Anyone who knows me knows that I love to-do lists. I like to be organized because I have a lot to accomplish every day. But many times, one distraction after another comes up. And at the end of the day, I’ve gotten nothing done.
Life often consists of rabbit trails instead of highways. We’re always on the move but nothing is accomplished. Distractions dictate our decisions and control our schedules.
Rebuilding the Jerusalem Walls
We read in the Old Testament that King Artaxerxes granted Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls. The local officials in Jerusalem weren’t happy to learn of Nehemiah’s plans. So they used every demoralizing technique to discourage and distract him. But Nehemiah and the Israelites in the city stayed in one accord and continued working until they completed the wall.
NEHEMIAH 6:1–3 (NLT)
1 Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained—though we had not yet set up the doors in the gates.
2 So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But I realized they were plotting to harm me,
3 so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?”
When distractions order our day, it can be difficult to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. Nehemiah, however, remained sensitive and was aware that his enemies were plotting to harm him. Every time Sanballat and Geshem sent Nehemiah messages to meet, he ignored them.
But guess what? Rebuilding the walls never would have happened if Nehemiah had let the distractions keep him from God’s assignment. How many times do we allow distractions to keep us from fulfilling God’s plan?
It takes a lot of work and energy to start a project. But it takes a great deal of concentration to finish it.
Getting the Job Done
It’s so easy to get distracted and quit working on a task. We only have to look at the unfinished projects around the house to know how true that is.
One time when I was cleaning, I came across a half-finished afghan. As I thought about it, I realized I had started knitting that afghan 25 years earlier! I never finished it because something distracted me. And I placed more importance on the distraction than I did on the project.
Too often, our attention switches to the wrong thing. It takes a lot of work and energy to start a project. But it takes a great deal of concentration to finish it.
What Are You Focusing On?
Time and again, our lives consist of Rush and Urgent. The urgent consumes us, and we don’t have time for the eternal. I have found that God’s time clock doesn’t operate on Rush and Urgent. His timing isn’t like a microwave; it’s more like a crock-pot. He likes to put us in places where we will “cook” for a while. That way, we’ll come out tender and patient.
We do a million little things, and we leave the big things undone. We fill our days with things that don’t matter and leave unfinished the things that do. Jesus told us how to fix this.
MATTHEW 6:33–34 (MSG)
33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
34 Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
God wants our full attention, but many things pull us away from Him. Here are just a few.
Facebook. I love the connection we have on social media. But several hours can go by as we mindlessly scroll through our newsfeed.
Fear. We spend too much time worrying about things that never happen.
Hobbies. God doesn’t mind us enjoying ourselves in our free time. But our hobbies should not consume all our time.
Family. God created the home and family before He created the Church. But we must keep everything in perspective. Family activities should not keep us out of church.
Friends. We need friends who support and encourage us. But sometimes friends can give us advice that may not be from God.
Cellphones. Nowadays, everything is on our cellphone. We can search the Internet, check email, text, scroll Facebook, and even do our banking. It’s easy for us to get distracted from what we should be doing by checking something on our phone.
Jobs. We all need jobs, and we should be good employees. However, we have to guard against becoming workaholics.
Finances. When we don’t know if our budget will balance, we can worry about how the bills will get paid.
Leaning on the Holy Spirit
Jesus told His disciples that He had to leave so the Holy Spirit could come (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit is our Helper, Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor, Strengthener, and Standby (John 15:26 AMP).
The Holy Spirit was given to us as the voice of our Guide. He wants to show us how to handle everything that happens to us. But He doesn’t speak in a loud voice—only in a slight whisper. Scripture says there are many voices in the world (1 Cor. 14:10). The Holy Spirit is the one voice that is always there for us. But we have to recognize it in the midst of distractions and be sensitive to what He is saying.
When we pray in Jesus’ Name about a need, our Father God hears our prayer and tells the Holy Spirit how to guide us. The Spirit wants to tell us what God has said (John 16:13). But we often have distractions screaming to be heard. Instead of tuning them out, we let them keep us from hearing the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. Even though He’s talking, we can’t hear Him. And that’s why people make bad decisions. They listen to the wrong voice.
Life is busy. Like a juggler, most of us have many balls in the air—God, family, work, school, and so forth. But in the busyness of life, our number-one priority must be God. We have to seek first His Kingdom (Matt. 6:33) and follow Him. When we do, we will hear the Holy Spirit’s voice and know what to do when distractions try to get us off course.
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