Craig Groeschel - Shut the Door on Distractions
Hey I'm incredibly honored to have all of you with us today at every single Life.Church location. Our partnering Open Network churches, my goodness we thank God for you. Those of you streaming all over the world, YouTube, Church Online, whatever form you are consuming this content, I pray that it would speak to you in a really powerful way.
Let me update you in case you're just kind of joining us. Today we're actually concluding a four part massive series. It's called The Good Work. And we're looking at an incredible story about an ordinary guy from the Old Testament named Nehemiah who does a very very good work. Here's what I know about you, and I believe this with all of my heart. That you are not created by an accident. That by the providence and goodness of our God, he knew exactly what he was doing when he made you. He formed you, gave you gifts, passions, desires to do something that makes an eternal difference in this world.
And that today I believe the spirit of God will speak to many of you to stir you, to shake you, to move you, to inspire you to a good work for the glory of God. I believe that God has a good work for every single on of us to do things that make an eternal difference. Let me bring you up to speed about Nehemiah in case you missed earlier weeks. Who is Nehemiah? Nehemiah was an ordinary guy from the Old Testament. He was not a prophet, not a pastor, not a king, not a warrior, not a building contractor. He was a regular guy who was actually serving the king, Artaxerxes of Persia in a roll known as a cup bearer. He was kind of like a consultant or a servant and an advisor to the king. And he heard from his brother about the plight of his people.
If you missed earlier weeks we studied that in the year 587 B.C. under the reign of the evil king Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonians came in and completely destroyed Juda, crushed Solomon's temple, burned the gates, left the city in complete ruins. And literally thousands and thousands of Jewish people were taken into captivity. Decades past and no one could seem to rebuild the wall. Then one day, Nehemiah's brother traveled to see Nehemiah and told them about the plight of his people and Nehemiah's heart sank. He was broken on the inside because the people of God were vulnerable. They had no leadership, no direction, and so Nehemiah started seeking the heart of God.
And you'll notice over and over over again he prays all through the book. You'll see 12 different times recorded in scripture that he prays and seeks God. He goes before the king, he asks permission to leave his job to travel back to his homeland to try to assess the situation to perhaps assemble some people to believe that God could maybe do through him what had not happened through anybody else. Perhaps God could use him to lead the people to rebuild the wall. At first things did not go well. Eventually they started to make progress. But what do we know as soon as we start to make spiritual process?
As the work goes down, the opposition always heats up. The moment you start creating movement on behalf of the things that matter to God, your spiritual energy will show up and try to resist the very work that God put in your heart. In fact, I always say this, if your enemy can't destroy you, he will distract you. He will do whatever he can to take your eyes off your mission, off your calling, off your purpose, and distract you from God's will. And that's exactly what happened in this story. The wall started to go up, and the enemies Sanballat, Tobiah, and a guy named Geshem, who that sounds like an enemy Geshem showed up and tried to distract Nehemiah off of the job. That's why the title of this message is, shut the door on distractions. Shut the door on distractions.
Let's look at Nehemiah Chapter 6, verses one and two, and you'll see the enemy's plan to divert Nehemiah off of God's mission. The scripture says this. Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained. This was a miraculous accomplishment. Though we had not yet set up the doors and the gates. So what does Sanballat and Geshem do? Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me, asking Nehemiah to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono. Nehemiah stop building the wall. Stop doing the work of God. We don't like you, we're trying to stop you. Meet us at one of the villages in the plain of Ono.
Tip number one, you may wanna write this down. Whatever you do, never meet with your enemies in a place called Ono. Don't ever do it, whatever you do, don't go to Ono to meet with your enemies. What's interesting to me when you look at this, is to think about perhaps how someone like us today in our context might have translated that opportunity to meet with the enemies. Think about what we might say? Oh my gosh, they hate me, they don't like what I'm doing. This is an opportunity to convert my critics. Or this is an opportunity to go and expand my influence.
Can I use our language of the day? This is an opportunity for me to build my brand. This may be an opportunity for me to reach more people, establish and build my name. The problem is what we often think is an opportunity, God calls a distraction. So often what we think might be my opportunity to do something more is actually a distraction from our enemy trying to take us, divert us off the very purpose for which we've been created. The enemies say please come meet with us. Please come meet with us, please come meet with us. We're trying to distract you. I would argue that perhaps there's never been an easier time to be distracted in the history of the world than it is today.
