Andy Stanley - Hindsight for 2020
One of the things that we might have in common, is that I'm very easily distracted. In fact, I went to the doctor a few years ago about something, just my physical, and in talking to my doctor, he said, "Have you ever been tested for ADD"? And I'm like, "I don't know". That was kind of a joke. Yeah, I said, "No, I haven't". He said, "Well, I suspect that you might be, you have"... I said, "Well, I remember how I used to mow the grass as a kid and my dad would say, 'Look, it's just a bunch of straight lines'". And I could do about four straight lines and then I just had to go do something else, okay?
So, I'm like some of you, I'm very easily distracted. But the problem is this, and you can relate to this, the things that I get distracted by are never as important as the thing I get distracted from, right? Isn't this true for you too? The things, 'cause it's multiple things that I get distracted by, they're never important. I mean, they're not bad, and they might be marginally important, but they're never as important as the thing I get distracted from. And losing focus in some areas of our lives is not that big a deal, all right?
And in some seasons of our lives is not that big a deal, but there are certain things that if you take your eye off that ball, you wake up five years down the road, 10 years down the road and you realize, oh no, how did I get here? How did I make such a mess of my life? Or not even a mess of my life, how did I end up on this track that I never remembered choosing? And I had another plan for my life and this was not my dream, you know? This was not what I was imagining for my future. So, perhaps there's something that needs more of your undivided attention in this season of your life. There may be that one thing, and maybe this isn't true for you, but for maybe a lot of us. There may be that one thing that potentially impacts everything.
For example, this may be the season or this may be the year where you've gotta work on that habit. There's that habit that you've gotta break. There's that project that you have to finish. There's that relationship that is time to restore. Or maybe there's a relationship that you need to retire. Or maybe there's a debt that you need to pay off. Or perhaps, and some of you are gonna really be upset for me bringing this up, maybe there's a degree that you finally need to complete. I don't know what it is for you, but there's something that maybe, that needs a little bit more of your undivided attention and you've gotten distracted because life is distracting and all of us understand that.
And here's the thing, I don't want what's urgent, because every single day there's urgent stuff, right? I don't want what's urgent to distract you from what's most important for you and maybe most important for your family. Or, as we're gonna see, what's most important for you in this particular season. So, if there's something that you need to get to the finish line, this is going to help.
So, 22 years ago, or a little over 22 years ago, Sandra and I ran into an Old Testament narrative and there was one statement in this Old Testament story, this Old Testament narrative that got our attention and kind of became a mantra or a theme or kind of a battle cry for us. It got us through the early parenting years, it got us through the busyness of ministry, the busyness of starting an organization, the busyness of church life and just the busyness of life. It kept us out of several ditches financially, when opportunities came along and we're like no, we need to stay focused on what we're doing, we have a financial plan, let's stick to it.
In fact, barely a week goes by, even in this season of our life, that one of us doesn't reference this statement from the Old Testament. It's found in the Book of Nehemiah. And Nehemiah was a Jewish exile, an ancient Jewish exile, who lives in Persia, serving King Artaxerxes I, and the story takes place around 444 BC. A little context to understand the significance of this story. When this story takes place, the nation of Israel, or the area of Judea, had been a vassal state or had lost its sovereignty as a nation for almost 300 years.
So, for about 300 years, Israel is in disarray, they're constantly being, you know... Nations and armies are marching back and forth, raiding, you know, stealing, taking whatever they want and they're trying to hold it together, but they have no sovereignty and this has been the case for about 300 years. It began with the Assyrians, the Assyrians conquered that region of the world. Then the Babylonians came along and conquered the Assyrians and the Babylonians stormed the city of Jerusalem when the Jewish king got kinda all uppity, thinking, hey, we're not gonna let anybody tell us what to do anymore. The Babylonians came along, they invaded the city of Jerusalem, they destroyed Solomon's Temple, they carted off the best and the brightest to Babylon, including the fab four. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel, okay? That's when that whole thing takes place.
