Have you ever been driving down the road enjoying the view when you suddenly realize the car ahead of you is stopped… and you might not have enough time to stop? You probably slammed on your brakes, considered swerving into another lane or the ditch, and breathed a big sigh of relief when you stopped inches short of the other car’s rear bumper. Then you probably swore an oath to not allow yourself to get distracted while driving again.
Distractions abound for drivers. Ringing cell phones, changing radio stations, people on the sidewalk acting strangely, animals along the side of the road, and many other things all provide opportunities lose focus on the road. I don’t know how many auto accidents are caused by distracted drivers. I would guess that most of them are. I would also guess that for every accident caused by a distraction, there are many more distracted drivers who narrowly miss accidents.
A distraction is something that seems very important right now, but when seen with proper perspective is obviously unimportant. Occasionally, a little distraction can be a good thing; but most of the time distractions keep us from doing what we should be doing, going where we should be going, or being who we should be being. They catch our eyes, occupy our minds, and captivate our souls.
The serpent was Adam and Eve’s distraction Idolatry regularly distracted the children of Israel. Bathsheba was David’s distraction. Nearly 1,000 wives and concubines distracted Solomon.
Distractions are wrong-way attractions.
Matthew 13 tells us one of Jesus' stories about a farmer who threw some of his seeds into a patch of ground occupied by thorns and weeds. The plants initially grew, but were soon overpowered and choked out by the thorns and weeds. Jesus explained the ground with thorns represented people who hear the truth, and are initially excited about it; but before long, their faith is choked out by the worries of life and the deceitfulness of riches.
We all get distracted by life.
Sometimes we are distracted more easily than other times. In the hard times of life, we are more likely to buckle down and focus. When we find ourselves facing a crisis or a deadline, we somehow find the discipline to get done what needs to get done. We don’t usually get distracted when something important is clearly on the line.
When things are going well, it’s much easier to get distracted. Driving down the road on a sunny day is prime distraction time. When business is booming, it is easy to slowly lose focus. Often we get too comfortable in relationships, and risk taking someone close to us for granted. When life is good, we are easily tempted by the distractions we think might make it even better.
The consequences of distracted living
Joe Gilliam Jr. was just the third African-American to play quarterback in the NFL. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1972, and became the starting quarterback in 1974. Joe Gilliam died in 2000 at the age of fifty. He had spent much of his life drifting between homeless shelters and trying to recover from drug addiction. Joe won two super-bowl rings with the Steelers, but ended up pawning them to finance his drug habit.
Life was good for Joe Gilliam Jr., but he got distracted by life.
If you spent too much time pursuing the distractions of life, what initially feels like a warm fuzzy hug will slowly become a deathly choke-hold. Jesus said that many people who hear the truth will be distracted by the cares of life and the deceitfulness of riches.
Find an eternal perspective
Following Jesus is the greatest investment we could ever make, but the cares of life threaten to distract us from that pursuit. We might be distracted by the toys we could accumulate or the money we could earn. We might be distracted by relationships we are pursuing. We might be distracted by a promotion or a new promising job. We might be distracted by pleasure or the pursuit of pleasure.
Distractions are anything that seems important right now. Many pursuits in life seem more important than following Christ, because the return on following Christ is not immediate. When you view distractions with the proper perspective, though, they always reveal themselves to be a bad idea. If you assume an eternal perspective, anything that keeps you from pursuing Christ with all your heart is most definitely a bad idea.
Distractions are always a bad investment, and often lead to extremely heavy losses. Don’t be distracted from the most important pursuit of your life!