Dangers of Diversion


By Dr. Ken Matto


Nehemiah 6:3 (KJV)   And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?


“Thus have I replied to your letter, my friend Armsdorff, though perhaps I have been too long and tedious.  But I wished to show you, why I judged it best not to answer Erasmus any farther.  I am moreover abundantly engaged in teaching, confirming, correcting and governing my flock.  And my work of translating the Bible, alone requires the devotion of my whole time, from which work, Satan with all his might endeavors to withdraw me, as he has done upon former occasions; that he might get me to leave the best things, to follow after those which are nothing but vain and empty vapors.” - Martin Luther to Nicolas Armsdorff concerning Erasmus of Rotterdam, printed in “The Bondage of the Will.”


The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines diversion as:  1. The act of turning aside from any course; as the diversion of a stream from its usual channel; the diversion of a purpose to another object; the diversion of the mind from business or study.


If there is one tool the devil uses to derail Christians, it is deception.  He also deceives the entire world with false religions, political correctness, etc.  Deception is his greatest tool of both offense and defense.  Revelation 20:10 (KJV)   And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.  Revelation 20:10 teaches us two things that the devil uses deception and that his days of deception will come to an end on the last day.


The second greatest tool which Satan uses when he cannot deceive a Christian with false teachings is diversion.  If Satan can divert a Christian from their calling or even just a project at hand, then what he has done is to hinder the advancement of the Kingdom of God on earth, even though it may be for a short time and in a small capacity.  In Nehemiah 6:3, we gain insight into Nehemiah’s mindset concerning the task which he was doing.   He did not refer to it as the job he is doing at present but called it a great work.  He knew that he was doing the work of the Lord by rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  He categorized it as a great work and not just a task.  He knew that when he was doing God’s work, it had no equal on earth and therefore he called it a great work.  The words in the Hebrew behind “great work” advance the understanding much further.  The word behind “great” is “gadhol” which can also be understood as “noble, honored, or large.”  The word behind “work” is the word “melakhah” which may be understood as “business, workmanship, occupation, industrious.”  So we can summarize that Nehemiah saw the work that he and the others were doing was not only labor but he saw it on a higher status than just work.  It was a noble or honored occupation that Nehemiah was involved in because it was the Lord’s work.  The Lord could have picked any number of people still in Babylon to do this work, instead he gave the burden to Nehemiah which resulted in Nehemiah seeing his calling as a noble one in the service of the Lord.  He took it serious and not just as a chance to get out of Babylon for a while.  He knew the Lord laid the burden on him and he acted upon it and since he disallowed himself from being diverted, the wall was completed in 52 days.  Nehemiah 6:15 (KJV)   So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.  It is interesting that in verse 3 of chapter 6, Nehemiah is being tempted to abandon the work for a while and meet with his adversaries.  He refuses and then we read further in the same chapter in verse 15 that the wall was completed.  He would not allow himself to be diverted.  His assessment of his task being a noble one in the service of the Lord would take precedence over any attempt the enemy can muster to stop the work.


This gives us great insight into how we should be viewing the work of the Lord in our lives which is our ministry.  We should never look at ministry as something which we have to do but something that we would want to do.  The Lord wants us to bear much fruit in this life and the only way we can do that is if we view ministry as our reason of existence and other things in life as ancillary to that call.  It is nice to do different things in this life but if those things divert us from our primary call, then those things must be abandoned.  John 20:21 (KJV) Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.  When Jesus came to earth, what was his primary mission?  It was not to heal or feed the hungry but it was to die on Calvary to pay for the sins of the Elect of God.  These other things that he did, did not interfere with his mission nor did it hinder the final outcome in any way.  Luke 9:51 (KJV)   And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,  As Christians, we must also steadfastly set our faces to the ministry which the Lord has given us and we must beware that our enemy will try to divert us any way possible, even with another aspect of ministry.


Whenever we are engaged in a ministry, it is for the purpose of advancing the Christian Faith on earth.  The Pilgrims placed that belief in the writing of the Mayflower Compact in 1620.  They believed their purpose was to advance the Christian Faith.


Haueing vndertaken, for ye glorie of God, and aduancemente of ye christian ^faith and honour of our king & countrie,…”


The 101 Pilgrims believed they had a calling from God to advance the Christian Faith and their steadfastness caused them to continue on in both smooth sailing and hard times, even when one of the ships they were travelling with had to turn back for emergency repairs.  They did not allow that situation to frustrate their plans of moving ahead.  They went on without that ship and under God’s guiding hand, instead of landing in Northern Virginia, they landed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony where they wrote and implemented the Mayflower Compact.  The first winter they lost half of their group but this did not deter them from continuing on.  They could have given up and went back to either England or the Netherlands but they chose to stay and as a result the United States was founded upon a Christian desire to send forth the Gospel.  Like Nehemiah, they chose to forge ahead knowing that they had a calling upon their lives.


We as individual Christians also have a calling on our lives and one that is without repentance.  What I mean by that is that once we are Christians, there is no turning back and once we know the ministry the Lord has for us, then we forge ahead through obstacles and opposition.  Satan will do whatever he can to divert us from our calling. If he is successful and can turn us away from our ministry, then he defeats us temporarily and if we allow these diversions to continue, then he will succeed in placing us on the sideline thus rendering us impotent for ministry.  There will come times when the Lord may divert us into a second ministry or a temporary situation but we will know the difference between the Lord doing it and the Devil.  If Satan is diverting us, then the diversion will be a diversion from the ministry at hand to something that is really not important, not needed, or it will be a diversion of just stopping the ministry without doing anything else.  If the Lord diverts us, it is to bring us into another ministry or another facet of the ministry that we are involved in.  The difference is obvious, the Lord’s diversion would be to continue to further the Kingdom of God on earth and the Devil’s diversion is to hinder the furthering of the Kingdom of God on earth.  Let’s look at two examples:


Satan’s Diversion

Nehemiah 6:2-3 (KJV)   That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief.  {3} And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?


As we read in Nehemiah, we read that Nehemiah was asked to come down from his work and meet with the enemies.  If he would have done that, then the people might have mistook it that Nehemiah was now in the pockets of the enemies and would have caused dissension among the people and may have caused the work of the Lord to cease.  Always keep in mind, if the Lord gives us a ministry and other people are involved, a diversion may cause them to give up their part in the ministry also.  There is a ripple effect.  What we do does affect others! At the minimum, Nehemiah would have basically shirked his duty to meet with these men just to talk.  There are many who like to talk instead of doing.  Always be careful when someone comes to you when you are doing ministry and asks you to leave it for a while.  They no doubt have evil intentions.


God’s Diversion

Acts 16:9 (KJV)   And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.


Paul was ministering in Troas and then he had a vision of a man who asked him to come to Macedonia and help them.  This diversion was for the purpose of continuing to further the Gospel.  In other words, because Paul was fruitful in his ministry, God was going to continue to use him for another important ministry which would help further the Kingdom of God in Macedonia.  The Apostle Paul was not abandoning Troas but was being re-tasked to minister in Macedonia.  A person who is faithful in ministry will be used of the Lord in many areas without compromising their primary ministry.



It is important to realize that when a Christian is involved in ministry, that they will be attacked by Satan not only head on but also cunningly by diversion.  It behooves us as Christians that we never allow ourselves to be diverted from the task at hand.  We must always view our ministries, no matter how small or how large, that they are advancing the Kingdom of God on this earth.  Just as the Pilgrims forged ahead and as Nehemiah refused to be diverted, we too must never be diverted from our stayed course of sending forth the Gospel.