Three Obstacles of Leadership

The book of Nehemiah paints one of the most incredible pictures of leadership in the Bible. 

Nehemiah, by God's divine plan and purpose was a cupbearer to the King, which led him to receiving permission and resources to restore the walls of Jerusalem.


In Nehemiah 6 we see 3 types of obstacles to his leadership that all leaders face:

1. leadership obstacle #1: Distraction

"When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates—Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.

But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer."

When people or problems try to distract you from what you know you are supposed to do, simply say "I am doing a great work, I cannot come down from here!"

Don't allow the challenges of life to distract you from the main thing you know God has called you to do. 

2. Leadership obstacle #2: slander

"Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter in which was written:

It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.

I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”

The only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.

If you are leading people anywhere at all, you will face slander from people who think you have the wrong motives, who are jealous, or who are trying to stop you.

Do not let the people who know you the least, try to define you the most. Entrust yourself and your reputation to God's care, and keep going.

3. Leadership Obstacle #3: Intimidation

"They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.”

But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me."

Sometimes leaders even face threats or intimidation. Simply ask God to strengthen your hands, and keep moving forward and speaking out for the sake of God's truth. 


Nehemiah did not give in to these obstacles. He finished the work God had called him to. When the work was completed, God got the glory:

"When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God."


God has called each of us to a special work. In time, he will open the opportunities and favor to pursue them. Don't give in to the obstacles that try to keep you from finishing the work.