One of the worst texting and driving accidents ever occurred in Texas in March 2017. PM Law Firm reports that this particular accident involved a large white pickup truck that had previously been seen swerving and speeding down a highway. The twenty-year-old drove his white pickup truck into a small bus carrying 14 elderly churchgoers. He lost control and swerved into the bus’s lane, hitting that vehicle head-on while texting. Thirteen people on board the bus died because of the accident, leaving only one survivor. The truck driver survived, admitting he was texting while driving at the time of the crash. An Uvalde County, Texas court sentenced him to 55 years in prison.
Texting while driving is a serious offense, yet millions of people are not deterred by the potential tragedies that could result from being distracted. For some reason, we believe that we will beat the statistics and be able to successfully navigate our cars from one point to the next, even if our attention is elsewhere. A story like the one above is sad and unnecessary, yet it illustrates an important principle that is also true in our spiritual lives.
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When the Stakes Are High, We Must Be Diligent to Remain Undistracted
In 1 Corinthians 11:2-3, Paul wrote passionately to the believers in Corinth about this very topic: “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. 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.”
There are many things that can cause us to be led astray from our devotion to Christ. All of us know people who were once passionate about following Jesus, but either abandoned their faith completely or spend a lifetime struggling to develop a consistent, spiritually mature walk. You might be one of those people.
Examples abound in the Bible. King Uzziah served Judah for fifty-two years. For most of that time, he sought the Lord and prospered, but as his fame spread and the kingdom flourished, he became proud. “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 26:16). In his last years, God struck him with leprosy, and he died cut off from his people. Pride distracted him from his devotion to God.
The history of Israel depicts a pattern of unfaithfulness to God. Often led by wicked kings, they would abandon God to worship the gods of the ungodly culture around them. They chose idolatry over adoration. Worldly culture distracted them from their devotion to God.
Even King David stumbled in his faith when he gave in to desire for a beautiful woman, an affair that led him to commit murder in desperation to cover up his sin. Lust distracted him from his devotion to God.
Is God concerned when we are distracted? 2 Chronicles 16:9 says “For the eyes of the Lord move to and from throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” Our diligence and loyalty are important to God. His indwelling Spirit empowers us to remain devoted, but we must cooperate by being alert to the enemy’s distractions. We must intentionally act to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Anything less is idolatry, fueled by our pride and fleshly desires.
Here are five practical ways to fight distractions in your spiritual life.
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1. Keep Your Eyes on Jesus
Hebrews 12:1-2 – “Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews is an encouraging, inspiring book to read no matter what kinds of distractions are drawing you away from your devotion to Christ. It reminds us that Jesus is better because He has done what is necessary to give us victory over our sin in this world and He guarantees eternal life in the next. No distraction compares.
The great cloud of witnesses is made up of those who have found God to be faithful in every circumstance, and worthy of devotion (Hebrews 11). Distractions come when we forget who we belong to, and what He did to purchase our redemption. This is why Jesus told us to celebrate communion often, so our eyes would be drawn away from all that diverts us and be re-centered on the One we worship. Make a deliberate decision to keep your eyes on Jesus, and Jesus alone.
2. Spend Time in Prayer and Reading God’s Word on a Consistent Basis
Psalm 119:9-11 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments. I have treasured Your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against You.”
Philippians 4:6-7 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Time in God’s Word and consistent prayer are critical to our relationship with God. God speaks to us through His Word as the Holy Spirit enlightens our understanding. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
The Bible leads us to the right path, convicts us when we get off the path, tells us how to get back on the path, and shows us how to stay on the path. Honest, sincere prayer brings us into the presence of God (Hebrews 10:19-22) where we can confess our distractions, and “receive mercy and find grace to help at the time of our need” (Hebrews 4:16).
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3. Remove Worldly Influences
1 John 2:15-16 – “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
A divided heart is a powerful distraction; it is a tragedy in the making. Consider the texting driver. He believes he can handle the distraction. He is also misled to believe that the message on his phone is more important in the moment than paying attention to the road. Worldly influences work in much the same way. They are subtle; we often don’t even recognize them as temptations because we have been desensitized gradually to things that offend God.
Do you consume movies and television shows that present cursing, violence, homosexuality and other alternative lifestyles, witchcraft, adultery, and deception as acceptable and normal? Do you listen to music with ungodly lyrics and messages? Do you read books and magazines that glorify things that God’s Word warns us against? Are you compromising your devotion to God (time, resources, money, talent) to pursue more material possessions? Do your closest friends (the people you spend the most time with) love Jesus, or do they draw you away from Him?
The Bible says we are aliens and strangers in this world, citizens of a heavenly kingdom. If you want to be less distracted in your spiritual walk, examine your life for worldly influences, and get rid of them.
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4. Be Accountable to a Local Body of Believers
Hebrews 10:23-25 – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit descended to indwell the believers, just as Jesus promised and the New Testament church was born. A commitment to being part of a local church that faithfully teaches God’s Word will do much to identify and eliminate the distractions to your spiritual walk with Christ. Biblical instruction in doctrine and practical application of the Bible, relationships with godly people who hold you accountable and encourage you, opportunities to use your spiritual gifts to serve the body, and being equipped to engage unbelievers with the gospel – all these are beneficial to the Christ-follower who desires to live a life devoted to Jesus.
We were never meant to do life alone. Even in the Garden, God knew that Adam needed a helper. In the same way, He created the body of Christ, each individually gifted by the Holy Spirit to function together. Don’t be a distracted, spiritually unhealthy loner in God’s kingdom. Find a solid, biblical church and commit to fulfill your part in the body of Christ.
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5. Clarify Your Life’s Mission and Pursue It with Passion
Colossians 1:28-29 – “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”
Paul knew the mission to which he was called. He lived a devoted life because he acknowledged what God had called him to do, which was to preach the gospel to the Gentile world (Ephesians 3:8-9). He put all his energy into accomplishing his mission, leaving little time for distractions. Every Christ-follower has the same over-arching mission and purpose, to make Jesus known and bring glory to God. How that mission is carried out can look differently as we use the spiritual gifts, natural talents, and God-given experiences and opportunities to accomplish Jesus’ command to take the gospel to every nation.
Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
A practical exercise is to spend some time meditating on your life’s mission. Ask God to help you clarify what it is that He has uniquely made you and equipped you to do in His kingdom work. As a writer, my life mission is to pursue the knowledge of God through His Word and use the gifts He has given me to encourage and strengthen believers and proclaim the gospel to unbelievers. Knowing who I am in Christ, how He has made me, and what He has called me to do frees me to eliminate anything that keeps me from my mission.
What is your mission? Write it down and refer to it often. It will simplify your life and allow you to live in undistracted devotion to Jesus.
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Author Sheila Alewine is a pastor’s wife, mother, and grandmother of five. She and her husband lead Around The Corner Ministries, which serves to equip Christ-followers to share the gospel where they live, work and play. She has written several devotionals including Just Pray: God’s Not Done With You Yet, Grace & Glory: 50 Days in the Purpose & Plan of God, and her newest one, Open The Gift, as well as Going Around The Corner, a Bible study for small groups who desire to reach their communities for Christ. Their ministry also offers disciple-making resources like One-To-One Disciple-Making in partnership with Multiplication Ministries. Sheila has a passion for God’s Word and shares what God is teaching her on her blog, The Way of The Word. Connect with her on her blog, Facebook, and Instagram.