“I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” I Corinthians 7:35 NLT
As I was playing Bejewelled Blitz last night and wondering what to write about for today I heard my own sarcastic reply… why not write about distractions? Now normally I come to write my daily piece from a prayerful place, but sometimes I do get carried away doing other things, and admittedly, sometimes mindless and pointless things. The world is full of distractions, isn’t it? And we human beings seem to have an innate talent for stopping ourselves from being productive. We play games and procrastinate and put things off because the time isn’t right or we don’t feel like it, or because we don’t see the point or we persuade ourselves that we’re not going to do it right. So many excuses and ways of scuppering ourselves. And technology has only added to the problems. Screens are everywhere, and full of zombie-creating, soporific games and entertainments.
I think in this age we need to be more diligent about the use of our precious time than in any time gone before. Martha was distracted as we looked at her yesterday by all the chores she had left to do to feed the great group of people that had just descended on her house. Imagine if she had had an ipad as well! And Paul in our verse today is telling us that even marriage can be a distraction from having our full attention on the Lord. Because the Lord’s work is all encompassing, it can’t be gone at half-hearted. If we come to him with lukewarm hearts or double-minded, we are not a great deal of use to him. Like the fishermen who left their nets to follow him, we need to be prepared to set aside the normal rules, our time and sometimes even our livelihoods.
The best way that I have found to keep doing the work that has been set before me is to embrace self-discipline, some kind of routine and most of all, to pray all the time. Paul tells the Thessalonians to pray unceasingly. I know that can sound a bit impossible, but that’s because we are imagining walking round the supermarket saying our prayers out loud. Really I think that Paul means that the more time we spend with God, the more we find that our very lives become prayer. Prayer – the constant communing, our ongoing relationship with the Lord – becomes an attitude that we start to live by, of handing every moment over to him, offering everything up to him, so that even in our play and in our rest times, both of which every healthy life needs, we are cultivating an awareness and a togetherness with the Lord. When this starts to take hold in our lives, we find that we see and experience God in everything, and with him placed first in our heart, nothing can pull us away or distract us from his constancy, his mercy and his enduring love.
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