When we kicked off our series Distracted, we asked the question,

What is your great work?

The first week, we looked at the seedling of the idea God was implanting in Nehemiah to rebuild the City wall and gates of Jerusalem.

During the second week, we looked at Nehemiah's path to Jerusalem by exploring his next step which included a lot of faith.

In the third week, we explored what we needed to do to make progress on our great work.

Last week, we asked whether you were tackling your most important tasks or just urgent ones.

This week, we conclude our Distracted series as Nehemiah comes full circle to the question we asked at the beginning.

“What is your great work?”

As we will see, the detractors never left and Nehemiah needs the citizens of Jerusalem to focus, dig in, and do the work so they can accomplish the great work of building the wall and gates of Jerusalem.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destiny.” ~ C.S. Lewis1


We often associate rejection with job offers, missed opportunities, and heartbreak.

According to a Huffington Post article, 80% of Americans want to be authors, but the percentage who actually achieve this milestone is far less.

My friends Stu and Jenette are both in the process of writing books. I have self-published a photography book on local cemeteries in Illinois where I explore death and life with a twist.

The advent of self-publishing has taken the sting out of being rejected by traditional publishers, but when authors hit it big we celebrate their success.

Agatha Christie is reported to have sold over 2 billion books but was rejected by six publishers and it took five years for her to launch her first book.2

Stephen King was rejected 30 times before his hit publication Carrie at the urging of his wife, and that launched his book franchise, which later turned into movies.3

Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times before her book was published. This book landed her a Pulitzer Prize in 1937, and later it was turned into a movie that was nominated for ten Oscars and is still one of the highest-grossing movies of all time by today’s standards.4

If these now-famous authors had stopped pursuing their dreams, we would never have their great contributions to our libraries and cinema.

Nehemiah could have easily given in as well and said it was too difficult, but he had his eye on the great work God had placed in his heart – rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Re-Built

We pick up the story of Nehemiah as the walls and gates are getting rebuilt. They are neck high in the rebuilding, and the detractors are coming at them with everything they have trying to distract the citizens.

The detractors came to Nehemiah and said,

“Come meet with us.”

Nehemiah went round and round with the detractors and said I cannot come meet with you, we are in a rebuilding project. Four times this happened.

Now…Nehemiah had, had enough of the back and forth and on the fifth time, he said in Nehemiah 6:3:

“I cannot come down and meet with you right now, I am doing a great work.”

The opposition continued on with death threats, false prophecy, and generally trying to make Nehemiah a hypocrite in front of the people, but the Lord was with Nehemiah and protected him.5

Doing a great work… the citizens of Jerusalem doubled down on the rebuilding effort, and the walls and gates were completed in record time – 52 days. That’s right. In 52 days, they had returned Jerusalem to a fortified city.6

Your Great Work

How have you been doing with your great work? Over the last several weeks, what has God been speaking to you about your great work?

I have to admit that my great work is still fuzzy – it seems like the distractions are coming from all sides, and I find it difficult to focus.

Last week, we talked about the important vs the urgent and the urgent has been winning the battle. I find that I am dropping the ball on simple things, and that can hurt people.

Working Genius

Patrick Lencioni wrote a new book titled The Six Types of Working Genius where he and his team distill six work types that each individual embodies. They are:

  • Wonder – big picture thinking
  • Invention – design and creation
  • Discernment – clarifying an idea or creation
  • Galvanizing – championing and rallying people around an idea
  • Enablement – supporting people and an idea for execution
  • Tenacity- taking an idea or project to completion

For the past year or so, Patrick’s team has been using, enhancing, and helping others understand themselves better so they can do their great work.

The concept is simple, each of us has two geniuses, two frustrations, and two competencies. For me, my geniuses are wonder and enablement, my frustrations are galvanizing and tenacity and my competencies are invention and discernment.

When we spend too much of our time in the working on frustrations or competencies, we burn out and we might be finding ourselves trapped in one of these areas. Me, lately, I have been spending way too much time in my working frustration, and it’s definitely made me frustrated.

I love dreaming of ideas, asking questions, and guiding people to help them achieve their goals, but I also can discern or refine an idea when it is placed in front of me.

You might find yourself trapped just like me, and your great work may be stifled right now. Nehemiah spent five months praying and seeking God’s direction on his great work before he ever went before the king to request his leave.

New Life Church in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania is doing a study in Nehemiah right now, and Pastor Warren shared that Nehemiah was never sad in the king's presence the entire time he had been serving in the royal court until that day he asked for his leave.

Talk about a servant leader…Nehemiah was aching inside, but never let it show on the outside.

When Nehemiah requested his leave and the king granted it, the Bible does not specifically say how long the leave would be; however, scholars believe it was for 12 years. I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure my boss is not going to grant me a 12-year absence from the workplace let alone give me letters and protection.

The difference we need to understand is God was in the planning and execution. God’s hand of favor was on the whole situation because He placed it in Nehemiah’s heart.

Sometimes our great work needs incubation time, and it may require us to slow down for a little bit. We can’t possibly achieve our great work if we are tired, burnout, stressed, or have too much on our plate.

Let me ask you again, how is your great work coming along?

I hope 2023 is the year you deliver your great work to the world.

Encouragement and Challenge

This week, take time to assess where you are with your great work and see if there are areas that need more or less of your attention.

If you are intrigued by the Working Genius framework, head on over to WorkingGenius.com for more information or to take your assessment today.


Lord, thank you for going before us and crafting great work for us to do. Thank you for using Nehemiah to show how to prepare and execute on a great work. Thank you for going before us, and please speak to us this week as we dig in to better assess our great work. Amen!

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  1. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/10-brilliant-authors-who-were-rejected-multiple-times_b_57ee1918e4b07f20daa10721 ↩︎
  2. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/10-brilliant-authors-who-were-rejected-multiple-times_b_57ee1918e4b07f20daa10721 ↩︎
  3. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/10-brilliant-authors-who-were-rejected-multiple-times_b_57ee1918e4b07f20daa10721 ↩︎
  4. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/10-brilliant-authors-who-were-rejected-multiple-times_b_57ee1918e4b07f20daa10721 ↩︎
  5. Nehemiah 6:1-14 ↩︎
  6. Nehemiah 6:15-16 ↩︎

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Hi, I'm Dave Anthold. I am a small group leader, short-term missionary, and visual storyteller. You can read my story here.

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