It’s been a while.
Today, I decided that there’s a truth I need to face. There are things in my life that are fighting for my attention, trying to distract me from my relationship with Christ. They are like green chameleons in a jar of pickled cucumbers; some because they pretend to be more important than my walk with God, and others because they pretend to be my walk with God, if that makes sense. As I was thinking about them, I realized that I am probably not alone, and prayerfully came up with a list of things that are fighting for the attention of today’s saints. Can you relate?
In no particular order, here are a few:
1) Maturity/ Might.
I know… makes growth seem counterproductive, doesn’t it? Why grow up and “leave the [elementary] principles of the doctrines of Christ, going on unto perfection, not laying again the foundation[s]…” (Hebrews 6:1) if all it will do is draw us away from Christ?
Well, maturity is expected for every believer. However, it comes with responsibility, and certain responsibilities can potentially breed pride. “Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12.) It is often after periods of victory and during periods of “smiles” that saints are the most vulnerable to attacks from the enemy. I believe it explains a defeated Israel in the battle against Ai (Joshua 7), a suicidal Elijah fleeing before Jezebel after the miracle on the mountain (1 Kings 19), King Hezekiah’s markedly different reactions to the two letters he received (this would take another post to describe in detail; please read 2 Kings 19-20; what would have happened if Berodach-Baladan’s letters had been spread before the LORD, too?), Peter’s rash words at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:4), and so on.
I get gospel music; I sing gospel music. Music is a gift from God. Like many other gifts – flowers, colors, sex, laughter – it demonstrates His grace and His very kind nature. He could have chosen to create a world in which there was no music. Worship is amazing in that He enjoys it, but He allows us to enjoy it and to enter His throne room through it. We are encouraged to speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). Music is necessary for praise, if you ask me. However, it worries me that many people view music as a substitute for preaching, teaching, studying the Bible, and prayer. Jesus did not say “Go into all the world and sing the gospel.” Notice it says speak to one another (the church) in psalms… etc. Music is worship, but worship is not music. It can be used to lead a person to Christ, just like pretty much anything can. Bible study is worship. Making disciples is worship. When we replace disciplines like reading the Bible with music, eg by saying that 30 minutes of singing every morning is a devotion, then we are getting distracted from God. Christianity is a relationship with Christ. We speak to Him, but it is more important that He speak to us. We sing to Him; He sings to us, too!
I will never forget the day I discovered, during a period of ministry, that while I prayed and wrote up daily devotions for others, my own devotional life was suffering. It makes sense to me now how people can be separated from the important things by what they deem to be the most important. Like one pastor said, “The church is Christ’s bride; He can take care of her.” Pastors need to realize that their first calling is to God, and then to their families (and therefore their own brides) before it is to the church. We who like to teach and opine and debate need to understand that it is very dangerous to be so caught up in serving that we forget the Person in whose Name we do it. God is more concerned about you and me than He is about our ministries. Martha (Luke 10) was cumbered about with much serving – and she was doing all of it for Jesus! – but the very thing she was trying to do for the Lord was actually keeping her from Him.
4) The Media.
I thought I should put this in the same category as music, but decided against it. The media is such a circus today. Reality TV, TV Church, all the books, podcasts, inspirational shows – we forget that for a man or woman of God to write a book, song, poem, or blog post, they have to spend time with God Himself. We forget that we, too, can spend time with Him and get information straight from the Source. The media is more palatable, less boring, than sitting in silence and reading verse after verse of black on white. It is more “fun” to just get a sermon on the topic. Not just that, but the things we watch or listen to for entertainment – don’t get me started on the idolization of sports!
5) The Motions.
