We are nearing the end of February and for most people who set goals or made New Year’s resolutions seven weeks ago, the aspiration of changing your life for the better has become a memory. You may want to get back on track, but life has happened, and you are simply too busy—or at least you feel too busy to have time to make the improvements into a habit.
However, in the wake of New Year’s resolutions of this year and the past, we all have one thing in our lives that is bothering us. Whether it is a strained relationship, marriage, or friendship; a struggle to improve finances by saving more, spending less, or eliminating bad debt; a suppressed dream like starting a business; finally changing eating and exercise habits to lose weight; or something else, we all have one thing that rises to the top of the pile when thinking about one thing. All of us have one thing that we can do to make 2012 a year of change in our personal lives. We can look back on our lives next year and say, “Twenty-eleven and before had this problem, but 2012 was the year that changed.”
When we have a picture or thought about Our One Thing for 2012, I suggest we read the first six chapters in the book of Nehemiah. (Yes, it’s ok to skim over chapter 3 provided you see how everyone is involved.) We remember Nehemiah’s life because of one thing; we remember Nehemiah’s life for his one ‘impossible’ accomplishment.
[Now is a great time to pause and read these six chapters. Don’t worry, they are short and engaging, and you’ll be done before you know it.]
Nehemiah’s determination to build Jerusalem’s wall was the driving force in his life from when he learned that Jerusalem remained in ruin. From these few chapters we can learn the following things that are applicable to our own lives:
- It doesn’t matter where we are when we begin, because God has placed us in exactly the place we need to be. (A cupbearer was a glorified—though trusted—slave who had the dangerous task of tasting the king’s food and wine to make sure it wasn’t poisoned, but as a cupbearer, Nehemiah was placed in the perfect place to be able to make His one thing a reality.)
- We should begin our one thing with prayer and trusting that God will fill in the pieces that we cannot. However, we should not wait for a clear answer from God before we begin to move. God usually redirects someone who is moving, rather than pushing someone who is sitting still. (Nehemiah knew God’s hand was involved when He received the King’s favor. Other than that brief implied answer to prayer, God seems silent and confirmation only happens once the wall is finished.)
- Our one thing involves other people’s help. Whether their help is required to accomplish our one thing, or their support keeps us on track, we need each other. (Nehemiah’s wall building needed people to help with the work. Nehemiah worked alongside the people who He was leading.)
- There will ALWAYS be an uphill climb when focusing on our one thing. There may be individuals who mock or attack us, mental struggles and temptations we have to overcome, and tasks that seem impossible to accomplish, but remember the steeper the climb, the more satisfying the reward when we reach the top. (Nehemiah had strong opposition from neighboring governors, but he made their challenges into motivation and pressed on his one thing with more passion than before.)
- Sometimes, opposition comes from those who are close to us. We must realize this and not be discouraged. Success is the best revenge. Arguing over our one thing with pessimistic, negative people is damaging, because it takes our focus off our one thing. (Nehemiah was almost distracted at the end of the wall building by someone he thought he could trust.)
- Sometimes, especially if our one thing is something that will take longer than a month, we get discouraged and tired. It is wise to keep the image of accomplishment in front of us as a motivator. Getting out of debt will bring freedom; a restored relationship will bring happiness and healing; being thin and healthy will feel great. Focusing on the struggle is discouraging; focusing on what the goal provides us is encouraging. (The people Nehemiah was leading became discouraged part way through the wall building process. Nehemiah needed to remind them about the rewards that come with having a strong, solid wall around Jerusalem.)
- God rewards dedicated perseverance when we are doing what He has created us to do. Our successes are His trophies. He shows up in unusual ways, and often times, He accelerates our efforts to bring success faster. Impossibly fast success is better than the best revenge. (Nehemiah and the people completed the wall in 52 days. That is just under two months and his task was building a whole city wall! When Nehemiah’s enemies heard the speed that the wall was completed in, they lost confidence because they realized that it was accomplished with the help of God. [Nehemiah 6:16])
You probably aren’t asked by God to build a wall as the one thing that is defining your life, but there is something specific for you to accomplish.
Have you decided to focus wholeheartedly on your one thing, or are you caught managing distractions?