And then eventually, Persia conquers Babylon. And when Persia conquered Babylon, Cyrus the Great, the Persian king or emperor, Cyrus the Great said to the Jews living in Babylon, "Hey, if you wanna go home, you can go home. You're welcome to leave". So, consequently, several thousand Jewish people left that area of the world and went back to Judea or Jerusalem. And many, many others stayed in what would become Persia, because they had grown up there. This was their home.
So, now, the nation is divided. Now, the group of the people, the exiles that went back to the city of Jerusalem, went back to the area of Judea, found it in complete disarray. The walls were still torn down, the gates were burned, the temple had not been rebuilt. Things were tough. So, they did their best to kinda pull it together. They rebuilt the temple, but it was kinda the econo temple. In fact, the Old Testament tells us that when people who remembered Solomon's Temple saw the new temple, they wept, not with tears of joy, but tears of sorrow. It was such a pitiful little temple, compared to the temple that had been there.
So, economically, things were bad. Militarily, things were bad. It was kinda still open season on the Jews living in Judea, during that time. So this goes on for almost a hundred years. About 90 years later is when our story picks up. So, Nehemiah, his family never left Babylon, or never left Persia, and consequently, over time, they became somewhat wealthy and somewhat well known. And Nehemiah became the cup bearer to king Artaxerxes of Persia. And while he's the cup bearer to king Artaxerxes, his brother who lives in Judea, because part of the family had gone back, came to visit him and he asked him, Nehemiah asked his brother and this entourage from Judea, "Hey, how are things going"? 'Cause he'd heard things weren't going well.
And this what they said, this is from the text, Nehemiah sort of gives us his diary. "They said to me, 'The remnant'", the group that went back, who's been there now for over 100 years, "'The remnant there in the province who survived captivity are in great distress and reproach'". And then this explains the reproach part, "'And the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire'". So, here's this capital city with no walls to speak of. It's so many breaches in the walls, people can come and go, and there's no gate. And when there's no wall and there's no gate, this is both dangerous, and for a city, especially a capital city, it's degrading, it's humiliating.
I was trying to think of a good example and I came up with a bad example. I don't know if growing up, if your parents ever took the door off your bedroom. Anybody have this? Don't raise your hand, okay. Or, maybe you took the door off of one of your kids bedroom. It's a terrible thing to do, it is so degrading not to have... You don't think about it, but if you're a kid and you can't close your door, you can't close out the adults, you can't close out your brothers, you just never feel safe. You can't close your door. Well, in sort of a micro way, it represents this whole city, this whole population. They couldn't keep people out of their city, and they couldn't protect themselves from the people in the different areas.
"When I heard these words", Nehemiah goes, "When I heard these words, I sat down and I wept and I mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven". So, Nehemiah is many, many miles away and his heart is broken. You know, sometimes I'll ask you the question, what breaks your heart? Well, this so broke Nehemiah's heart, he couldn't get it off his mind. And he began to pray for wisdom and then he did something very, very gutsy, that could've potentially been dangerous. One afternoon he goes in to serve King Artaxerxes, the most powerful person in the world at this time. And King Artaxerxes realizes something's going on with Nehemiah and he says, you know, "What's wrong"?
And the thing is, in those days, you're supposed to be happy around the king, always. Always be happy around the king. Things are perfect, things are great, you know? Don't bring the king any bad news. But king Artaxerxes notices Nehemiah, and so, he says, "What's going on"? And Nehemiah says, "My people are in such bad shape back in Judea and the walls have been torn down". He tells King Artaxerxes the whole thing, and then he says, "Could I have some time off? Like, a long time off? Like, could I leave your service and go back and help my people"? This was so gutsy. And Artaxerxes says to Nehemiah, "Yes, you can. And in fact, I'm going to make you the governor of Judea". Because at this point, Judea was a vassal state of Persia. They were paying a lot of money for protection, they basically had to do whatever the Persian Empire told it to do.
