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It’s a well-known maxim in both the business world and ministry that the hardest word to use is “No.” This is particularly hard in ministry, because so much of the work can be considered “good” and necessary, and God commands us to live at peace with those around us. So if someone wants a quick word with us,  it seems like a short meeting is a small price to pay for peace in the church/ministry.

However, anyone who’s spent anytime on planet Earth will realize that often times people want to meet for less than honorable reasons.   In many cases, people just want to vent and they want a listening ear to vent to.  In some cases, they want to vent to the object of their ire in the name of “clearing the air.” It’s  shocking how much time can be spent dealing with the complaints that seem to ooze out of some people like peppermint out of a melted Junior Mint. Surprisingly, the air is rarely much clearer after someone spews their frustration all over you.


Nehemiah 6 has a great example of this situation, as opposition to the rebuilding project starts to heat up.   Some of the local leaders tell Nehemiah that they would like to meet with him to discuss their issues, Nehemiah replies in one of the classic time-saving attitudes:  “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?”

In Nehemiah’s case, there was the possibility of violence against him, and the reality of personal attacks on his integrity (hence the unsealed letter questioning his motives).   But his response is a great tool for us to remember when people begin to suck the energy out of us like a gigantic mosquito. If we are confident in the work that God has called us to do, then we can ask in all honesty “Why should I leave this work?”  (Of course, we need to courteous and sincere when we ask.  But that’s for another day.)


One of the classic missionary stories is about a Canadian missionary in China named Robert Jaffrey who also had a reputation as an accomplished business man.   Because he spoke Chinese fluently, the Standard Oil Company contacted him and asked him to be their head of operations there.   He refused, and they subsequently doubled the salary offer, and then quintupled their original offer.  Still he refused. They ended up sending him a telegram: “Jaffrey, at any cost.” Jaffrey responded just as simply: “Your salary is big, but your job is too small.”

Nehemiah played this same scenario out. He could have gone to meet with these men, he could have placated them, he could have endeared himself to them and most likely set himself up as a mini-king right there in Jerusalem.   But his eyes were set on the project God had given him, and he would not be dissuaded from it.  No matter the cost.

Our prayer today is that God gives you a clear direction for your “project,” and that you are not moved from it by threats or offers from the world.

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