A few months ago, our family minivan was breaking down enough that we decided to get a new one. That meant that I had to do the dreaded deed of going car shopping. Some people love shopping for cars, but I am not one of those people. I don’t like being hassled, I don’t like being coerced, and I don’t like being taken advantage of – and it seems those things happen regularly when shopping for a car. I went to a dealer, and sure enough, the upsells started. The need for the special security system, the clear undercoating, and the extended warranty. I didn’t go for any of it because I knew what I wanted and how much I was willing to spend, but the temptation was there. That got me thinking about the way that our priorities and convictions are challenged under pressure.
Nehemiah was confronted with the same challenge. In Nehemiah 6:5 we read,
“5 In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand.”
Nehemiah tells us that it was an “open letter.” That’s important because most letters from leaders in that day were not. Usually a letter would have been sealed with the leader’s personalized seal, so the recipient knew it was from him. So why send an open letter? The goal was to spread a rumor about what was happening in Jerusalem. The goal was to create a coalition of people that would be against Nehemiah. The goal was to create a court of public opinion that would get Nehemiah to come down from the wall. The hope was to create pressure that would bring Nehemiah down from the wall.
I’ve thought about that lately because our priorities get challenged in the same way. All of us have to answer the questions: Will we stay true to the truth of Scripture in a culture of compromise? Will we prioritize our families in a time when everyone seems to want to get ahead? Will we live for Jesus when the world around us thinks that’s foolishness? How will we respond when people disagree with us?
Our response to pressure to change our priorities will shape the trajectory of our lives because aligned priorities lead to empowered living. Nehemiah knew that he was called to rebuild the wall and he stuck with that task until it was done – he didn’t care who opposed him. Spend some time today and think through internal and external pressure that war against you living in alignment with your priorities. Are there any areas you’re compromising because of pressure? Take some time and repent and then realign your life with the way of Jesus.
Pastor Ryan Paulson