So many distractions everywhere you look. Bing, ding, bong, ah, ah, ah. Today it's so easy, have you noticed? To become great at doing things that don't matter. It's never been easier to be passionate about wasting your time. If the devil can't destroy you, he'll get very excited simply distracting you. So what do we see in the story? The enemies, the critics, they asked Nehemiah for a meeting. Hey, let's have a meeting. And Nehemiah rejected the meeting, why? So he could stay on task and keep building the wall. Nehemiah, will you meet with us? No. Nehemiah, can we have a meeting? No. Nehemiah, we wanna talk to you about your philosophy and help you see another way, nope, nope, nope, nope, and no.
I will submit to you that one of the most strategic skills that you can develop in order to do what God has called you to do is the ability to say no to other things that might distract you. No is one of your most important words. In fact if you ask me in my life today, I would say that my default answer because of the important task in front of me, my default answer to almost everything that comes my way today is no. You actually grow with your no's, not with your yes's. I don't wanna be distracted by things that would take me out of God's perfect will. How do you say no? When someone ask you can I have a meeting, can we do this, can you come do this for me? How do you say no?
What I wanna do is I wanna teach you today very carefully how to say no. The way you say no is just like this, you say it like this, no. That's how you do it. I'm gonna show you again because there are some of you that might have missed it. The way you do it, the technique actually matters. What you do is you tilt your head up slightly to the side like this. And then when you say it you don't have to frown, you don't have to be angry, you can even smile. But you bring your head slightly down this way, and then you just say it, no. Just like that, no. Try it, just no. If you don't move your face right it doesn't really matter. All of our campuses one, two, three, no. Are you gonna do it? No. Do you wanna buy it? No. Are you gonna go? No.
Here's the deal, don't say maybe when you mean no. Don't waste my time. Don't waste anybody's time. Get ready this will set you free. No is a complete sentence. You don't even have to say no because. No, no, no. Even Jesus, especially Jesus often said no. There'd be crowds of people and he'd heal a lot of them and then he'd say, I'm done for the day, and he would walk away. He wasn't being mean. He was being wise. There were many times he would say no to the crowds so he could say yes to his Father. I need some time with my Father.
And I wanna talk to you just for a moment as leaders. Those of you who are leaders, and you're gonna make a difference. No is one of the most important things. You cannot be available to everyone all the time. If you're always available to everyone, eventually you will have nothing to give to anyone. We must be strategic about our no. We don't say no because we don't care. We say no because we really do care about what God has called us to do. Just because you could do something, doesn't mean you should do something. Four different times, four different times. The enemies asked for a meeting. You meet with us, will you meet with us? Will you meet with us, will you meet with us? Four different times Nehemiah gives them the same exact answer. No, I'm not gonna do it. Let's talk, stop building, no, no, no, no.
The fifth time, scripture says this. The fifth time Sanballat, this is the bad guy, his servant came with an open letter in his hand, and this is what it said. There's a rumor, that's how I always say it. There's a rumor, side note, do you know what rumors do? Rumors are carried by haters, spread by fools, and believed by idiots. Did I just say that out loud? Maybe I did. There's a rumor, there's a rumor among the surrounding nations and Geshem, he's another bad guy. Geshem tells me it's true. The rumor is that you and the Jews are planning to rebel and that's why you're building the wall. According to his reports, you plan to be their king. There's a rumor.
Don't let the whispers of people distract you from the call of God. Don't let it happen. Don't let it pull you away. I hope you'll understand, you will never do big things if you're distracted by small-minded people. We're never gonna let the opinions of others take us away from the calling of God. There's a rumor. In fact, one of my favorite there's a rumor stories. I actually heard someone gossiping about me. Like I know it happens but I saw it and heard it. I was in the line at the grocery store with my little under nine items bag, and I was standing behind a cashier and another customer and they were talking about the pastor of Life.Church. And the customer leans into the cashier and says I heard, there's a rumor, I heard that he flies everywhere in his helicopter. He flies from campus to campus in his helicopter. He has his own helicopter pad at his house. There's a rumor.
And so they went through and I came up there and gave 'em my nine items, and they kind of looked up at me like huh. And I just kind of smiled the whole time. And then at the end I said can you hurry up, my helicopter's waiting for me outside. To take me to my next place. In fact I had a mentor tell me this. And this will speak to some of you who are dealing with critics right now. But my mentor told me, don't worry about what people say about you. Worry about what's true about you. Just live a life that honors God and don't let the critics, don't let the haters knock you out of God's mission.
