Pastor Terry Tatum
Our current sermon series, “Crucified with Christ,” was designed to take us through the season of Lent (season of repentance) and prepare us for the remembrance of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. In this series we have discussed crucifying unbelief, pride and excuses. Today we will look at the need to crucify distractions that keep us from living an abundant life with Christ.
There are a lot of things in this world that distract us. I wish I could say that things get better as we get older, but that’s not true for me. True story: In staff meetings I must write everything down to stay on task. And I’m leading the meeting!
I know some people who got distracted in college and took their eye off getting an education. I know people who got married and then got busy with life, job and kids, ultimately losing focus on their marriage and then they tell me, “we’ve grown apart.”
Without question, distractions can serve to sidetrack us on our journey through life. They can also damage our relationship with Christ. Let me ask you a few questions.
1) Is your relationship with Christ important to you?
2) Is it the most important thing in your life?
3) Why not?
If you answered “no” to either of the first two questions, then it’s probably because you got distracted somewhere along the way.
Jesus addressed the subject of distractions with His disciples as they were traveling together to Jerusalem, where Jesus would ultimately be crucified. He told His disciples if they wanted to come with him, they would have to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him.
Let me assure you, there were many distractions along the way, but today I want to focus on what we can learn from Jesus’s teachings during a particular stop during that trip. It was at the home of Mary and Martha in a town named Bethany, a few miles outside of Jerusalem.
Here’s the story, from Luke 10:38-42 NIV:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Martha is the prototype for distracted people. She demonstrates three common ways in which we become distracted:
First, Martha was distracted by worldly concerns.
I really can’t fault Martha for wanting things to be perfect for Jesus. We’ve all been there when guests are coming. But her real flaw in all of this is the same as many of ours … She got too BUSY!!!!!
Just this past week I had way more to get done than I had time or energy to do. I was so busy that the next thing on my list was honestly distracting me from the thing I was already doing. That’s not a good situation to be in, is it?
Here’s the real question I should pose to you today: What does busy-ness actually accomplish, other than keeping you occupied? The answer: Not much.
As John Wooden would say, “never mistake activity for achievement.”
Busy-ness causes stress, hypertension and fatigue. It takes away from what we should be focusing on. Such worldly concerns keep us from being with Jesus.
The next way Martha becomes distracted is by worries.
Perhaps more than anything else, worries distract us from staying on course with Jesus. Worry causes anxiety and anxiety leads to loss of focus. They cause us to take our eyes off the Lord and put them on other things … usually things that we can’t control.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:25 “DO NOT WORRY.” He goes on to say that it is a sign of little faith and that worry is for unbelievers, not believers.
Worry is not just some little thing. It’s a sin. Just like worldly concerns, worry creates distractions that keep us from following Jesus.
In addition to worldly concerns and worry, the final way we see Martha become distracted is by good works.
Martha loved Jesus and Jesus loved her (John 11:5). All the things she was doing were with the best of intentions. But the “many things” kept her from doing the one thing that was most important, being with Jesus.
A lot of us can relate. Have you ever gone to visit someone, and they were so busy making things nice for you that they were too busy to spend time with you? Sometimes we get so busy serving the Lord that He gets lost in the shuffle.
I wake up every day wanting to serve the Lord but many times I get so busy serving Him that I forget to spend time with Him. Scripture shows us that when that happens resentment isn’t far behind.
Martha’s complaint was two-fold: 1) “Don’t you care?” 2) “She left me to do the work by myself.”
Can you imagine talking to Jesus that way? Before this situation I’m sure Martha couldn’t either. But when we get distracted from what’s important, when we let worldly concerns, worry, and good works get in the way we can very easily end up like Martha.
In contrast, Martha’s sister Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”
The best things in life happen when we are in the moment and present.
The word “distracted” literally translates to “being pulled away from.” Martha was distracted, Mary wasn’t. And as Jesus said, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
The most important question for us from this story is this: What have you chosen over sitting at the feet of the Son of God?
I may not know the answer to that question for each of you but I know the way to fix it. You need to crucify whatever distractions are keeping you from being with Jesus.
Here are three simple ways we can crucify distractions in our lives:
Worship. Be at church every Sunday. And don’t just show up … be present! Praise God, and worship Him from the moment you walk in the door until the moment you leave. Pray, sing, love others, give, do all you can while you are here and then guess what? It has a good chance of carrying over when you go out into the world. Worship will help you crucify distractions.
Study (God’s word). When I stop and simply study the Word, He always reveals something new to me. It’s usually just what I need to get back on track. The same can be true for you.
Prayer. There is nothing in this word that can replace talking with God in prayer… NOTHING. It is the single most important thing we can do in our relationship with God. Stop whatever you are doing and pray when things get tough, and when they are going good for that matter. It’s hard to be distracted from God when you put everything else aside and talk with Him.
I want to close with a quick story. On the day Jesus rose from the grave, two of His followers were walking down a road to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. Jesus appeared to them but they didn’t know it was Jesus.
He asked them what they were talking about, and they began to tell Him about “Jesus” and all he had done. As they reached the village, they asked Jesus to stay with them and eat, so he stayed with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:30-31 NIV)
I’ve heard this story many times but today I see it a little differently. I’m sure these two followers of Jesus were busy, had things to do and people to see, but they took time to be present and talk to a stranger about Jesus. They put their distractions away and ate with a new friend … who just happened to be the Lord.
That’s my prayer for you today… that you will lay down all your distractions and focus on being with Jesus.