firm under pressure, they will learn that there is another way to live than the destructive way they have chosen. That is the great work that God has called us to. We ought never to give allegiance to anything less.
I read years ago of a missionary in China, a capable young man who did a great job as a linguist and diplomat in his work for the Lord. His abilities were so outstanding that one of the American companies in China tried to hire him. They offered him an attractive job with a salary to match, but he turned them down. He told them that God had sent him to China as a missionary and that was what he was going to do. He thought that would end the matter, but instead they came back with a better offer and an increase in salary. He turned that down too, but again they came back, doubling the salary that had originally been proposed. Finally he said,
It's not your salary that is too little. It's the job that's too small!
This is what Nehemiah is saying here. He has a great work, and he is not going to forsake it for anything less. He is confronted with an offer that seems to promise peace and support and yet is filled with danger, which he successfully avoids by refusing to leave his calling.
Father, You have given me a great work to do. Help me to see through the seeminggolden opportunitiesthat come my way to divert me from that which You have called me to do.
Do we place supreme value on God's work in us and through us? How do we react under repeated opposition or the pressure of uncertainty?