So, the king says, "I'm gonna make you the governor and I'm gonna give you the resources you need to go back and kind of resurrect the city and help the city". This is a huge answer to prayer. So, Nehemiah's puts together a caravan of equipment and wealth. He's got all these letters as he goes through these different areas that say, "Give me safe passage, I'm on my way to Judea". He finally shows up at the city of Jerusalem and it is worse than he even imagined. I mean, it's terrible. The people are depressed, economically things are bad, the plants, you know, the forest have overgrown the areas where they were supposed to plant their crops. I mean, everything's bad.
There's no military. And basically, all the surrounding regions were taking advantage of Judea. So, he does... One night he goes out with some folks and he does a, sort of does a reconnaissances of the entire area, all the way around the way the city walls and he takes notes. And then he pulls all the people together, all the leaders together. He's the governor now, so they sorta have to do what he says. And he says, "Look", and then he cast this incredible vision. In fact, if you're a leader, I think the greatest model for vision casting is found in the book of Nehemiah because he covers all the essentials. He says, "Here's the problem. Here's the solution". "Here's why we need to do something", and here's the key, "And here's why we need to do something now".
That's a great compelling vision. Here's the problem, here's the solution, here's why we need to do something and here's why we need to do something now. And then, he's so brilliant, he assigns every family a place on the wall to work and he assigns them the area of the wall that's closest to where they live, very smart. So he gives everybody a work assignment, then he sends them to work to repair the wall around the city, and eventually to create gates for the city, to bring back the self esteem to the people, and, again, the protection for the people.
Well, this is good news if you lived in or around Jerusalem, but this was not good news for all the leaders living in the surrounding regions, that had been taking advantage of the city of Jerusalem and the people of Judea. They felt threatened because a walled city was a military threat. A walled city was a military threat. So, they began to intimidate the workers, then they began to attack the workers. They began to attack the families of the workers who live outside the walls in the surrounding areas. So Nehemiah has to stop the work, bring everybody inside the city, which was a problem, then he had to arm the workers. Some people would guard while other people worked. So this became a nightmare, but the work continued day after day after day after day.
Now, the ring leader for the opposition to rebuilding the wall, was a man named Sanballat. And Sanballat got so desperate as he saw that Nehemiah was not gonna stop. Because other people had tried to rebuild the walls, and just a little bit of intimidation and they would just drop it and go away. But this Nehemiah guy, he was committed to getting this job done. So he decides the only way forward is to kill Nehemiah. So here's what happened. Chapter six of Nehemiah, the story continues.
"Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies, that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach or break in the wall remained in it, although at that time, I had not set up the doors to the gates". So they're getting close to the end of this thing. "Then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me", and here's the message, saying, "Hey, let's get together, let's have lunch, let's have coffee, let's chat, you know? We've been at odds and things haven't been going well, but let's meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono". But he got word that, "They were planning to harm me". 'Cause they were gonna pull him off the wall, get him isolated from the people.
We're gonna have a chat and then they were gonna murder Nehemiah and Nehemiah knew this. "So I sent messengers to them, saying", and what follows is this statement, that as I was studying through the book of Nehemiah and Sandra and I were talking about it together and we ran across this statement, this next sentence. The message that Nehemiah sends back to his enemies has been... It's on our walls, we've printed it, we've had, you know, people have given it to us, you know? Printed or painted, because they know it's such a big deal to us. We've quoted this a thousand times.
And here's when we quote it, whenever we have been tempted. And every family, every couple, every individual is tempted at some point. Whenever we have been tempted to opt for immediate over ultimate. Or want now over value most. Or opt for optional over what is essential. When I was tempted, you know, many, many times like we all are, to work late and to miss dinner, to work late and to miss times with our kids, those strategic times. To veer away from... You know, I've taught you, when it comes to money it's give, save, live. Give, save, live. You give first, you save second, you live on the rest. You give first, you save second and live on the rest.
