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Overcoming Distractions

April 2015
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distractionDistractions . . . they eat up our time and clutter our minds and our lives. Hardly an hour (or even a few minutes) goes by that we aren’t distracted by something or someone that has invaded our space. Just consider how much time our smartphones take away from us and keep us distracted by keep us busy doing so much “stuff” on them that is truly time wasting and most of the time absolutely not essential to our lives. In fact, at times it is very dangerous, like texting and/or being otherwise preoccupied by our smartphones while driving our vehicles.

I read a devotion this morning by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) that centers on distractions that occur during our prayer time, but a statement made in it can also be applied to our lives in general:

Whatever excites the curiosity, scatters the thoughts, disquiets the heart, absorbs the interests or shifts our life focus from the kingdom of God within us to the world around us—that is a distraction; and the world is full of them. Our science-based civilization has given us many benefits but it has multiplied our distractions and so taken away far more than it has given….

Distractions must be conquered or they will conquer us. So let us cultivate simplicity; let us want fewer things; let us walk in the Spirit; let us fill our minds with the Word of God and our hearts with praise. In that way we can live in peace even in such a distraught world as this. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” (Quote source here.)

The world is full of distractions, and we get pulled into them with hardly even a notice. For example, take technology, which is one of the truly remarkable advances in our world today. One of the biggest downsides to technology is that it has a huge capacity to constantly distract us 24/7. But there are many other distractions that have always been around; things that worry us and consume our time and our energy like the constant quest for money or material possessions that is so prevalent in our culture today. Even the plethora of “retirement planning” commercials cause us to worry about our financial futures 10, 20, 30 or more years down the road from now. Will we have enough money to retire on or even enough right now in our constant quest for more? Or consider the ever increasing pursuit of pleasure or lust for accolades as we climb a career ladder to gain a higher social status.

What did Jesus have to say to us about living this life on a daily basis that is so full of these distractions? His words ring pretty clear in Matthew 6:25-34:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I have to admit that in my early 50’s I was starting to be a bit fearful about what would happen to me when I reached retirement age as I knew that what I had accumulated in my retirement account (that wasn’t even started until I was in my late 30’s) was hardly enough to sustain me for a number of years after I reached retirement age. Also, some of the people I worked around at the time told me I needed to consider buying a condo or small house to have as an investment as I had lived in apartments all of my life, and they said I was just “throwing my money away” paying rent to someone else. However, the apartment I rented at the time was far cheaper then the payments on a condo or house would have been, and I was happy living in it. I did contact a real estate agent to help me look around for a while but what I felt I could afford (far less than the agent was trying to sell me on) did not interest me. And I had no desire to get myself into a 30-year mortgage at my age, so I put it on the back burner. It was only two or three months after that point that we were told that our division where I worked was being dismantled, and I was so incredibly grateful that I didn’t try to purchase a condo or a house in that town as I would have lost my shirt financially from the fallout.

Of course, from that job I ended up accepting a director position located in Houston, Texas, which, after losing it a scant seven months later, has lead into these past six years of unemployment. I’ve mentioned all of this to say that no matter how hard we may try to plan our lives and our futures, or even how much we worry about those things, nobody really knows what the future holds until it unfolds day by day. As Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) states, We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

I’ve mentioned the above example from my own life to show that if I had allowed the distraction of worry to get the better of me and taken the advice of some of my coworkers, I might have ended up purchasing a condo or house that would have been–in the very near future–repossessed by the bank or mortgage company and left me in financial ruin. After all, I had no idea that my division was about to be dismantled and there were no signs of it heading in that direction that any of us working in it were aware of as we were in a major growth cycle at the time of its rather quick demise.

distraction meaningless messageDistractions do exactly that–they distract us from the reality of what is really going on all around us. And if we pay attention to them and give a lot of time to them, they can destroy us in a variety of ways. I imagine a lot of affairs start off as distractions that are allowed to go on unrestrained until the end result is that families and relationships are destroyed. Texting behind the wheel of a car has most likely crippled and/or killed large numbers of people from the accidents it has caused. And just look at all the stuff being advertised on television and in other media that constantly beckons for our attention (and gets it, too): pricey diet programs; pricey prescription medications for illnesses we didn’t even know we had until the commercial tells us we might have them; lawyers advertising their services for lawsuits that might make us (and, of course, them) a lot of money; the “retirement planning” commercials that I mentioned above; the myriad of  hotel and vacation commercials, food commercials galore; and the list goes on and on and on . . . .