Sometimes, it’s just the motions that cause distraction. Many people wake up, freshen up, eat up, head out, punch in, sign in, zone out, punch out, work out, pig out, sleep… rinse and repeat. There’s the “noble” motions: a family to feed, a job to go to, a spouse to please, children to raise. Then there are the “everyday” motions: dishes in the sink, socks in the hallway, dentist appointments, phone calls to relatives, and so on. Before many know it, they are either staring at a dusty Bible out of the corner of an exhausted eye, or throwing things around trying to find a Bible that has not been seen in weeks, months, or years. Think about Martha again. To quote Matthew Henry on this, “She was for much serving; plenty, variety, and exactness. Worldly business is a snare to us, when it hinders us from serving God, and getting good to our souls.”
It is human nature to attach value to what one sees. Sometimes pastors are allowed to become larger than life, and then their word is taken to be superior to the Lord’s, which of course it isn’t. Because many Christians are so busy, they give their pastors the mandate to feed them spiritually, going to church on Sunday and compartmentalizing their lives so that nothing is ingested, spiritually speaking, from Monday to Saturday.
Sometimes mentors, out of goodwill or malice, will lead their mentees in the wrong direction, dictating who to befriend, where to go, and even what professions and courses to take. Sometimes they are deliberately controlling. It is never wise to allow the opinion of another human being to replace the Word of God in our lives. Paul said if even an angel preached a different gospel, he should be accursed (Galatians 1:8-10). It is never wise to try so hard to please human beings that we forget that God sees our weaknesses.
Show me your friends, and I will show you your future. Any person who is more important to us than God is, is an idol. A person becomes “more important” if we would put off time with God or disobey God’s Word in order to please this person or avoid shame before this person. As tough as it might be to digest, I’ll venture to suggest that any person with whom you speak before you have spoken to God each morning is an idol because that person receives the firstfruits of your day. This does not mean despise people or ignore your phone if it rings at 3:00am, right before your 3:01am prayer.
Education. Philosophy. Pop psychology. I have come to believe that there is such a thing as being too intelligent for God. Of course I do not mean that anybody is wiser or more intelligent than the Lord is – far from it; the foolishness of God is still wiser than man’s wisdom of wisdoms (1 Corinthians 1:25). Christian students begin to question their faith when they walk into college classrooms and are met by false arguments, vain philosophies, and doctrines of demons. Seminaries are, to me, among the most dangerous of places in this day and age. Someone said a theologian is like a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there, yet somehow finding it. In my view, there is something about going to theology school that makes people think they can fit God into a box, have mastered His thinking and “known His mind” a la Isaiah 40:13, and can predict His every move. The irony of going to a place to learn about God, and then leaving even further from Him than before, is stark.
Where do I begin? The part-time 6-10pm job and weekend classes that are piled on top of the 9-5? The financial freedom craze? The prosperity preaching and giving of offerings because of an expected return? The “Jesus” merchandise? The lack of sleep because of worry? Where would I begin? Only when we choose to trust that God will provide, can we get to know the God of Provision. Tomorrow takes care of its own things.
I saved this one for last, but I’m sure you knew it was coming. Marriage is an idol, and we need to repent for placing it on a pedestal. Don’t get me wrong. Marriage is important. It is beautiful. It is God’s plan. But we must worship the Creator, not the creation. As a friend was kind enough to remind me, marriage will take at most about 50, 60 years. What is that against eternity? It is a fraction of a drop in the ocean! The single are so busy praying for husbands, wives, going to conferences; the married are so busy buying books and going to “Spice It Up” meetings.. . and all this is well and good, but God is still God. Could it be that if we sought first His kingdom, all other things would be added unto us? How will we find out if we are so distracted? Marriage is such a distraction that its intrusion affects the church at a corporate level – pastors are too busy trying to keep their pews occupied that they shy away from the “dull” message of repentance, opting instead for month after month of the “sweet” message of relationships…
I could go on and speak of things like medication, meals, and matters of state, but these (above) stood out for me. We are all responsible for whatever it is that we allow to distract us. Like someone said, where we are in God is where we truly want to be; He would never deny us Himself if we sought Him for real. Taking time to “come away” (Mark 6:31; Song of Solomon 2:10) and “be still” (Psalm 46:10) before God does wonders for our perspective. By His stripes, we are healed – yes, even from distraction.
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