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A Great Work

July 25, 2023

Let’s set the scene. There was a guy who lived nearly 2,500 years ago named Nehemiah.

He was in a place of privilege. He had an important job working directly for the king. His life was comfortable, but he heard about a challenge. There was an issue in his home country.  Specifically, there was a wall built around the city for protection, and that wall was in disrepair. Nehemiah felt in his heart that he needed to do something about it, so he got permission from the king to leave his current job, go back to his home, and rebuild the wall. 

This is where we will pick up the story. At one point during this rebuilding process, Nehemiah encounters a group of people who are doing whatever they can to stop him from finishing the wall. They ask him to come down from the wall to meet with them, but he responds by saying, “I’m doing a great work, and I can’t come down” (Neh. 6:4). 

The thing I am working on is too important. I can’t be distracted at this moment. They ask him four times, and his answer is the same every time. 

What does this story have to do with me and you?

I believe each of us is called to a great work.

Most likely, it’s not to rebuild a wall in our hometown. Nevertheless, our work is important and the stakes are high for us and the people closest to us. Thankfully, we have a model to look to for help. Nehemiah’s response gives us a blueprint for what to do when we’re given something important to accomplish. 

Here are three lessons we can learn from Nehemiah:

1. You have been called to a great work.

With the right purpose in mind, anything you are doing can be a great work. Though Nehemiah’s job was dirty and difficult, he pushed through to finish the task because he could see the greater purpose behind every brick he laid. Parenting often feels this way. Changing diapers and cleaning up messes isn’t glamorous, but it’s laying the foundation of care necessary to raise children who will become kind and caring adults. The same is true in the office. Responding to emails, completing paperwork, and editing Excel spreadsheets isn’t always exciting work, but it’s important work and necessary for a business to succeed.

2. There will be discouragement when you are doing a great work.

Just like Nehemiah had detractors, you will have people in your life discouraging you from continuing this good work. It could be an outside influence, but often it’s the people you are trying to serve who may not be grateful for the work you are doing. This happens all the time to pastors, teachers, and parents. The church member who always has a complaint, the students who roll their eyes as you begin another lesson, and the kids who claim they “never do anything fun” as you clean up the slip ‘n’ slip in the yard with sweat pouring down your face. It can even happen to a business leader who enacts policies that help the organization but are unpopular with the team. Let these moments be like water on a duck’s back for you, and keep working. It’s worth it.

3. Don’t quit in the middle of a great work.

When things get tough, it’s easy to want to give up. But if you’re in the middle of a great work, don’t quit until it’s over. Put your hand to the plow and push harder, or better yet, ask a friend or co-worker to help you. We all need people in our lives who are willing to give us a boost when we don’t have the energy to jump over another hurdle.

You are called to a great work. Don’t let it collect dust in your mind and heart, unfinished and abandoned. Be like Nehemiah, stay focused on the good work before you, ignore the detractors, and don’t give up. You never know how completing this great work could leave a lasting impact on the world around you. 


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