There's a rumor. The guys say, Nehemiah, that you wanna be king. He replies in verse eight, there's no truth in any part of your story. You're making the whole thing up. Here's what happened. Instead of letting this opposition discourage Nehemiah. Oh they don't like me, I can't please everybody, we're never gonna get this job done. Instead of letting it discourage him, God simply made him more determined. Our God is with us and we're going to do it. Watch how it's described in the very next verse, verse nine. They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So what did Nehemiah say? So I continued the work with even greater determination. I just continued on. No voice of people will talk me out of the calling of God.
In fact if you read it in the text, what I love about it is the way they worked. If you read very carefully, they're up building this wall and they would work with a tool in one hand a weapon in the other. I don't know about you but I think that's cocky. That's kind of how I wanna preach. I've got the Bible in one hand, and I've got a weapon, I've got the sword of the spirit, and they're actually the same thing so that analogy just kinda broke down. But my Bible does it all. You got a tool in one hand and you got a weapon in the other, and we are prepared to do the work of God. And whatever opposition tries to talk us off, it doesn't discourage us. It builds our faith, our God is with us. And we do the work with even more determination.
What do we know? Once the wall starts going up. Once God starts to bless whatever you're doing. Because what I know about you is you're created for more. That God gave you gifts to make a difference in the church. And as the church, out in the world. And the moment you take a step of faith, you may see some progress. You'll see some resistance. You'll see the hand of God build your faith, and one day with the hand in the favor of God, you'll start making a difference in the life of Switch students. You'll start making a difference discipling people through small groups. You'll start being a light and a witness to the people that you work with. You'll start being a voice of love and hope to those who aren't experiencing love and hope. And when that starts to happen, and God starts to use you. You have to be careful that you don't let the external success do internal damage to your heart.
What's really easy when we start seeing increase, we start seeing success is for us to start thinking it's because of us, and that we're actually entitled to a little bit more. In fact one of the biggest dangers of any kind of success, and Nehemiah would have to face this is the temptation to start leading with an entitled spirit. And if I can tell you just honestly, this is something I have to watch for in my own life. Because a lot of people faithfully serve me, and if I'm not careful, like I need it now. I'm this, that, and the other, and I deserve more, and I need some perks because of the sacrifices I've made. And you have to watch for that when you're successful. I want you to see how Nehemiah dealt with the temptation to be distracted with an entitled spirit.
Verse 10 says this. Nehemiah said later I went to visit Shemaiah. And he said to me, so here's a new character, and this guy has got some inside news for his buddy Nehemiah. He said to me, hey let us meet together inside the temple of God and bolt the doors shut. Why? Because Nehemiah, your enemies are coming to kill you tonight. So here's this guy who says hey Nehemiah I'm you're buddy. I've got some intel. Your enemies have a bounty on your head and they're coming for you. Let's you and me go into the temple of God. We're gonna lock the doors and we're gonna be safe from your enemies. What's interesting is that Nehemiah actually had the authority to go into the temple. But if he did so for personal gain and not for the glory of God, he would have been abusing his power. He'd be sinning against God, and he would lose credibility with the people that he was leading.
So what did Nehemiah do? Watch what he does in Verse 11. Scripture says this, but I replied Nehemiah says, should someone in my position run from danger? Should someone in my position enter the temple to save his life? No, I won't do it he says. I realized that God had not spoken to this guy, but that he had uttered this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat, the bad guys had hired him. This guy was actually a traitor. They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. Then they would be able to discredit me. Here's what Nehemiah says, I'm not gonna hide out. I'm not taking any special privileges, I refuse to lead with an entitled heart. In other words, this wasn't about me when we started, and it's not gonna be about me now. Feel it, Nehemiah. I didn't come to make a name for myself, I came to build a wall and that is what I will do. Nothing will distract me from that. Any diversion, any distraction, any temptation to do anything else, no I won't do it. I say no to everything else, because my purpose is to say yes to God's calling for my life.
We have to watch for it. Whenever whatever you do starts to succeed and to grow and to blossom, no I will not lead with an entitled spirit. I'm here because of the faithfulness of my God. I served him in the beginning, and I will serve him all the way through to the end. What happens? The enemies, they don't go away. I don't care how successful you are, they still show up. In fact new levels often equals new devils somebody said. So just get ready, they're still coming. Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, they continued to taunt him. They tried to discourage him. They threatened his life and tried to distract him. And in verse three of Nehemiah six, I think this is probably my favorite verse in all of this book of the Bible.