And many, many times, we have been tempted to abandon that. Because needs come along, wants come along, it's a difficult season financially. And anytime we have been tempted to abandon give, save, live, this is the statement that brings us back to center. It's like True North. Well, on one occasion, we had just moved into a rental house and we had three little kids, they were all walking by this time, and I had a very time consuming hobby. And by the way, I'm not knocking hobbies, I'm not even knocking time consuming hobbies, I'm just telling ya my story. My time consuming hobby was I had a music studio. It was not a side hustle. There was no money involved. It was purely fun and enjoyable for me.
So we'd just moved into this rental house, I'm in the basement of the rental house opening up my boxes, about to set up my little music studio and I'm hearing all the little pitter patter of footsteps running around upstairs and I'm feeling that tension. That tension of here's something I enjoy, here's something that's replenishing, here's something that's kind of a part of me, and upstairs is my priority. And for me, it was this idea that I'm gonna share with you, it was this statement that forced me, or it didn't force me, it caused me to just stop. I packed everything back up and I sold or gave away all of my music studio stuff.
And you know what? I've never missed it, I've never looked back. Sometimes people who knew I did a lot of music in the past, say, "Do you ever miss it"? I'm like, "No, that was for a season and when that season ended, I kind of knew it". And it just wasn't time, it just wasn't the season, for me to give that much of myself, in terms of time and emotion to a hobby. Because I had three little kids running around upstairs and a wonderful wife who's doing her best to be a great mother. So I packed it all up and gave it away. I also gave away my golf clubs. Just kidding, I didn't. I've never owned golf clubs. Okay, anyway, so! A little meddling there. Okay, so, the story goes on. "So I sent", Nehemiah says, "I sent messengers to them saying"...
One more caveat before I give you this statement, this is important. When Nehemiah assigned people to work on the wall, he gave himself an assignment. He's a great leader. In fact, the Book of Nehemiah is a great lesson in all kinds of leadership. He decided I'm not gonna ask these people to do something I'm not willing to do myself, and even though I'm the governor, he got out there and he worked on the wall. So, when the messenger from Sanballat showed up to say, "Hey, we wanna have a meeting", he's actually, literally, physically, up on the walls, right where the wall connects to the gate, working on the gates. And so, the messenger looks up and says, "Hey, Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem the Arab, they wanna have a meeting with you".
And so, he shouts down, he says, "Send a message, write this down and take this message back to Sanballat. Are you ready"? And he says, "I'm ready". Here's the message. "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down". I'd like for all of us to say this out loud, together, even if you're watching alone at home, ready? All together. "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down". Now, real quick, I want you to think for just a minute, about what is most important to you right now in your life. What is most important? It may be a who or it may be a what. What is most important to you right now? And with that in mind, I want us to say this again, ready? "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down". Now, I want you to think about your biggest distraction from the thing that's most important to you. And I want us to say it one more time, you ready? "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down".
And then Nehemiah says the most interesting thing and there's so much application as it relates to all of us, here's what he says. He asked them a question, and this is a question I think you should contextualize for your life as I've contextualized it to mine. The question is this, "Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down", literally, physically, the optics of this are amazing, he is looking down. "Why should I stop what I'm doing up here and come down to you"? I'm up here doing what's most important, that makes the most difference to the people who are most important to me. "Why would I lower myself to do something", or, "lower myself for something of less importance"?
And that's a great question. Why would you do that? Why would I do that? We know what's most important. We know what's urgent, but we know what's important. We know what needs to change, we know what needs to get better. We know what, in our hearts, God wants us to do in our personal lives, our family lives, our dating lives, our academic lives, whatever it might be, we kind of know. And it's so easy to get distracted. And I promise you, I'm as easily distracted as anybody, but why would I come down from what's most important to me? And maybe in your case, you feel like it's something God wants you to do. Why would you step down, like in Nehemiah's case, from what you know God wants you to do, to do something less than that?
