Intro: Are you easily distracted? The people in the know say that distractions are an increasing problem in the workplace and may be linked to the constant access to information and news. Simply put, there is more out there to capture our attention. When we give into the urge, we develop habits of being distracted that make it easier and easier to be distracted.
One study found that office distractions eat an average 2.1 hours a day.
Another study found that employees spent an average of 11 minutes on a project before being distracted. After an interruption it takes them 25 minutes to return to the original task, if they do at all. People switch activities every three minutes, either making a call, speaking with someone in their cubicle, or working on a document.
Distractions are not just frustrating; they can be exhausting. By the time you get back to where you were, your ability to stay focused goes down even further. Change focus ten times an hour (one study showed people in offices did so as much as 20 times an hour), and your productive thinking time is only a fraction of what’s possible. Or distractions can cause you to forget good ideas and lose valuable insights. Having a great idea and not being able to remember it can be frustrating, like an itch you can’t scratch, yet another distraction to manage.
There are some self-tests you can take to determine (in case you don’t already know) if you struggle with being distracted – 8 things…
- They need to read a sentence five times to get through it.
- They cannot study and listen to music at the same time
- They have several unfinished projects laying around the house
- Their internet browser tends to be filled with more than three tabs
- They have several unanswered texts
- They get distracted by everything at grocery stores
- They can’t get through a story without starting another one in-between
- They can’t watch movies with subtitles
This may be discouraging to those of us who can relate. But is this a spiritual problem? Being easily distracted may be the result of physical illnesses (attention deficit problems), or getting older, or other physiological issues. That is not what I am addressing in this lesson. Staying focused is an integral part of discipleship, and a lack of focus may be an indication of a weak faith or a corrupt heart.
I. Read an event from the life of Jesus. Jesus could spot a spiritual problem from a mile away. He never backed away from exposing one, even when among friends.
• Luke 10:38-42 – “Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (NKJ)
A. We will come back to this story. Let me first announce why I believe that being distracted is a spiritual issue.
1. Many times our attention is shifted from something of greater importance to something of lesser importance. In fact, we can be distracted from God and His purposes. When the physical issues and concerns replace the spiritual issues, the scripture link this to idolatry.
2. “Our attention often runs to what’s important to us. So distraction can reveal what we love.”
II. Back to the story of Luke 10 – Martha (sister of Lazarus) invites Jesus over for dinner. Her sister, Mary is also there. The sisters are occupied differently. Martha is busy in the kitchen; Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His teaching. The text tells us that Martha is distracted. By what? V. 40 – “Martha was distracted with much serving.” Is this a problem? Doesn’t God want us to serve others? Wasn’t this the hospitable thing to do?
A. When Martha complained that her sister, Mary, wasn’t helping because she was sitting at Jesus’ feet, Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41–42)
B. Her distraction was identified by Jesus as anxiety. She was worrying about serving. Anxious about feeding everyone, and in all likelihood anxious about what everyone would think of her and her household if she didn’t do it well.
1. Anxiety is an enemy of faith when it steps between me and the work that God has given me to do (a man or woman who feels that they must work and miss assembling).
2. It is an enemy of faith when it causes me to lose perspective on what is really important, or even spiritual (person who worries so much about the building being clean that they cannot worship, or even have good feelings toward other Christians). Satan will use even good things to distract us from what is spiritual.
3. It is an enemy of faith when it distracts me from placing my trust in God’s provisions. Consider Jesus’ teaching on worry in Matt 6:25-34 – “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow : they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (NKJ) – pile all your worries and bills on the kitchen table and worry all night – you have changed nothing: Pile all of them on the table and pray all night – You will be changed!
a. Encompassed in this distraction of worry are the companion problems of money & selfishness. There is a reason we worry about the things we worry about. They are the things that affect us the most. We worry about our things. Most of the time they focus on material possessions, not spiritual goals. Jesus was teaching the disciples how to react when they were persecuted, and how the Holy Spirit would provide the needed answers to the questions people would ask them as they taught, and someone from the crowd interrupted Luke 12:13-15 – Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” How does that obvious truth affect your focus in life?
C. Distractions can be an enemy to listening to God. While Martha was distracted by serving, Mary was listening to Jesus (v. 39) For Martha, at that moment, serving, and the anxiety that accompanied it, became the enemy of the real good.
1. But that’s not how it felt to Martha at the time. She thought she was doing the right thing. That’s why she appealed to Jesus to exhort Mary to get up and help her. . I am convinced that she was shocked to hear that Jesus didn’t value her serving as much as Mary’s listening.
2. “One thing is needed” ( v. 42) Martha probably had a whole list of things that need to be done! This ONE thing is set in contrast to the many things that Jesus said Martha was distracted by.
a. The first thing God wants from you is to listen… “Hear o’ Israel”… “He that has an ear let him hear”… verily, verily I say unto you”.
3. Jesus called Mary’s choice to sit at Jesus feet and listen “the good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Listening to Jesus is good (agathos– beneficial). It is what will serve us the best. We often think that taking time to listen to God, (study the word, meditate, pray.) is less productive than doing something – (serving) There is so much to do. If we believe things will change when we get on top of things, that we’ll finally have the time to listen more to Jesus after we’ve plowed through these demanding tasks hanging over our heads, we’re likely being deceived.
a. “Which will not be taken from her” – 1) Jesus was not going to make her quit listening to help her sister. 2) What she would gain by listening could be taken by no one. –
b. Someone wrote… We tend to value the volume of things accomplished and call that “productivity.” God values the importance of things accomplished and calls it “fruitfulness” (John 15:5). “God is not nearly as interested in our efficiency as he is in our faith.”
c. We must listen to do. Faith without works is dead. But we must beware of your perceptions. Listening often doesn’t feel like doing. But it might just be the most important thing God wants you to get done today. Ps 27:4 – One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple.
Conclusion: It is easy to be distracted. It takes sacrifice and strong commitment to remain focused on God’s plan for our lives. Have you allowed Satan to distract your attention from what is most important? When Peter was distracted by the crashing waves around him, he took his eyes off of Jesus, and fear overcame him. But Jesus was always there – He had not taken His eyes off of Peter – and He was ready to pull him back up on top of the water with Him. Jesus is ready to help you put your life back where it belongs.