Finally Nehemiah responds, and let me tell you what he didn't do. He didn't come down off the ladder. He stayed on the ladder, kept building the wall, and he sent them this message. I sent messengers to them saying, I am doing a what? Let's say this loud, I'm doing a? Great work. Say it again, all of our churches. I'm doing a what, I'm doing a? Great work. Great work. If you remember in week number one, chapter two we look at this. Nehemiah said let the good work begin. He knew when he started it was a good thing. But as he continued to see the faithfulness of God, he realized this just isn't a good work you see. This is a great work. This is something that my God created me to do. Put me in the exact place at the right time with the right king to grant me the right provision to do the right purpose to go back and inspire the right people. To do something that will outlast me.
This isn't just a good work. This is a great work. And Nehemiah sends the message to his haters, to the doubters, to the critics and says I'm doing a great work. I can't come down. I'm doing a great work. I can't be bothered by your opinion. I'm doing a great work. Your criticism will not deter me from doing what God created me to do. I'm doing a great work. And I cannot come down. Why should I stop and leave and come down to you? I'm doing a great work. I'm not trying to do something that's impressive. My God has called me to do something important. I don't answer to you. I'm not trying to be popular, I'm just living out my purpose. I'm doing a great work, I can't come down.
I don't know who this is gonna speak to today. I'm envisioning perhaps a mom with toddlers. Drunk squirrels in diapers all over you all the time. And I hope you'll hear it, you'll feel it because you want to do other things perhaps with your life right now. You're feeling a longing to do something different, and I hope you'll realize that this season won't last forever. And what you're doing right now is a great work. Embrace the great work and don't come down. The season will pass and you can do more. You're doing a great work. Don't come down. I'm visualizing someone trying to pay off debt and is slow dollar by slow dollar by slow dollar and the hill feels so big. Just tell the enemy whenever hear that you'll never make it and it's not worth it. No, no, no, no, no, what I'm doing is a great work and I can't come down. I'm doing what God has called me to do and I can't come down.
Some of you, you're trying to love someone in Switch that seems like you just can't reach them. Their heart seems so hard and you feel like giving up. No, no, no, no, no, no, I will not give up. I will not back off, I will not stop. You see I am doing a great work. And I can't come down. You have a vision for something, a heart for something, you wanna make a difference and it seems like you take two steps forward and three steps back but you don't give up the fight. You know that if you stay in the game and do not grow weary in doing good, that at the proper time our God says, you will reap a harvest if you do not give up. No, no, no, no, no, you don't understand. This is a calling, this is a burden and I cannot shake it. I am doing what God put on my heart to do. I'm doing a great work and I can't come down.
Verse 14 and 15. Crazy miraculous story. But when you see the result, but I want you to see is there was not a supernatural miracle from heaven. It was a leadership miracle with the favor of God through the hands of ordinary people. And let me show you this miracle. Verse 14, Nehemiah says, remember O my God. He's praying again, he's talking to God. The same God that called him is the same God that equipped him. The same God that stood with him. The same God that empowered him, and the same God that brought him favor and victory. Remember, O my God, all the evil things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And remember Noadiah the prophet and all the prophets like her who've tried to intimidate me. So on October the second the wall was finished. Just fifty-two days after we had begun the good work. 52 days.
What I love about this is that there was no supernatural miracle from heaven. Notice this? There's no talking donkey. There's no fire from heaven. There's no burning bush. There's no bricks just started falling on each other. There's no parting of the Red Sea. There was no army of 10 foot angels, eyes blazing with fire wielding heavenly chainsaws singing we are the champions, there's none of that in this whole story. There was just an ordinary guy who's heart was broken by the plight of his people. All the way back to week number one he sat down to cry. He knelt down to pray. And he stood up to act. All through the story he sought God faithfully. He made his plans carefully. He inspired people passionately. He pushed back the critics and he kept his eyes on the prize. Whenever the enemies would try to distract him, he said no to anything that was lesser, because he was saying yes to his greater work.
In verse 16 this is what scripture says. When our enemies, when our enemies, all the people that tried to stop it. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, the wall has been built. They were frightened and humiliated. And they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. Who was is that was glorified? The one who called for it, the one who empowered it, the one who opened the doors, the one who made it possible, the one who was glorified through it, our God was there in the beginning. Our God was there in the middle, our God was there in the setbacks, and our God was there in the victory. And wherever you are in the process right now, our God is with you. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. He is empowering you. He's storing up within you. He is reinforcing his calling, no man can talk you out of it.