So, they write down Nehemiah's answer, they go back and they tell Sanballat, "Well, he said I'm not coming to the meeting". Well, they are committed to getting him off that wall, so they send messengers back with the same request, trying to wear him down. In fact, here's what the text says. "They sent messages to me four times in this manner. 'Hey, what about next weened? Or what about the weekend after that? Hey, what about two Thursday's from now? Hey, Nehemiah, just find an opening on your calendar and when you have time, just let us know, we're flexible'". But this was not a scheduling conflict, and this is so important for somebody here today, or listening today. This was not a scheduling conflict, because this was not about scheduling. It was a priority conflict.
There is always time to put the wrong thing on your calender. We can always find time to squeeze that thing in, that takes away from, or subtracts, from what's most important to us. But Nehemiah was so smart. This was not about trying to find room on the calender, this was all about priority. And Nehemiah had pre-decided what was most important. He didn't check his calender, he didn't need to, because he had already decided what was most important. And why would I come down from what's most important? And what's most important to the people who are most important to me, in order to do something that has nothing to do with what I feel God has called me to do?
They sent the messengers, the text says, to him, four times in this manner, and I answered them the same way. And what was his answer? All together. "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down". I told you that the first time, I'm telling you that the second time, telling you that the third time, told you that the fourth time.
Now, when our children were super young, and this kind of shifted, and again, I'm not trying to turn this into a parenting thing, this is just when this principle really got gritty for us and difficult for us, and where it made so much difference for us. We decided that in order to really be focused on what we needed to be focused on when our kids were young, that there were certain things that we just had to say no to ahead of time, whole categories of things. Now, it wasn't a matter of we can't find an opening on the calender. There were just several categories, I'm not gonna tell you what they were, we just decided categorically, these are things we don't do. We don't not do them because we can't find time for them, we don't not do them because this isn't what we're gonna do in this season.
In fact, we came up with a list of these things and through different seasons of life, this list has changed. But, I think, all of you, regardless of what season you're in, may need a list like that. We called it, now, this is kinda corny, we called it our no for now, but not forever list. No for now, but not forever. In other words, this is a no for now, it's not a no forever, it's just a no for now. In this season, we don't do that, we don't participate in that, we don't go to those things, we don't say yes those opportunities. It's not no forever, because these aren't bad things, these aren't wrong things, these are just time consuming things and at this particular time in this particular season, we wanna give our undivided attention to the things that we feel like are most important to us. And it could be that you need a no for now, but not forever list.
And the reason this is important is because there are so many invitations, and so many opportunities and they're all mostly good. This isn't good versus bad, this is wise versus unwise. And this isn't throughout your life, this is during a season of your life. If you are a student, you need a no for now, but not forever list. If you are a newlywed, you need a no for now, but not forever list. If you're young and married, or you know, you're raising little kids and then when you start raising high school kids, the list changes. But there have to be some categories of things, that in order to get done what you know you need to get done, to prioritize what needs to be prioritized, you just have to categorically say no. This just isn't something we're doing in this season. You have to pre-decide.
And think about it, it was in the context of Nehemiah's story, if he had said yes to this invitation, they would've killed him. And even though the results aren't as extreme with you or with me, there is a parallel that there are certain hobbies that if you continue to say yes to, if there's certain pastimes you continue to say yes to, if there are certain kinds of relationships you continue to say yes to, if there are certain invitations that you continue to say yes to, those invitations will kill your chances of experiencing the future you envisioned for yourself. And they may destroy or undermine or kill the opportunity of a lifetime that's coming along, that you're preparing for, because you won't be prepared.
