“Oh no, things seem to be getting worse in our nation.”
Nehemiah was tempted to go down into the valley of Ono, but he refused because he would not to be distracted from his “great work.” Nehemiah 6:2-3 tells us, “Sanballat and Geshem sent this message: ‘Come and meet with us at Kephirim in the valley of Ono.’ I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I sent messengers back with this: ‘I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?’” (Nehemiah 6:2-3 Message Translation).
“Nehemiah, meet with us in the Valley of Ono.” I am not sure how other languages translate this, but English-speaking preachers can get a lot of preaching mileage out of the “Valley of Ono.” Meeting with the enemy there represents those times we listen and meditate on the devil’s lies resulting in our discouragement and greater emotional captivity. I’ve noticed that my poor responses to negative circumstances (the “oh nos”) have been a primary cause of my visits into the Valley of Ono.
In the past, the only way I could walk in personal victory was if there were few, if any, “Oh nos” in my life. I remember as a young pastor, the accumulation of oh nos would cause me to gradually descend into the valley of discouragement. For instance, I would come on Sunday morning with a high level of faith, love, and hope, and then:
Oh no, the sound man called to say he could not come
Oh no, sister so and so is complaining to me again
Oh no, people are coming in late and attendance is down
Oh no, there is a spirit of heaviness in the room
Oh no, children are out of control
Oh no, the wrong song is up on the projector and there is a misspelling on it
Oh no, I don’t feel anointed
If my feelings were any indication, I believed I could only thrive inwardly if my outward circumstances were good This is not God’s plan for us. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). The quality of our lives depends on our identifying what we believe God is saying to us in promise and direction. As we focus on this, It becomes difficult to descend into the valley of Ono.
“I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down.Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?” Nehemiah’s response burns like fire inside my soul. It is a major antidote to discouragement, procrastination, fear, offense, unworthiness, and a host of other debilitating mindsets which are fueled by listening to lies. Nehemiah is saying:
What I am doing is significant and must continue
I don’t have time to play mind games with the enemy
My continued forward movement protects me from a whole host of distracting and damaging challenges
Those who believe they are doing a great work are doing a great work. I remember as a young leader, I said to the Lord, “I cannot wait until I can do something great for you.” He answered, “Instead of waiting to do something great, attach great faith to what you are doing now and it will become great.” This has become a major life and leadership key I share often.
God has called each of us to specific assignments in this current season. Whether our calling feels big or small to us, our decision to hear and attach faith to it will require Nehemiah-level focus. The people of God don’t have the time or the inclination to visit the Valley of Ono to discuss things with our enemies. Life is much more fun with less frequent trips into the Valley of Ono.
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Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.