Satan is the master of distraction, deception, diversion, and deflection—anything at all to get our minds away from worshiping and serving the Lord our God. Satan employed that trick in the garden of Eden and he still employs it today. Just imagine how much more consistent our service to God would be if we did not squander so much time on useless distractions that plague all of our lives.
I recently read about the renowned lion-tamer, Clyde Beatty. He was only five and half feet tall, but he would enter a cage filled with lions and tigers armed with only three things: a whip, a gun, and a chair. The whip would get the animal’s attention. The gun was a last resort if all else failed. But, what use would a chair be against ferocious lions? It isn’t a weapon or just a stage prop. The tamer holds the chair up and points the legs toward the animal. In a vain attempt to focus on all four legs at once, a kind of paralysis overwhelms the animal, and, because of his divided attention, he is distracted and tamed.
There are countless distractions all around us that can easily divert our attention. How about magicians, politicians, or pickpockets who distract and deflect our attention from what they are really up to? Some states have outlawed the use of cell phones while driving a car because it distracts our attention from driving or getting started at the stoplight. For similar reasons, we want to have cell phones turned off in church services and have nurseries for babies. Major league pitchers won’t talk to anyone on the day they pitch because they don’t want their concentration compromised. Horses often wear blinders so they continue to look straight ahead without distraction. Examples of this are nearly innumerable, and the times we are distracted from our God-given purpose in life are also a needless hindrance to our Christian life.
I mentioned earlier the temptation in the garden of Eden, where both the fear of missing something and the flattery of being something distracted our first parents from obedience which would bring glory to God. The devil tried the same approach three times when he tempted Christ. It didn’t work because our Lord did not lose His focus on His Father’s will, and answered each time, “it is written…” (Matt. 4). He avoided the distractions that Jesus warned about in the parable of the sower when He said, “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22).
The apostle Paul warned that even marriage or the desire for marriage might become a distraction: “And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction” (1 Cor. 7:35). Again, in writing to Timothy, he warns about distractions from his duty as a Christian soldier when he says, “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4). Avoiding useless distractions helps us perform our office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels do in heaven.
Through the years I’ve noticed how some worshipers are easily distracted in their Christian walk and even as they come together in a church service. They have allowed themselves to be distracted by other people, teachings, or things, which in themselves may not be sinful, but they become so if they divert our attention from faithful service to God. There are also times when preachers distract listeners with strange illustrations that don’t help with understanding the text, but often linger in the minds of hearers more than the text itself.
At the beginning of a new year, we often lay out our renewed resolutions of what we hope to accomplish and what we will avoid as we serve the Lord. Yet how often do we become distracted from the goals we have set? Certainly we need to have some flexibility, recreation, and also realize that, providentially, God may take us in a new direction. But, if lesser things than God’s providential dealings divert us from the purpose of serving God with all our God-given abilities, then it may well be that we have allowed ourselves to become distracted and less fruitful.
What is the solution? How can we keep our eyes, ears, and hearts directed to our Christian purpose? To avoid distractions, we need to follow the example of Christ and be focused as He was in all He did. “Therefore … let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Heb. 12:1–3).