So, parents, every night, when you're tucking your kids in or they're coming in from middle school or high school, you just need to look at them and you just need to say to yourself, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down". And husbands, when you're traveling and you look at that picture, you know, of your kids and your family and your wife and you just need to look at the picture and say, "I'm doing a great work and I cannot come down". Wives, you need to look at your husbands and you say, "He's a piece of work". And, "What would he do without me"? Just wanted to see if you were paying attention, right? No, you do the same thing. You look at your husband, you look at your family, you look at what's going on right now and you say to yourself, you know what? "I'm doing a great work and I cannot come down".
I saved the best for last. Singles, listen, listen. What is the most direct route to your preferred future? What is the most direct route to your preferred future? Because you have a picture of what you want the future to look like. Don't get distracted. High school students, what is the most direct route to your preferred future? Don't get distracted. Don't trade ultimate for immediate. Because here's what I know about you even though I don't know you. You are doing a great work, or, I should say this, there is a great work you should do. And here's how I know that, because you're writing the story of your life.
And the story of your life is a great work and it's the only story you get to write, so you gotta write a good. This is the only story you get to write. This is the story. Write a story that you want to tell, because every decision you make and every time you prioritize correctly, you are writing a story you want to tell. And maybe more importantly, I don't know, you're writing the story that's gonna be told about you. Well, Nehemiah's enemies, when you read the story, they are relentless. He has told them, "No, we're not gonna have a meeting", but they don't give up. So, they decide they're gonna start rumors about him. And the rumors they start is that Nehemiah wants to be a king.
The reason Nehemiah is fixing the city up and putting gates on the city, is he's reestablishing Israel as a superpower and they're gonna rebel like Israel always rebelled and they're gonna rebel again Persia. And they start this rumor, hoping Artaxerxes is gonna hear this rumor and bring Nehemiah home and get him off those walls, so they can have their way the region again. And Nehemiah ignores the rumors, because as some of us have learned the hard way, criticism can be a distraction, can't it? Criticism can get you off center, as you're trying to chase down all of your critics and answer all of your critics. Nehemiah completely ignores them.
When that didn't work, then they told him, they sent somebody to Nehemiah, they said, "Nehemiah, there is an internal plot, within the city, to assassinate you. And they're gonna come for you when you least expect it and your best option is to flee to the temple". Because there was a law, there was a Jewish law, that if somebody was guilty of a crime, they could flee to temple, cling to the alter and you couldn't arrest that person. And there was certain qualifications and certain things you could do to make sure you weren't arrested. But this was their way to try to trick Nehemiah into acting like he was guilty of something, a coward of some kind. Nehemiah ignores that as well.
The text continues and says this, "So the wall was completed on the 25th of Elul, in 52 days". They rebuilt the walls Jerusalem. And, "When all of our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence". Why? Because, "They recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God". Now here's one of the coolest things about the book of Nehemiah, there are no miracles. God never shows up. There's nothing supernatural. It's kind of like the lives that we live, the day to day lives that we experience, the day to day criticisms and distractions we experience.
But Nehemiah knew in his heart, this is the thing I must do. This is the job I must complete, this is the project I must get to the finish line. These are the people I must love well, these are the people I must protect. And regardless of the distractions and regardless of the threats to me and regardless of all the consequences of ignoring all the threats, I have to get this to the finish line. So there are no miracles, there's just dedication to a job, there's hard work, there's good leadership, there's confidence that God wired him to do this, and then there's success, all because he stayed focused.
So here's my question for you as you begin a new season, or as you think about your future, as you consider what's most important, what is your wall? What is your wall? What is the thing you dare not come down from until the work is done? What is the thing that you have to stay focused on until it changes, or until it's restored? Whether it's all year, or whether it's an entire season of your life. Maybe it's that habit that you finally need to break. Maybe it's a business that you know you need to start. Maybe it's a relationship that you need to rebuild.
