Have you ever walked into a room intent on doing one thing only to get distracted and completely forget why you came into the room in the first place?
I used to hear stories about this happening to other people, but now that I’m in my forties, it’s happening to me!
You start off with the best intentions, then run into an obstacle course of distractions, only to get completely off track. Today has been one of those days. I had a to-do list that is not going to get done because of phone calls, people coming to the door, and Facebook notifications that catch my eye. At the end of the day, I’m asking, “Where did the time go? Why didn’t I get anything done? How did I end up doing this?”
Please tell me someone else can relate!
Distractions!!! They sure can get us off track.
It doesn’t just happen with our “to-do” lists. Distractions can be a problem in our spiritual lives as well.
If you read last week’s blog, you know we talked about the danger that “drifting” can cause in our spiritual lives. (If you haven’t read it, check it out later. But don’t let it “distract” you now—finish this blog first! HaHa).
One thing I’ve noticed that is equally destructive in the lives of many believers is “distractions.” Many times, these “distractions” aren’t even evil….they may even be “good things.” Yet, the danger comes in when these innocuous things become a distraction that causes us to drift away from God’s perfect will for our lives.
Honestly, I see it all the time, and it breaks my heart.
It’s one of the enemy’s every most deceptive sneak attacks.
What do I mean by sneak attacks?
As we talked about last week, whenever someone becomes a child of God, they become Satan's enemy. As their enemy, Satan’s one goal is to destroy them and keep them from fulfilling God’s perfect plan for their lives.
Because he knows that many believers will never fall into blatant disobedience and sin, the enemy uses another tactic to lead them astray or at least reduce their effectiveness for the kingdom of God. He sneak attacks.
One of his best plays is a distraction—get a well-meaning believer’s eyes off following God’s plan for their lives and on to something else.
Perhaps it’s a relationship, a hobby, a new way to make money….the possibilities are endless, but the results are always the same….a believer’s focus moves from God’s will for their lives into an earthly, fruitless endeavor.
It is such a common sneak attack that Jesus talked about distractions in the parable of the soils in Matthew 13. As we know, the parable tells the story of four soils. Three of the soils never produce the harvest intended for them; only one soil did. One of the soils that did not produce the harvest is described as thorny soil.
Here is what the thorny soil represents:
“The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22)
We could say this soil became “distracted” because while it initially embraced God’s Word, the things of this life became more important. Ultimately, this soil put its energy into the things of this world that had no eternal value. It produced the wrong harvest—a harvest of thorns rather than the fruit God intended.
This is a danger that all Christians need to watch against because, honestly, it’s such an easy trap to fall into.
Often going hand in hand with drifting, a distracted believer doesn’t necessarily choose to walk away from God. They just decide to put their energy and their efforts into other things.
One thing I’ve noticed is that it often comes on the heels of a difficulty. Out of that difficulty comes a fear—a need to control the situation. The distraction often appears as an answer to their crisis. However, it isn’t always. Sometimes what seems like an answer is just a detour away from God’s plan and onto the path of fruitlessness.
For instance, I have a friend who was an on-fire believer for God. They had a unique ministry helping people face their inner wounds and find inner healing from Jesus. This person shared their call to start a ministry to help people in this area, but then some personal issues happened in their family that brought a lot of financial insecurity.
This friend struggled to keep their head afloat as they struggled with a lack of faith and so much uncertainty. Then someone approached them and offered them a chance to earn a little extra money. It wasn’t a sinful endeavor, and to many, it could look like a good endeavor to help others while earning extra income.
However, in the end, this new endeavor became an obsession, and all of their effort and energy went into it. They put all of their time into this good opportunity, at the expense of the great call and work God had called them to do. When you talk to them now, they never talk about their calling. It is all about their business. They fell into a well-played plan of the enemy, who preyed on their fears and insecurities and lost the incredible reach they had on God’s kingdom.
I have another friend who had several confirmations that God wanted her to take classes to go into full-time ministry. At first, she was all excited, but then her family experienced a health crisis. Afraid of the future, she stopped following God in faith and began searching for security in her life. When I talk to her now, there is no discussion of ministry—her fears caused her to be distracted, and she is on a completely different path.
Of course, not all distractions come from fear. Sometimes they come from anger or hurt feelings. Again, we have a friend who was following a specific calling in their lives when he became involved in a conflict. Honestly, it wasn’t his fault—the other person was in the wrong—however, he allowed the conflict to become such a distraction that he stopped pursuing God’s call on his life. What a sad story!
The truth is that distractions can come in so many forms! Personally, I have to admit that last Fall, during the Presidential election, I became temporarily distracted by the news and politics. The day after the election was over, the Holy Spirit convicted me of spending too much of my time and energy focusing on politics. I had to repent and choose to stop focusing on this distraction. I had to get my eyes off of world events and go back to following Jesus and trusting Him no matter who was in government.
In the end, this is what we all need to do if we fall into the trap of distraction.
First, we need to repent and ask God to forgive us for allowing anything to be a distraction and take the place that He deserves in our hearts.
The Bible tells us that God is a jealous God and that we should not have any other gods before Him. (Exodus 34:14). When we allow distractions to take our minds, hearts, energy, or time away from God’s plan for our lives, that is exactly what we are doing. The first step back into balance is asking God to forgive us for this sin.
Of course, repentance is more than just saying we are sorry. True repentance means that we change our ways. This often means that we need to reprioritize our lives and either eliminate our distraction or put it back in its proper place. For instance, when I became distracted by politics in the Fall, I had to make a conscious choice to stop binge-watching the news and stop having all of my conversations focus on politics. I had to stop feeding the distraction and refocus my mind on other things.
When you realize that something is a distraction in your life—-that it is keeping you from following God’s ways and His plan from your life—you need to make a plan to overcome the distraction. This plan will be different in every situation, but it’s still necessary. My advice would be to spend time with the Holy Spirit and ask Him what He wants you to do to get back on the right path.
Finally, spend time in prayer and the Word of God to refocus your eyes on Jesus.
As it says in Revelations 2 if you have become distracted and walked away from your first love, “Repent and do the things you did at first.”
Get back on track with God.
Spend time with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to show you how you became distracted so that you can guard against this pitfall again.
The truth is that while distractions may seem insignificant because they aren’t necessarily “sinful activities,” they are equally destructive. While they may not keep you out of Heaven, they will keep you from fulfilling God’s plan for your life here on earth.
This is not a road I want to walk!
Instead, I want to follow Jesus wholeheartedly.
This means always being aware of the enemy’s sneak attack of distractions.
We need to beware, be strong, be vigilant, and not allow anything to keep us from following God’s plan for our lives.
Who is with me?
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry.