I’m growing in wisdom every morning as I meditate on the book of Nehemiah. God has entrusted Nehemiah with a task of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. Nehemiah has shown amazing concentration on the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem from the beginning till its completion. He completed the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem in 52 days. A task is always given to a leader. There can be no leadership without a task. The capacity of a leader is unveiled through his or her accomplishments of tasks. Then how can you accomplish a task? The best strategy for accomplishing a task is concentration.
Concentration is focusing of attention. Concentration is closely related to focusing your eyes on someone or something. In order to concentrate, you need discernment. Concentration requires you to discern the right object to focus on. In addition, concentration requires you to discern how to focus the resources and energy on the object. A person’s resources and energy are not infinite. For such reason, we must be able to utilize the given resources and energy in a concentrated way. Moreover, we need wisdom to receive sufficient resources in a continuous way.
Nehemiah was faced with numerous obstacles while rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. He also encountered people like Sanballat and Tobiah who despised the Israelites. They ridiculed the work of Nehemiah, slandered him, and attacked the Israelites to try to stop the work of Nehemiah. However, Nehemiah was excellent in figuring out the schemes of his enemies. And he defended the wall from the attacks of his enemies through excellent discernment. But he did not concentrate on his enemies. He defended the wall against his enemies but he did not attack them. He did not waste his energy and resources on his enemies. We can learn several lessons regarding concentration through Nehemiah’s leadership.
First, Nehemiah concentrated on God, the giver of task. He concentrated on God, who helped him to accomplish the task. He started the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem by praying to God. He was conscious of his enemies but his eyes were always fixed on God. He prayed to God every time he was facing hardship. He entreated for God’s mercy. His focus was always on God. We are influenced by the one whom we are gazing at. If we are gazing at our enemy, then we are influenced by the enemy. And it makes our enemy seem bigger. In contrast, if we are gazing at God, then we are influenced by God. When we encounter the great God, our enemy no longer remains as a problem. Life is about what we focus on. According to whom or to what we focus on, our thoughts, emotions, and actions are influenced.
Second, Nehemiah concentrated on the task God had entrusted to him. The enemies were interfering with his work. What they wanted was to put a stop to Nehemiah’s work. It was to make Nehemiah give up. If Nehemiah focused on fighting with the enemies rather than completing the task, then he would not have been able to complete the task in a short span of time. Rather than concentrating on the problem, he concentrated on the solution. Rather than concentrating on the impossible, he concentrated on the possible. Every time he faced crisis, he focused on opportunity, not on danger. Whenever he faced obstacles, he considered them as norm. Moreover, he welcomed the obstacle and befriended it. By doing so, he made the obstacles flummoxed. Instead of concentrating on the obstacles, he concentrated on the accomplishment of the task.
Third, Nehemiah concentrated on the co-workers God had sent to him. Nehemiah didn’t focus on the enemies who troubled him but rather on the people who were helping him to accomplish the task of rebuilding. He concentrated on resolving the oppression of the people of Judah and providing the welfare and safety for the people. He knew that it wasn’t the enemy but rather the people of God working together that aided the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. He knew that people were more important than accomplishing the task. Some people treat others harshly in order to accomplish the task they are promoting. However, God is pleased when we value people more than accomplishing the task at hand. It is not that the task is unimportant. We should not undervalue the importance of accomplishing the task, but we need to inscribe in our hearts that what is more valuable than the task is one soul that bears the image of God. In addition, we must never belittle the people with whom we are working together because the God-entrusted tasks are accomplished through people.
Everyone encounters enemies and obstacles in their life journey. However, rather than concentrating on the enemies and obstacles, concentrate on God. Concentrate on the people and tasks God has entrusted you with. Let us learn the wisdom of concentration and move forward to accomplish the precious task God has entrusted us with. Shalom.
Reverend Joshua Choon-Min Kang is the senior pastor of New Life Vision Church, located in Los Angeles. This is one of the weekly letters he writes to his congregation. For the original, visit www.nlvc.org.