We often think sin is obviously evil—like the seductress whose goal is to lure men into an affair or the unethical boss who offers you the promotion if you’ll keep quiet about his questionable accounting practices. But more often, sin is subtle. It comes in the form of distraction. The distraction is not necessarily wicked, it merely systematically takes your attention away from God’s purpose.
Mark 4:18-19, The Living Bible
“The thorny ground represents the hearts of people who listen to the Good News and receive it, but all too quickly the attractions of this world and the delights of wealth, and the search for success and lure of nice things come in and crowd out God’s message from their hearts, so that no crop is produced.”
So what are the top three distractions in life?
- The lust of the flesh (the craze for sex)
- The lust of the eyes (the ambition to buy everything that appeals to you)
- The pride of life (the pride that comes from wealth and importance)
1 John 2:15-17, The Living Bible
“Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love these things you show that you do not really love God; for all these worldly things, these evil desires—the craze for sex, the ambition to buy everything that appeals to you, and the pride that comes from wealth and importance—these are not from God. They are from this evil world itself. And this world is fading away, and these evil, forbidden things will go with it, but whoever keeps doing the will of God will live forever.”
Notice how each of the distractions is an exaggeration of something that is good and acceptable. Sex was created by God to be enjoyed in the context of marriage and produce the next generation. You do need to buy things to provide for you and your family (food, clothing, shelter, transportation, health, education, etc.) Plus, there’s nothing wrong with having career goals in life and pursuing them.
So when does the good and acceptable thing become distracting sin? When you must have it at all costs; it consumes most of your time; and it becomes the deciding factor. In other words, it determines how you spend your time, energy and resources. For example: Relationships suffer, especially your relationship with God. Foolish decisions are made in pursuit of it. Savings accounts are emptied to fund a vacation home or cosmetic surgery, while you say you can’t afford to tithe. It is so wonderful, you will risk your marriage and children to have it. It is so important you will work nights and weekends, but get angry if church service goes an extra 15 minutes. It has become sin.
Was Jesus tempted by it? Yes. Did Jesus allow it to become sin in his life? No.
Hebrews 4:14-15, New Living Translation
“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.”
Jesus overcame life’s distractions (and even necessities) by keeping God first. Jesus made his Father God, the determining factor. Jesus loved his family, but he didn’t even put family ahead of doing God’s will. Once while Jesus was right in the middle of a scathing rebuke to the religious leaders of the day, his mother and brothers wanted to speak with him (they probably wanted to tell him to tone it down a bit). Jesus refused to stop preaching the truth (Matthew 12:38-50), even when it made his loved ones uncomfortable.
Matthew 12:46-50, The Living Bible
“As Jesus was speaking in a crowded house, his mother and brothers were outside, wanting to talk with him. When someone told him they were there, he remarked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” He pointed to his disciples. “Look!” he said, “these are my mother and brothers.” Then he added, “Anyone who obeys my Father in heaven is my brother, sister, and mother!”
Jesus knew how to balance God’s call on his life and the needs of his family and friends. He fulfilled their requests when he could–like when he changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana as a favor to his mother, Mary (John 2:1-12). At other times, he had to resist pressure from his family—like when his skeptical brothers urged him to go to Jerusalem to show off the miracles he could perform. Jesus probably would have appreciated support from his brothers, but he didn’t allow his desire for their approval distract him from obeying God.
John 7:1-9, The Living Bible
“After this, Jesus went to Galilee, going from village to village, for he wanted to stay out of Judea where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. But soon it was time for the Tabernacle Ceremonies, one of the annual Jewish holidays,and Jesus’ brothers urged him to go to Judea for the celebration. “Go where more people can see your miracles!” they scoffed. “You can’t be famous when you hide like this! If you’re so great, prove it to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him. Jesus replied, “It is not the right time for me to go now. But you can go anytime and it will make no difference, for the world can’t hate you; but it does hate me, because I accuse it of sin and evil. You go on, and I’ll come later when it is the right time.” So he remained in Galilee.”
What has become a distraction in your life? Be steadfast by maintaining a strong relationship with God the way Jesus did. He could hear God the Father’s voice. He knew God loved him and approved of him. Jesus was so secure in his relationship with his Father, that God’s presence in his life was bigger than any distraction. Jesus’ confidence in God, gave him the drive to remain steadfast.
John 5:17, The Living Bible
“…Jesus replied, “My Father constantly does good, and I’m following his example.”
Today’s Life Key: Spending time with God is the key to mastering distractions.