We need a distraction.

Almost every story about a surprise attack contains this line. Whether it’s a rescue operation or a hostile invasion, a well-timed distraction raises the odds of success.

A rock thrown in the opposite direction. A fire set on the other end of town. The fastest rider on the fastest horse drawing the focus away from real action.

A distraction is an entertaining maneuver in a movie or a novel. It’s painful in the church.

Satan is a master of distraction, and he seems to specialize in the art of the slow distraction. If he can decrease our joy just a little, he has opened room for doubt.

If he can throw a small insult in our direction, disunity has a foothold. If worship and thanksgiving move down in our priorities just a notch or two, lesser things slip into their place.

And before long we’re seeking the kingdom second, or maybe even third.

Which is what had happened to the people of Judah before God called Nehemiah to the scene. Small compromises and little distractions had added up and brought them down. Their crowded hearts had neglected the house of God and then left it completely.

Distractions never deliver on their promise. Saying yes to God often means returning to what we’ve been neglecting, going back to where we were walking with God. That’s where our joy and strength will be renewed.

 

So I confronted the officials and said,
“Why is the house of God forsaken?”
And I gathered them together
and set them in their stations.
(Nehemiah 13:11 ESV)