When your enemies comes against you, your God is still with you. Greater is the one who is in you than the one who is in this world. All things are possible and when the enemy tries to talk you down, you just look down and say no, no, no, and no, I am doing the great work. And I will never ever come down. With all this said, four weeks of inspiration. Four weeks of preparation. Four weeks of motivation from our God. Somebody needs to hear this. You will never finish what you don't start. Sit down and cry, kneel down and pray. And stand up to act. And let the good work, no, no, no, no, excuse me. Let the great work begin. Everything you do, do it all for the glory of God. Let your great work begin.
So Father we ask by the power of your Spirit, that you would equip us your people, your children God, your church to do what you've called us to do.
And all of our churches as you reflect in prayer. Those of you who are followers of Christ and realize you are created for more. Let me talk directly towards those of you that are not yet serving anywhere in the church. Let me tell you this, you're a part of the family of God. You are a part of his body. And if you aren't using your gifts and expressing your internal God-given passion, there is something our God wants to be done for his glory to make a difference in the lives of others. It's not being done because you're not in the game. Others of you, you're already doing something. You're finding the fulfillment or maybe you're even in the middle of a struggle but you recognize, God really wants to do more. And all our churches for every single one of you who are followers of Christ and you want more of God in you and God through you to do the great works that God has called you to do.
If that's you today, God stir up the gifts within me to do even more to make a difference in this world. Would you lift up your hands right now all of our churches, just lift them up, lift them up, God thank you so much for so many amazing people ready to do great works for your glory. God I pray that you would speak to us individually. God stir us, show us all where we can serve you in your church. Not just in the building or the ministries that impact the people here, but God as your church all over the world. God give us a heart, let our hearts break for something God that breaks your heart. God may we follow the divine burdens that you put in our hearts to do something good. To take a step of faith, even when we don't understand, just to do the next right thing God. And believe that you're gonna lead us along the way. For whoever is discouraged and feel stuck right now, gotta help them to do what you put in front of them in this season, they're doing a great work, it matters today, I will do this today. Even if it's not my ultimate dream, I will do this today God for your glory. Help us God to embrace the work that is in front of us as a divine assignment from you God. We're doing what you called us to do with all the passion in our souls today. God stir within us. For those longing for something more, God give them that burden. I pray they talk to someone, talk to their life group, talk to pastor, stir something in them God. We wanna do more for you. Let the good work begin.
As you continue praying today at all of our different churches. You'll never ever finish what you don't start. There are some of you, I believe with all my heart that God brought you here today because this is the start of a new life. What does that mean? Let me tell you about the goodness of God. Remember our God. Our God is so good that he became one of us, God in the flesh in the person of his son Jesus. Jesus was all man and all God all at the same time. It's a mystery, cannot be fully explained, but that's what it is. Jesus never ever sinned. He was completely holy. And because he was righteous in every way, he died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
This was not a temporary sacrifice, this was a permanent sacrifice. God in the flesh born to die so we could be forgiven. God raised him from the dead so that anyone who calls on the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus, that person would be saved, transformed, forgiven. You would become new. All of the filth, the junk, the sin, the shame is removed, it's forgiven, it's gone and you become a new person. You're not better, you're different, you're new. The old person is no more. You become spiritually new in the eyes of God.
And in all of our churches, there are those of you that God brought here today, it's time for a new start. You may feel the weight of your sin, the guilt from the past, the shame of something you said or something you did. You're not here by accident. You're here today to take a step of faith to believe that Jesus is enough. He is the son of God. When you call on him he forgives every sin, he makes you brand new. And all of our churches, those who say yes, I need him. Today is the day, it's a new start, a new beginning. I turn from my sins, I give my life to Jesus. That's your prayer today.
Lift your hands high right now all over the place and say yes Jesus, I give my life to you. As we see hands going up all over the place, would somebody give a little praise to God today? And those of you at Church Online, you just click right below me. If you wouldn't mind today at all of our churches, would you just stand up to your feet in a holy moment. We're gonna pray aloud together, celebrating those today being born into the family of God. Just pray aloud:
Heavenly Father. Forgive my sins, save me. Jesus be the lord of my life. Fill me with your spirit so I can start new. Forgiven, redeemed, and called. My life is not my own. Lead me to a great work. All for your name and to show your love. Thank you for new life. You have all of mine. In Jesus name I pray.