by Michael Goldsmith
Just as a house needs a ‘spring cleaning’ our minds need cleaning from the cobwebs and excuses that keep us from our best. Here are five principles (using each of the letters of the word ‘great’) for achieving greatness from the book of Nehemiah.
1. Go passionately. Nehemiah came back to his homeland to find it in total disarray. After a time of personal evaluation, Nehemiah rose to challenge the people to join forces and resources in restoring their homeland to a standard of excellence. With great passion, Nehemiah sold the people on the unifying idea of rebuilding the broken down walls. In Neh. 1, the people were extremely discouraged. After Nehemiah’s passionate appeal the people rose to respond, “Let us arise and build.” (Neh. 2:18). A large amount of passion will get you out of the starting block.
2. Recover quickly. The second principle of greatness is learning to recover from setbacks. In Neh. 4, there is substantial resistance. Enemies repeatedly threatened. Ten times their enemies heaped fear, criticism and discouragement on them. Nehemiah recovered quickly. He came up with a game plan for protecting the workers and kept the people focused on productivity. Setbacks have a way of taking the ‘wind out of our sails.’ When you encounter an obstacle, what are you going to do? Quit? Forget it? Mark it off as one more over zealous idea? Or recover? Get back on your feet, brush yourself off, learn from it and go forward. It’s not how many times adversity comes, it’s how many times you recover.
3. Excel greatly. Nehemiah 3 is a list of people who were involved in the building project. In the midst of all of those difficult to pronounce names you find in verse 20 this phrase, “…Baruch, the son of Zabbai, zealously repaired another section.” In the midst of the building project at least one person was zealously approaching their work. Excellence in American productivity seems to be suffering. One thing to remember about everything you do – It’s a reflection of you. It’s your name. It’s your reputation. It’s your work. It’s your fingerprint. Excellence is about pride in your approach to life. Baruch knew his particular section of the wall would always be a reflection of him. People would either say, “That’s the lousy section that Baruch built.” or “Look at that incredible section that Baruch built.” And for himself, Baruch would always have the inner satisfaction of knowing that he gave it his best.
4. Act persistently. In Neh. 4:6 we read, “So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.” About halfway through any project is the point where you most feel like giving up. You’ve probably used over half your resources, there is still half a project to go, and your initial enthusiasm may be waning. If you don’t think the half way point is critical, walk through your house and examine all of the half done projects lying around. Persistence and follow through are critical to greatness.
5. Triumph valiantly. Finally, in Neh. 6:15-16 we close with, “So the wall was completed… in 52 days. And it came about when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of God.” Job complete. Celebration time. You haven’t performed well until you’re done. I particularly enjoy that last sentence where the enemies lose their confidence in the face of a completed project. Finished work speaks for itself.
Greatness is not a matter of arriving at a certain level but of becoming a certain person. That takes effort and discipline. Nothing more or less than old-fashioned, roll up your sleeves, put your nose to the grindstone, stay at it until it’s done, discipline.
Michael Goldsmith has pastored congregations in North Little Rock, Conway, Pine Bluff and Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. He now serves with Global University as Director of Advancement for a project in a sensitive country. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org