This month we are wrapping up "Focus on the Team" with part 3, Distractions. We're going to be talking about distractions that occur in the Christian life. If you missed part 1 and part 2, you can read those on my blog, Writer's Block.
Just a little recap before we just into this month's topic. Using a baseball comparison, Christians make up a team which is the church. Our coach is Jesus Christ and He is our focus. If we stay focused on the coach, taking signals from him, and listening to His voice, He will be pleased with us. We do our best to "play" or live as a team. But what happens when we take our eyes off our coach? Or if we decide we don't like our team and decide to skip a practice or just not play in the game at all? The world is full of distractions tempting us to do exactly that. Let's throw it up to the booth and look at that.
Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 13:1-9 commonly called, "The parable of the sower." The Message reads this way:
“What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams."
In danger of mixing my metaphors, let's try to make sense of this parable and the distractions Christians face today. When Jesus explains the parable to his disciples he tells them that the seed is the message about the kingdom of God. For our purposes, let's just say the seed is living a Christian life.
The farmer and the seed are constant in this parable. The grounds are the heart of the individual hearing the message. What we will focus on are the stealers, or the distractors of the seed.
In the first case, the birds come and eat the seed that was sown. If we don't use what is given to us, there is a danger that it will be taken away. The parable of the talents illustrates this (Matthew 25:14-30). James exhorts us to not just listen to the word, but put it into practice (James 1:22). The distraction then is complacency. We fail to retain what we have. That is the knowledge of how to live a Christian life. We aren't clear on what God wants of us. We read the Bible, but don't understand it. And on top of that, we lack the desire to figure it out. We fail to seek to understand it. We are complacent. This complacency gives the enemy the opportunity to snatch what little we did know away from us.
In the second illustration, the seed falls on the gravel, but has no roots and is withered by the sun. The distraction is the sun. The sun is a good thing giving light and warmth to our planet. But it can also be dangerous. Don't look into the sun; It will blind you. Don't get too close to the sun; it will burn you up. In this case, a good thing becomes bad. Be careful to not allow "good" things in life to eclipse the "best" thing in life. Sports, hobbies, relaxation, and the like are all good, but be careful they do not consume your life so much that you don't have time for feeding your faith and growing spiritually.
Finally, our seed falls and sprouts among the weeds only to be choked out by them. Weeds are external distractions or temptations all around us. They are outside of us and they desire to master us. In the parable, Jesus says that the weeds are the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. Galatians 5:19-21 lists of several acts of the flesh including hatred, discord, jealousy, and fits of rage. The list goes on, but the distraction is clear: worldly temptations.
In summary, then, seek scripture and the understanding of it. How to apply it to your life. Prioritize the good things in your life with the best things. Keep Jesus and His church at the top of your list. Your calendar and credit card should reflect that. Then keep from sinful temptations that would choke out a fruitful Christian life.