And every time you hear me or somebody else talk about restring a relationship and you think in your heart, yeah, I need to do that, but it never feels urgent. It's extremely important, but it's never urgent and it just never gets done. But maybe restoring that relationship is the key to unlocking somebody's heart, somebody's bitterness that allows them to forgive you or forgive somebody they need to forgive. Maybe it's restoring a relationship, maybe it's retiring that debt, maybe it's a degree that you need to complete. And then this is part of the equation as well, what are the distractions? What's distracting you? Because you know the answer to that too, right? You know what needs to be done and you know what you need to focus on. And you can look at your calender and you can look at your daily routines and you know what's distracting you. What are the obstacles that you need to remove? I didn't own a television until I was 30 years old and I just knew that a television was gonna be extraordinarily distracting to me.
Sometimes people ask me, they say, "Andy, when do you have time to write books"? I have written 27 books. I can't believe that I've written 27 books. They say, "When did you write those books"? I said, "While you were watching TV". I just decided a long time ago, I only have so much time. And I'm not against television, I'm on television. I've never stayed up to watch my program, you know? You know, I come on after Saturday, well, our church comes on after Saturday Night Live, in about 34 markets around the country, which is so amazing. And my mom, she passed away about five years ago, she used to stay up and watch it, at one in the morning. I'm like... She goes, "No, but I wanna watch it live". I'm like, "Mom, I'm asleep, it's not live, okay? Everything on television, except headline news and you know, sports, it's all prerecorded". She says, "Yeah, but I like to watch it live". I said, "Okay, you watch it live".
Anyway, so I'm all for television, but I just decided early on in a certain season of my life, there were things I needed to do and I just needed to give that time to something else. And for some of you, you just... Those are hard decisions, but those are obstacles. So, what do you need to eliminate? I mean, there're obstacles and then there's just some things, just some categories that, I'm telling ya, no for now, but not forever. No for now, but not forever. No during this season, and then in another season of my life, I'll pick it up. And then here's a difficult question, but I have to ask it? Who do you need to eliminate? And let me be clear, not literally, okay? Yes. These are the kinds of statements people take a picture of and put on the internet and there goes my reputation. Who do you need to eliminate off your schedule or out of your life?
Another one's, let me ask you in a different way, who, this is important, who is keeping you? Who is keeping you from becoming who or what you wanna be? They're just not a good influence on you, and let's be honest, you're not always all that good of an influence on them either. They may hear or listen to this message, they may be listening now and they're thinking about you, just like you're thinking about them, okay? So this isn't about some people are worse than other people, but at this season of your life, they're just not helping you get there. In fact, in this season of your life, they're an obstacle.
And let me just say something to all of our high school juniors and seniors and all the college students that are listening, your parents have an insight and have an intuition about your friends that you lack, and you don't lack it because you're not smart. You lack because you're in your teens or your 20s. And when somebody you respect, and when somebody who loves you, and when somebody who has no other agenda but your future, says to you, "I think this person is a distraction, I think this person is gonna undermine, I think this person has more negative impact on you than you have positive impact on them", you need to listen to that person because you're at a critical season of your life.
You're making decisions that will determine, essentially, where you end up. Because direction, remember this, direction, not intention. Everybody has good intentions. Direction, not intention, determines your destination. And your friends, you know this, we've taught you this, your friends determine the direction and the quality of your life. So there may be someone just during this season, that you need to back off from, because they're not gonna help you get to where you ultimately want to be. You have a great work to do. I know you do. Because you have a story to write. And I know you wanna write a good one. And you're writing it every single day, decision by decision by decision.
So, one more time, all together, ready? "I'm doing a great work and I cannot come down". And this time, I want you to say it like you mean it, ready? "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down" - You are doing a great work, you dare not get distracted. And for most of you, not all of you, but for most of you, somebody else is depending on you to stay focused on your great work. So, there are many things you will do this year and there are many things you can do this year, but what is the one thing you must do this year? What is your wall? And are you willing to stay on it until the task is complete? You are doing a great work, so don't come down.