Beyond the Distractions

My kids are frustrating me a bit at this very moment. I’ve been sitting here for over an hour during the time I set aside to spend with God, but I haven’t gotten very far at all because my kids keep distracting me.

There are two primary types of distractions that happen in our lives. Distractions that we have zero control over and we just have to deal with, and distractions that we bring upon ourselves. Although I can prepare something for the kids to do quietly in their rooms when they wake up in the morning (which I’m definitely going to do tonight and moving forward), if one of them really needs me during my quiet time for some reason, then there’s nothing I can do about it and of course I’m going to tend to them – it’s something I have no control over.

On the other hand, if I don’t set clear boundaries, don’t communicate the importance of why Daddy needs to be undisturbed during this time, and don’t provide them alternatives to bothering me, then I’m basically inviting them to disrupt me.

These concepts apply to our spiritual lives as well. Sometimes God will allow things to happen in order to build our faith and dependence on Him, and to also bring Him glory. Just as the Father allowed Satan to tempt Jesus in the wilderness or Job in his lifetime, these were circumstances that allowed them to rely on the promises of God while their flesh and humanity were being tested. Thank God that He says:

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

He provides the way of escape. For those distractions that are out of our control, we are to trust in the sovereignty of the Lord and lean on Him as He carries us through them. But what about the distractions that we bring upon ourselves? This is where many Christians (including myself) stumble and allow ourselves to be pulled away from God.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:16-17

Take a moment to assess your life right now. Obviously, you know yourself better than anyone, outside of God. What are the temptations and distractions in your life that you are ALLOWING or maybe even INVITING to disrupt your walk with Him? What are the things that are leading you to fall into sin? What are the things that are keeping you from reading the Word regularly? What are the things keeping you from living a life of kindness, generosity, peace, harmony, forgiveness, integrity, honesty, and love with others? What are the things stopping you from having a dedicated quiet time with God every day? What are the things keeping you from serving and sharing the Gospel with others?

In short, what are the things you are IDOLIZING in place of God? You must realize that by prioritizing these things above God and your relationship with Him, you are making them your idols (Col. 3:5, Isaiah 46:5).

Here is a quick list right off the top of my head of things that I’ve recently heard from people that have become idols in their lives (in no particular order): television, social media, smartphones, sports, Korean dramas (bam!), activities (kids’ and their own), work, alcohol/drugs, partying/clubbing, materialism, money, pornography, personal image, social status, and relationships with other people (friends, family, spouse, children, etc.).

I’ve had friends that have had to revert from smartphones to dial/text-only plans because they spent countless hours surfing and playing games; time they could’ve invested into their relationship with the Lord and their families instead. I’ve had friends that have had to cancel their cable television packages or TV completely because they spent hours and hours mindlessly watching shows and movies late into the night. I have friends that had to make the decision to take their children out of some competitive sports teams, games, or practices, because it was pulling them further and further away from going to church and other events that were crucial to their child’s spiritual walk. And an example for me personally, is that I’ve drastically cut down on reading sports blogs, and have probably cut 90% of the time that I had previously spent on surfing social media like Facebook.

These are just some examples of distractions that may be pulling you away from God and weakening your relationship with Him. And many of these things are areas that we can A) ask God to specifically give us restraint in, and ask Him to remove the desire for, and B) things that we can proactively and intentionally set boundaries around. We can’t just sit there and think, “Well, if God doesn’t want me to watch so much TV, He’ll make my TV break, and then I’ll know for sure.” Because you know what’s going to happen when your TV breaks? You’re going to go out and buy another one.

If we allow ourselves to, we will always find ways to go around what God is calling us to do. In the verse I pasted above from Galatians 5, God clearly tells us that the desires of the Spirit and of the flesh directly oppose each other, and He tells us to walk in the Spirit to keep us from doing the things that we selfishly want to do that are against His good will for us. I don’t know if you caught that, but that is something to be encouraged by!

God is saying that HE KNOWS that we are tempted by those things, and HE KNOWS that in our flesh we WANT to do them. You are not alone in your sin and temptation! He knows exactly what you struggle with, and He’s offering the power of His Spirit to change you! Here’s the thing though, you have to WANT to be changed.

Like I said in my earlier post entitled Letting Go: “God has really been impressing on me, that my personal sins are a reflection of my heart condition, rather than my circumstances.”

We have to genuinely have a desire in our hearts to put God first and above all of these idols, otherwise we’ll be running in circles and never getting to the destination of victory over them.

If you’re severely struggling with any of these things, grab a brother or sister-in-Christ (or two) to share with, and allow them to pray for you and hold you accountable (James 5:16). We don’t confess our sins to each other because we need the other person to make us right (only God can do that), but in James 5 it says we should do so because it brings us healing, essentially pulling us out of the darkness and solitude of our sin, and exposing it to His light. Then the added bonus is that you have someone else who also wants you to walk upright with the Lord, praying for you and holding you accountable!

When Jesus was teaching on lust and essentially idolatry, He said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)

He gave such an extreme example of your eye and your hand to emphasize the importance of self-control and setting your boundaries. Obviously removing your eyeball or cutting your hand off doesn’t actually stop you from sinning, so it’s not to be taken literally. Again, it’s what’s in our HEART that causes us to sin. This is not an easy thing to overcome, and I’m sure we all need prayer around this, including myself. But His point is that we are to do everything we can to ensure we strive for purity in our lives.

The distractions in this world are many. The list I jotted above is only the start of it. What distractions are you allowing to control your life today? What distractions are you inviting in that are choking your relationship with the Lord? Don’t get me wrong, we are not to shut ourselves out of this world and become isolated hermits, otherwise God can’t use us to display His power and impact others. BUT what I am saying, is that if there is a specific distraction (sin or temptation) that you know you PERSONALLY struggle with and idolize, that is what you need to address.

I may not have any problems whatsoever in watching too many movies or shows, so having cable television is not a stumbling block for me. But I have my own strongholds and sins I gravitate towards that I need God’s power to overcome, so I need to identify those and address them head on.

If you can spend both quality quiet time with the Lord each day, AND in parallel keep up with your Korean dramas, then knock yourself out as long as they are not polluting your mind with ungodly things (haha)! You just have to figure out for yourself what is hurting your relationship with God, and then do something about it.

Take heart though brothers and sisters, that our Lord Jesus Christ has also been tempted in the fullness of flesh, and just as He overcame, He empowers us by His Spirit to do so likewise! I challenge you to really pray about this today, and may the Lord reveal to you the areas in which you struggle.

Offer them up to the Lord in faith that you can and will put them behind you and move beyond them (i.e. repent), and also learn how to deal with them as they show up in your life again, as they surely will.

Pray the same for me as well, and as a body of Christ, let’s help each other move beyond the distractions and draw closer to God!

[From January 5, 2016]

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