Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Distractions

Distracted

by Dennis Pollock

Once in a while I try to find a friend from days long ago by looking him up on Google. I did this recently for a young man I once knew (at least he was young when I knew him) who had been an assistant pastor. Curious to see what had become of him, I found a Facebook page and a personal blog of his, and began to read. I couldn't believe the kind of things he wrote in his blog. He has become obsessed with the Confederate cause of America's Civil War, and uses the term "Yankee" like a curse word. He has tried to push a petition which requested that his state (Missouri) would be allowed to withdraw from the union. He hates the pledge of allegiance and considers it a union propaganda tool, and feels that the Civil War was too high a price to pay for the Africans' freedom.

While I strongly disagree with his bizarre notions, this was not what bothered me the most. It was apparent that my former friend had expended an enormous amount of time and energy on this subject. This one-time minister of the gospel was still fighting a war that ended around 150 years ago. As I read his outlandish ideas it set me to thinking about distractions. I am convinced that the devil has a plan A and plan B for every person in this world. His plan A is that men and women would stay far from Christ. Some folks he encourages in their passions and desires, and may even help them to attain success in their endeavors, as long as they are kept far too occupied to give serious thought to the claims and demands of the Lord Jesus. Others he keeps distracted through poverty and need, and accomplishes the same thing. Plan A works beautifully in the majority of cases. Most men and women live and die without ever coming close to putting their faith in Christ.

Secondary Strategy

But not all. Christ's death was not in vain. In every generation and every culture there will always be some who experience that mysterious wooing of the Holy Spirit and end up trusting Jesus and being born again. Satan has lost this battle. A soul has been redeemed. But the story does not end there. Say what you will about the devil, there is one complement we are forced to give him: he is no quitter. If plan A does not work, he moves seamlessly to plan B. This involves distraction. If a soul cannot be kept from Jesus Christ, he can at least be rendered ineffective in his service to Christ through distractions. Paul dealt with this as he wrote: "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Paul worries about Christians being "led astray," distracted from a pure and simple devotion to Jesus Christ. Generally this does not happen when we are spiritual babies. As new Christians we experience that euphoria of our first love, and will not permit anything between us and our Lord. But time passes, our ardor cools, and at some point we will be tempted to push Jesus to the side of our lives and pour our best time, energy, and even money into some distraction, some new passion or cause. We do not deny the Lord; we simply don't give Him the priority He once had in our lives.

Distractions can come in many forms. The cults prey upon people who profess to be Christians, but become enamored with the idea of possessing special revelations and insights which ordinary Christians lack. Soon their focus is on their particular deviations and supposed revelations rather on Jesus Christ Himself. Hobbies can become distractions whey they start sapping time that rightfully belongs to God. Even theological positions can become distractions when we become more focused upon our particular theological distinctions than on Jesus Himself.

Lay Aside Every Weight

Lay aside every weight

God is very much insistent upon us having Jesus Christ as the single passion of our lives. Our safety, our fruitfulness, and our joy are all dependent upon this. In Jesus' parable of the sower, He describes people who are like seed planted among thorns this way: "and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful" (Mark 4:19). Jesus gives three categories of distractions. First, the cares of this world. This is also translated "the worries of life." Worry over problems and difficulties can be distracting. It is not that God doesn't want you to ever think about your problems, or plan strategies to solve them, but you cannot fixate on them to the exclusion of all else.

A second distraction is the deceitfulness of riches. Wealth is deceitful. It promises happiness, fulfillment, and the answer to all things, but never lives up to its promise. While we must make a living and provide for our needs and the needs of our families, again we cannot make the acquisition of wealth the major focus of our life. Many people are far more consumed with making money than with pleasing God and blessing others. The third category is very general: "the desires for other things." This means wanting things too much, too strongly, and spending way too much of our time and energy for the attaining of those things, to the detriment of our walk with God and service to Christ. It is natural for men and women to have desires of various kinds, but God's children must always keep their desires under strict control, lest our lives become diluted and our ministry blunted.

The writer of Hebrews tells us: "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…" (Hebrews 12:1). Distractions are like weights on a long-distance runner. They may not be evil in themselves, but because they slow us down and keep us from our goal, we must rid ourselves of them. Imagine a marathon runner with a heavy suitcase in each arm, dragging dumbbells chained to each foot, and carrying a 100 pound pack on his back. Such a man would be a fool if he expected to win the race. Regardless of how much he had trained and the excellent condition he was in, he would have no chance at all. So it is with the sincere but deceived Christian who dreams of doing great things for Christ but cannot bring himself to lay down the many distractions and encumbrances that weigh him down.

Believers have to become ruthless in stripping down to the lightest possible lifestyle as they run the Christian race. When I write an article I do so with a target of a definite number of words. Often my article goes well beyond the target range and I must cut out significant portions and paragraphs until I get to the desired size. This is a very painful process for me. Sometimes will cut out a paragraph and then re-paste it, not having the heart to leave it out. Other times I almost wince at deleting a thought that sounds so good, but does not support the main theme as well as other passages. Still I know I must be ruthless about this and get the article down to the right size. So it is in the lives of those who determine to follow Jesus Christ as King and Lord. There may be some painful cuts we must make, but we will endure the pain, for His sake.

The One Thing

Paul declares: "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13,14). In a sense you might wonder at this statement. After all Paul healed the sick, preached the gospel to the lost, built churches, taught believers the Word of God, made tents, and drove out demons. Yet all Paul did was a part of the "one thing" that he did. It was all a part of his service to Christ. He did not allow himself to become distracted by activities that did not relate somehow to his mission to serve Jesus Christ and His people. With his tremendous drive, brilliant mind and ability to reason and speak, Paul could have been almost anything he chose. He probably could have become the CEO of Israel's finest tent-making company, but he restrained himself. He made a few tents here and there in order to make enough money to go on to another city and preach Christ. He could have made a fortune or risen very high in Jerusalem's political or religious leadership. Yet Paul saw these things as nothing. He writes: "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ…" (Philippians 3:8).

Sometimes believers are faced with choosing between a job that will pay wonderfully but consume almost all their time, or another one that will pay significantly less but will give them far more time for their service to Christ and His church. In most of these cases the far wiser choice is the job paying the lesser amount. Far better to buy your clothes at Wal Mart or Target and have time to engage in serious ministry rather than to wear Versace and Gucci suits, and have almost no time for Christ, your family, or ministry. When you come to the end of your days and lie in the hospital dying, your closet full of designer dresses or suits isn't going to mean very much.

Jesus not only preached single-mindedness; He practiced it. When His disciples complained about the Gentile woman who was begging them to heal her daughter, the Bible tells us, "He answered and said, 'I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'" (Matthew 15:23,24). Jesus was on a mission and He knew the boundaries of that mission – the people of Israel. Although He made an exception in this case because of the woman's faith, Jesus was determined to stick to the script. He refused to "ad-lib." Nothing would distract Him from His heavenly assignment. He ministered in tiny little towns like Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin, towns of a couple of hundred inhabitants. Had he gone to Rome and raised a few dead people, He could have really made a splash in the world. But Jesus knew His mission well, and was determined to avoid distractions and extraneous efforts. He knew the time would come for Him to touch the ends of the earth, but for now He would be content with little Galilean villages.

Every good gardener knows what it means to weed his garden. There is a reason for this. Weeds consume the soil's nutrients and divert precious strength and life from the garden plants. Weeds are not just an addition to your garden; they are the enemy of your garden. We must jealously watch over the garden of our lives, ruthlessly destroying any possible weeds (distractions) which would keep us from being fruitful in our relationship with Jesus. Our Lord has called us to a single-minded devotion to Him. This is what it means to be a Christian; this is normal Christianity.

Our Lord anticipated our tendency to become distracted when He gave us this commandment: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me" (John 15:4). To abide means to stay – to go nowhere. Thus Jesus' two commands to humanity are very closely related. To the sinner He says, "Come – come unto Me and I will give you rest." To the Christian He says, "Stay – stay right where you are. You have come to me. Don't go anywhere, and I'll make sure your life is fruitful." May our Lord keep us from distractions and grant us a simple and pure devotion to Him that will last all the days of our lives.

For a full listing of all devos (written and audio) go to our Devos Catalog Page.

 

     

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