On Thursday, I was enjoying a remarkably peaceful day. After a breakfast with some fellow-preachers, our youth minister Chase accompanied me to one of our favorite sporting goods stores in the North Georgia mountains. One the way back to Ellijay we were discussing some of the distractions that we face in life (we used that as a theme for our Friends and Family Day this past Sunday). During that conversation, Nathan, one of our deacons, called and we were all discussing some things about our youth education program through the Bluetooth function in my car. As we were talking, I happened to glance in my rearview mirror and see the beautiful blue lights of a Georgia State Patrol car. I laughed to myself and thought, “some poor guy is getting a ticket today!” Well, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was the one who was being pulled over. I want to commend the GSP officer because he was courteous and professional and told me that he just pulled me over for driving over the speed limit. He took my license, came back, and said: “I issued you a warning, you gentlemen be careful on the roads.” Here’s what is scary – in all the things that were going on I had NO IDEA that I was speeding! While I was talking about distractions, I was distracted enough to break the law!
Distracted driving is an epidemic in our country, specifically texting and driving. According to recent statistics, texting and driving is responsible for one in every four accidents in the United States. It is estimated that it takes at least five seconds to look down and read a text message. At a speed of 55 mph, the average person drives the entire length of a football field while reading a text and never even looking up from their phone. That is terrifying!
Being distracted has tremendous spiritual application as well. According to research from The Barna Group, nearly 75 percent of Americans claim to be Christians, but very few practice their faith through church attendance. Similarly, less than 17 percent attend a Sunday school class or small group. Churches all over the country are reporting record lows in attendance. These numbers are not due to a lack of belief, but a lack of commitment. I personally feel like this lack of commitment is due to the absurd number of distractions that we face daily.
For those that actually attend services, distractions still abound. While standing before audiences every Sunday it is not unusual to see notes being passed, texts being exchanged, and, in some cases, conversations being held. I love the words of Charles Spurgeon as it relates to why we come together every week:
Why Go to Worship?
Some go to church to take a walk. Some go there to laugh and talk.
Some go there to meet a friend. Some go there their time to spend.
Some go there to meet each other. Some go there a fault to cover.
Some go there for observation. Some go there for speculation.
Some go there to doze and nod. The wise go there to worship God.
In our everyday lives, we face additional distractions – technology, work, recreation, relationships, turmoil, personal struggles, and apathy are just a few of the things that occupy our thoughts and our time. God’s word reminds us repeatedly to pay attention to the important things instead of the things of the world! Notice these three particularly relevant passages:
- Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth – Colossians 3:2
- For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit – Romans 8:5
- Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things – Philippians 4:8
So, with all the distractions in the world trying to occupy our time what can we specifically focus on to eliminate some of the unwanted disruptions that interrupt our desire to serve God? I have identified three areas to focus on:
1) Focus on our Failures
This seems like a strange place to start, but our past failures and shortcomings often prevent us from moving on and serving God appropriately. Last year, I shared some reasons why I love failure and why I think it is important. Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us that we have great examples (in chapter 11) that show us how to lay aside those weights of the past and current struggles to focus on serving. All those faithful servants of God were imperfect and came with baggage only to be remembered as examples of dedication to God. We too, if we count all our struggles and pride as rubbish (Philippians 3), can strive toward the prize!
2) Focus on our Families
In congregations of the Lord’s Church all over the world, families are in crisis. Our husbands, wives, and children are being distracted from how to be part of a godly family largely by the temptations offered by technology and social media. It is too easy to view pornography, engage in inappropriate relationships, and let our time be taken up by useless garbage that covers our timelines, stories, and newsfeeds. Technology can be wonderful (you are reading this online), but it also makes it easy to ruin a family with a few clicks of a button. We MUST put our phones down, close our computers, and make God a part of our families again. There will be more to come on this in future posts.
3) Focus on our Faith
The longer I preach the more evident it becomes that God’s Word is not being read and studied. This is not a criticism, it is just a fact. Between baseball games, DVR, Facebook, and Netflix, we have neglected to take advantage of the vast array of Bible study tools at our disposal. The Bible is not being read, Bible class is not being attended, and deep study of the Word has been replaced by arguments between people who don’t know Ruth from Revelation.
Similarly, the practicing of our Faith has been reduced to bumper stickers on our car or Philippians 4:13 being listed as our favorite verse on Instagram. We must take the time to focus on finding ourselves spiritually and to realize that the distractions of this world are fleeting. At the end of our lives, the ONLY thing that will remain relevant is our faith!
In Mark 8:36-37 Jesus asks two questions: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
We are distracted by the desire to build up things that the world sees as valuable – bank accounts, followers, likes, toys, etc., but they are nothing but distractions. Are we willing to let distractions cost us our soul? My prayer is that we leave our distractions behind and focus on being faithful servants of God!