Looking Out for Numero Uno

Number One

Number One (Photo credit: John Ayo)

Do you have a numero uno? That one thing that is on your to-do list that you would give anything to accomplish? Maybe it is to find that dream job, start a new ministry, write a book, or take the first step to bring that idea you have been pondering into reality. Nehemiah did. He saw that the Israelites were in trouble and distressed because the wall around Jerusalem was busted up and the gates were burned. Surrounded by enemies, the Israelites had no protection. He had a dream to bring safety and security back to his people by rebuilding the wall.

So Nehemiah set out to accomplish his dream. As he worked, he faced great opposition to his dream. So much so that he had to take half of the workers away from actually rebuilding the wall to provide security to the workers that were building. Sunballet was the leader of the local bully faction. He was upset that Jerusalem’s wall was being rebuilt, it will be more difficult for him to attack the Israelites now. So, he led his cronies in calling the Jews names, criticizing the work that was being done, trying to discredit them, and saying they would never succeed.

Finally, Nehemiah was able to lead the Israelites in rebuilding the wall, but the gates had not yet been rebuilt. Sunballet realized he was wrong–the Israelites were succeeding and he was now in trouble. So he sent Nehemiah a message–tried five times, in fact. The fifth time Sunballet accused of Nehemiah of trying to become king. Nehemiah’s response is classic: “I am working on project numero uno. You have not been helpful to the cause, so you can wait until my work is finished, if I even take time then” (Nick’s paraphrase).

Whenever we take a step of faith to begin working toward our dream, we will attract dissenters. We are going to make their life more difficult and they will not enjoy the change. They will have to work a little harder to keep up, write a little better, realize that they are not following God’s will in their own lives, or accept that they are not numero uno. Whatever the reason, instead of bettering themselves, they will try to discredit you–its easier for them that way.

Will you let them distract you from your numero uno? Here are a few things that may help:

  1. Identify your next “great project.” Nehemiah knew what his project was. Through prayer and wise counsel, he was encouraged to rebuild the wall and he moved forward. His goal was to make the people of Israel safe from their bully neighbors. To do that, the wall and gates needed to be rebuilt and he would not stop until they were.
  2. Pray After Nehemiah learned about the status of the city walls and gates, he spent days fasting and praying. When he first shared his vision with the Israelites, Nehemiah knew that God was behind this plan and that he was simply carrying it out.
  3. Communicate Nehemiah was a great communicator. He spoke with the king before leaving, asking permission to rebuild the wall. He spoke with the people about why rebuilding the wall is important to them. He gained their trust and their help. When his detractors asked for his presence, he still communicated, even though his answer was no.
  4. Make it a priority. Nehemiah made building the wall a priority. He had set-backs. He was able to lead all the people, including women and children, into helping with the project. Once he began, he had to move half of the workers from building to securing, but the work continued. The priority was safety for the people, it had to be done and all the people stepped up to help accomplish that goal.

Nehemiah was successful because he was focused on the great project that God laid on his heart. He would not allow his focus to be pulled elsewhere until that project was done.

How do you stay focused on your project Numero Uno? 


2 Comments on “Looking Out for Numero Uno”

  1. Skropp says:

    Great post Nick. The one thing that stuck out to me was the detractors and Nehemiah having to pull people away to protect the builders. It’s probably because of my recent post, I’ve been thinking a lot about limiting the negative people and influences in my life if I hope to accomplish my goals.
    Nehemiah knew if the workers couldn’t work with the distractions and attacks their productivity would plummet and morale would dive, and when all that happened, the project would be in serious jeapordy.
    So that’s what I’m trying to do, be very careful and intentional about what I allow to have influence on me, my thoughts, and my family.

    • It is hard to quiet those detractors, Mark. When you are out front and moving, people will comment. Folks will not like what you are doing and they will like what you are doing. As the leader, you just need to keep moving forward and being sure you are on the right path. Listening to everyone can be discouraging. As I reread this, look at what Nehemiah says to the people in 2:18–“I told them how God was supporting me and how the king was backing me up.” (from The Message). Nehemiah spent time in prayer and knew God was on his side. He also presented the plan to his boss (the king) and got his blessing. It really didn’t matter what the people were going to do, it seems Nehemiah was going to do this regardless!

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