Let’s supposed that we are the runner who is out on the track running a race. What is it that is most important for us as that runner? I suppose we’d all say that it is important for us to get to the finish line first. Suppose that there are hurdles on the track, what now is most important for us? I suppose we’d say that it is important for us to clear each hurdle as fast as possible so that we could get to the finish line first. Have you ever noticed how focused runners are prior to the start of the race?
The runner hops up and down, shakes their legs out, and even slap their legs. They do not glance around at their surroundings. No, the runner is looking dead ahead, no smiles, and fully focused on the finish line. The runner then steps into their blocks, head down briefly for a moment, only to look up with their eyes on fire – focused with fire on the finish line.
There is absolutely nothing that can distract the runner in these moments. Not the other runners; not the athletes in the field participating in field events; nor the fans that are in the stands. Athletes have some of the best focusing abilities that you will find in our world. We as believers, once again, can learn a lot from the athlete and apply it to the race that we run every day. Let us learn from them as we look not to get distracted in life but most importantly, not to get distracted from God.
Being distracted is so common that we often are slow to recognize when we are distracted. You are reading this sermon on a PC, laptop, or a mobile device. There is a very good chance that you will likely receive a notification on either device. (maybe some of you will have received one before getting to this point.) I believe the chances are even higher that you probably glanced at that text message, email, or social media response.
Our lives are so fast-paced that dealing with distraction is simply part of how we operate on a consistent basis. Doing multiple tasks (multitasking) at one time is an normal in our everyday life – everybody does it. Some people feel that this type of grind and hustle is what leads to success and it gets things done. However, the downside of multitasking is that if you overdo it, you end up spreading yourself thin. This means you no longer have time to focus on what is truly important. In fact, you may actually forget what was most important in the first place.
We cannot get distracted in our everyday life if we truly want to succeed in it. Being distracted ultimately keeps us from being driven, motivated, and focused. If we are being distracted from completing a task, what do we do?
Remove the distractions
The answer is simple: We try to remember what was important and then we do our best to remove the distractions so that we can re-focus on what we need to do. This may require us to shutdown social media, turn off the text alerts, or turn off our phones completely. Sometimes we find ourselves having to remove ourselves from friends and family so that we can focus on what is ahead.
Many of us are constantly seeking for better in this life. If we are in a rut, we do our best to get out of that rut! So we are willing to do whatever is possible to get out of that rut. If that means having to go our own way, we will do it because it will lead to success. So, my question is, why do we allow for so many things to keep us distracted from God?
Being distracted from God
Somebody will ask, “what do you mean, Preacher?” Remember the runner from earlier? We are just like that runner but some of us aren’t even in good enough shape to run this race. We are to be temperate in all things as believers (1 Cor. 9:24-25), but are we truly temperate? Are we truly disciplined in our faith or do we allow things to keep us distracted from God?
We should pray as often as possible to our Lord, but how often do you go days without praying? Studying the word should be a constant in the lives of believers, but how often do you pick up the Bible to study? God is constantly reaching out to us, calling on us, but we are too distracted to pay the Lord any attention. We are so distracted that we cannot even give the Lord a couple hours of our time because there are more important things going on in our life.
Shame on the believer that is too busy to hear God! Shame on the believer that is too busy to focus on God! Again, I say to you today, do not be distracted from God. What are you focusing on so badly that can keep you away from the Lord? I am so thankful today that the Lord is not too busy for me!
Learning from Martha being distracted from God
Recorded in the gospel of Luke is an occasion where Jesus was in Bethany, at the house of Martha and Mary. (These two were the sisters of Lazarus – the man Jesus raised from the dead.) At this occasion, Martha had welcomed Him and the others into their home. As we do when guest come to visit, Martha sought to serve their guest with food and drink. For Martha, this was the most important thing that she could do at the moment.
Jesus began, or maybe continued, teaching in their home. Mary decided that it was best for her to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to His word (Luke 10:39). For Mary, this was what was important: listening to whatever it was Jesus was teaching! This was Mary’s faith in action! She was not going to be distracted by keeping with tradition at that moment. The Lord, in the flesh, had entered into her home and she wanted to hear His word while Martha wanted to serve her guest.
Martha grew upset with Mary and even complained about it to Jesus (Luke 10:40). Again, I want you to understand that Jesus is God in the flesh and He was in her house teaching! I would feel that the most important place for somebody to be while Jesus is teaching is at His feet listening to every word! Martha was distracted from what was important because she felt what she had to do superseded listening to Jesus.
God asks for us to focus on Him, but how many of us are like Martha today? What we are doing is far more important than focusing on the Lord. Some of us have gotten too busy for God, and I tell you that is not a good thing!
Dropping all distractions and re-focusing on the Lord
We cannot lose focus on the Lord! No believer should ever become distracted or too busy for God! Jesus said to Martha (Luke 10:41-42), “you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” This is my key verse for today’s sermon and it is a statement that we must learn from.
Mary was willing to drop everything: tradition, chores, and even her sister for being at the feet of Christ. Somebody will say, “Jesus was there in person! If God entered my house, I would certainly sit at His feet.” This person seeks the Lord physically. The Lord is no longer physically in this world. God is, however, with us spiritually every second of every day. Did you not know that you, the believer, are a temple and that the Lord resides inside of you (1 Cor. 3:16)?
We must worship the Lord in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Like the runner, we have to learn how to focus on the finish line. Just like Mary, we will have to learn how to remove the things that can keep us distracted from God out of our life, so that you can focus on Him. This may require you turning off those notifications so that you can study. Focusing on the Lord may require you to turn off all the noise so that you can pray to Him. You might even have to drop some friends and family if it keeps you from running the race of faith. These things we will do so that we can earn our reward from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Recognize you are distracted
Martha, I believe, was certainly a woman of faith. However, the difference between both her and Mary was that she was too focused on the wrong thing. Maybe she really wanted to impress her house guest? We certainly don’t want our company to leave our house and tell others that they had a terrible time. I imagine that this was what troubled her greatly.
Jesus had to point out to Martha that she was distracted for her to come to the realization that she was unfocused on what mattered. We have to recognize when we have become too distracted from God. There is certainly the good kind of distraction that can “take your mind off of things”.
On the other hand, we must recognize that many good distractions are terrible distractions that are built to take our mind off the Lord! In other words, these distractions are purposeful and intended to hold us hostage or defeat us in the long run. We have to learn to build up a resistance to this distraction. In other words, we must strive to remain discipline (temperate) when it comes to being distracted from the Lord.