By Rob Hurtgen
Growing up in rural north Missouri, I had very few options for radio stations.
I remember turning the radio dial to find anything and eventually coming across two stations—one top 40 and one country. On rare summer nights, I could pick up a baseball game from the other side of the state.
But no matter which station I was trying to tune in, I always had to work through the static to actually hear message.
In pastoral ministry and life, you’re bombarded with numerous messages. You have to sort through what’s static and what matters.
Nehemiah illustrates how to deal with static that can derail you from fulfilling God’s purpose for your life.
In Nehemiah 6, an invitation comes to Nehemiah from Sanballat and Geshem to meet with them. Nehemiah recognizes this invitation wasn’t for his good, but harm.
He refuses the invitation telling them, “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3).
In his response, Nehemiah demonstrates ways to filter through the static that’s seducing your attention.
1. Test it with God’s Word
Nehemiah operated from the principles God revealed in His Word and the purposes God put into his heart to filter through the static.
Broken-hearted and burdened about the condition of Jerusalem and the collapse of his people, the Lord put into Nehemiah’s heart the desire to see the walls rebuilt, and the people restored (Nehemiah 2:12).
The greater your confidence grows in God’s purposes, the quieter the unhelpful static will become.
2. Know every “yes” is a “no” somewhere else
Every time you say “yes” to something means that you’re inevitably saying “no” to something else. Nehemiah knew if he said “yes” to their request, he’d have to say “no” to continuing the work he was called to do.
The costs of stopping the work weren’t worth the tradeoff of receiving their invitation. Nehemiah practiced a values-driven “no.”
Cutting through the static to execute God’s purposes demands knowing you can’t say “yes” to everything. Sanballat and Geshem’s request attempted to mask their desire to harm Nehemiah.
Seeing through their ruse, perhaps Nehemiah found it easier to say “no.” But you may not have that clarity for each request.
This requires asking the question, “Do I value what I’m saying ‘yes’ to more than I value what I’m saying ‘no’ to?” For Nehemiah, the answer was clear, “I cannot come down.”
3. Find support from co-laborers
While Sanballat and Geshem were united in attempting to derail the people’s purpose, those gathering around the wall were united in their cause.
Because of the support of the co-laborers on the wall, Nehemiah was able to say “no” more readily.
Surrounding yourself with those united in a singular purpose enables greater confidence to know what to say “yes” to and what to decline.
Proverbs 24:26 reads, “For you should wage war with sound guidance—victory comes with many counselors.”
4. Remember some simply aren’t on board
Nehemiah recognized not everyone that wanted his attention was supportive of him. You’ll have those in your ministries who aren’t supportive of you.
They don’t like you. They don’t believe you should be leading them. They’re not behind your vision. You need to be okay with that.
Knowing that not everyone is in your fan club doesn’t give you permission to go out and make enemies. Do all you can to win over your brothers and sisters.
However, there are those in your life who’ll create static because they have a different vision.
Who we need to hear
As a ministry leader, you’ll need to sort through the messages you receive to operate out of the principles God has revealed in His Word and the purposes He has put into your heart.
I still like to listen to the ball game broadcasted over the radio. Thankfully, I can stream the game over my phone or tune in to the digital station without suffering through the static noise.
While my ball game listening experience has dramatically improved, there’s much more static in other areas of life to sort through.
If I don’t learn to filter the noise blaring 24 hours a day, I’ll miss the one voice I need to hear—the voice of God.
ROB HURTGEN (@robhurtgen) is the husband to Shawn, father of five, pastor of First Baptist Church Chillicothe, Missouri, and doctoral student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also blogs at robhurtgen.wordpress.com.