By: Jenni Walker
“But all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.” (Mark 4:19)
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
There are many things that can quickly, and almost unwittingly, deplete the strength and joy of serving the Lord. We have been looking at three attitudes of the heart to watch out for that can subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) take root deep down in our hearts. But God’s Word provides us with clear wisdom about each of them. Remember that we do not have to do this in our own strength. As we “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,” we can look “unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2) who is graciously and faithfully with us every step of the way as we follow Him.
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In a U.S.A. Today poll taken over multiple years, it was found that busyness was increasingly becoming a cultural norm, contributing to less sleep, less activity, and less time with friends and family. “The respondents also reported that in l987, 50 percent said they ate at least one family meal every day; by 2008, that figure had declined to 20 percent.”
Another study, described in Jean M. Twenge’s book iGen, looks at yet another way that this astoundingly distracted approach to life pervades our culture. In her chapter entitled Internet: Online Time – Oh, and Other Media, Too, she writes, “One [recent] study installed a program on college students’ laptops that took a screenshot every five seconds. The researchers found that students switched between tasks every nineteen seconds on average. More than 75% of the students’ computer windows were open less than one minute.”
What about smartphones…? Buckle your seatbelt and brace for impact! In an article entitled Americans Spend Far More Time on Their Smartphones Than They Think, a recent study shows that the amount of time spent on smartphones is startlingly high not just for youth and college students but even for baby boomers. It explains that “2,000 millennial and baby boomer smartphone users [were asked] to go into their phone settings and record exactly how much screen time they’ve spent on their top apps. The survey found that both generations share similarities when it comes to how much time they spend on their smartphones. The average American spends 5.4 hours a day on their phone. Millennials spend slightly more time on their phones (5.7 hours) compared to baby boomers (5 hours) on average.” Writer Eileen Brown for Social Business concludes, “So, before you criticize the younger generation about the time they spend on their smartphones, look at yourself. You might be using more time-sucking applications than you know.”
Now, life naturally has plenty of interruptions. As a teacher, intercom announcements often seemed to come right in the middle of a deep moment of learning with my students. A drive to church may be interrupted by an unexpected road construction detour. But statistics like these give us a picture of how ongoing distraction can become a way of life. If only 1 in every 5 families even have, or make, time for one meal together each day, and the average person spends more than 5 hours each day on their smartphone, we must also consider how the beauty and joy of intentionally following Christ wholeheartedly can easily be lost in the distracted, and often hectic, pace of life. We can so quickly become distracted not just in our daily doings but deep down in the focus of our hearts and minds.
Clearly, distraction is a problem. So what is the solution? A distracted life affects our relationships, our families, our work, our studies, and our walk with God. How can we know when we are living with an attitude of distraction? I would like us to consider the heart issue that is often deep down behind scenes of a distracted life. In Psalm 119:36-38, David prays, “Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to covetousness. Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way. Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing You.”
Time on Pinterest, using tablets or personal devices, watching a movie, involvement with sports and extracurricular activities, time with friends, and so on, are not wrong in and of themselves. But have you meditated prayerfully about this passage? Are you intentionally inclining your heart toward the Lord? Have you felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit in any areas of your time usage? Do you feel like your mind often wanders from what is most important in the dynamics of your daily life? Is the focus of your life one that demonstrates – in all that you do – a wholehearted devotion to God and doing His will?
Paul gives us a challenging picture of what this kind of sold-out life for Jesus looks like when he writes in Colossians 1:9–10, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully please Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
Do not cease. Be filled. Walk worthy. Fully please Him. Fruitful in every good work. Increasing in the knowledge of God. These are words that leave no room for distraction; they are laser-focused and full of God-given purpose. Just what is that purpose? It is to be ever-increasing in our experience of God as He makes us more like Him!
So what is the secret? Paul gives it to us in Colossians 3:2–4, which says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Does my approach to life demonstrate that Christ is my life or something else? Where we set our minds, where we place our focus, is what affects the trajectory of our hearts and the course of our lives. We are called to be spiritually-minded. Are we really pursuing that? John R. W. Stott gives us a serious reminder when he states that our mindset “has eternal consequences, and [it] concerns our fundamental attitude toward God.”
Instead of focusing on things that feed distraction, respond wholeheartedly to our Lord’s invitation to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Ultimately, our Lord is calling us to a singular focus: Himself! Let us not be faint-hearted in our pursuit of God. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you and bring conviction where it is needed as He helps you become more spiritually-minded. May we come to know and experience God in all things – not just in what we do outwardly but diligently with our minds and deep down in our hearts!
Time to Reflect
1) Take time today to open up your Bible and journal, quiet your heart, and prayerfully reflect on today’s topic of distraction. What elements of your daily life are currently suffering due to a distracted mind and heart? (i.e. Priority of family time, uninhibited creativity, a love of reading, quality of work, family meals, prayer for the nations, intimacy with your spouse, clear communication with your children, time outside, financial responsibility, organizational strategies, etc.)
2) What daily disciplines do you need to be intentional about to counteract distractions and to, instead, turn your heart fully to following and loving God in all things? We urge you not to breeze through this question. Put away all distractions, quiet your heart, even get on your knees, and ask for God’s help in this area.
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(This devotion contains excerpts from The Wholehearted Woman: Who She is and Why She Matters by Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker.)