The first thing we need to start recognizing is all the “stuff” that is distracting us. In a short article titled, Hear God: Eliminate the Distractions,” by Rick Warren, Senior Pastor at Saddleback Church, he states the following:

You can’t hear God when your mind is crowded with thoughts, worries, fears, and plans, or if you always have the radio or TV on. And if you constantly have your phone against your ear, when God calls all he gets is a busy signal!

All of these distractions are what Jesus was referring to in Luke 8 when he talked about the seed falling in the weeds. Today’s verse [Luke 8:7 MSG] says those weeds grew with the seed and strangled it.

Now notice that this scenario is a little bit better than the shallow soil because the seed actually sprouts and grows. But the weeds choke it out so it never bears fruit. So many people hear God speak, but as they go on their way, life’s worries, riches, and pleasures choke them, so they never mature.

If you are always on the go and you can’t hear God, you are facing the barrier of busyness. Often we confuse busyness with productivity and they aren’t the same thing. If you keep going, going, going but you aren’t spiritually growing, growing, growing, you are busy, not productive.

Jesus says distractions are like weeds that grow up in your mind and heart, just as weeds grow in a garden.

There are three types of weeds that will keep you from hearing God’s voice:

WorriesThe Greek word for worry is ‘merinma,’ which means “pulled in different directions.” When you are pulled in different directions, you are worried. And when you are worried, you can’t hear God.

RichesYou can be so busy making a living, trying to make money to pay the bills and get out of debt that you can’t hear God.

PleasuresGod gives you pleasures, and they are a good thing. But you can get so busy pursuing pleasures and fun that you forget to pursue God as well.

How much effort does it take to grow weeds? None. Weeds are a sign of neglect. When you neglect your time with God, the weeds start to grow in your life. In order to overcome the weeds, you must learn to overcome your preoccupied mind.

First Kings 19:12 says that when God spoke to Elijah, it wasn’t in a wind or earthquake or fire; it was in a gentle whisper. If you want to hear God whisper to you, you have to be quiet. (Quote and article source here.)

One of my very first blog posts written in July 2011 titled, Don’t Lose Your Soul At The Crossroads,” and republished again in August 2014 titled, Second Time Around,” dealt in part with this topic concerning the distractions that take up so much of our lives. It centers around The Parable of the Sowerthat Jesus told in Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15. In this parable it is the third of the four types of soils mentioned that addresses the issue of distractions (e.g., the seeds that fell among the “thorns”–some versions use the word “weeds”) that Rick Warren’s article above focuses on in this particular parable which is found in Luke 8:7, 14 (also Matthew 13:7, 22 and Mark 4:7, 18-19):

And some [of the seed from the sower] fell among thorns [weeds], and the thorns [weeds] sprang up with it and choked it. (Luke 8:7)

Now the ones that fell among thorns [weeds] are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. (Luke 8:14)

It is the worries, riches, and pleasures of life that have a huge tendency to engulf us so much of the time, and they produce no fruit whatsoever in our spiritual life because they drown out God’s voice just as Rick Warren stated above.

The answer to all of these distractions lays in the quote by A.W. Tozer stated at the beginning of this post:

Distractions must be conquered or they will conquer us. So let us cultivate simplicity; let us want fewer things; let us walk in the Spirit; let us fill our minds with the Word of God and our hearts with praise. In that way we can live in peace even in such a distraught world as this. [As Jesus states] “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” (Quote source here.)

So may we learn to cultivate simplicity. . .

And let us want fewer things. . .

And let us learn to walk in the Spirit of God. . . .

YouTube Video: “Soul On Fire” by Third Day:

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1 Comment

  1. nhiemstra says:

    Reblogged this on Flotsam and Jetsam.

    Like

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