The morning is fresh after a good night’s rest. The house is quiet. Steam rises from your coffee cup as you sit down to enjoy your time with the Lord. Everyone else in the home is still asleep. Soon you realize that someone else is fully awake and aware of what you are doing. The “demons of distraction” are on full alert, armed and ready for their most important opportunity of the day as they seek to undermine your spiritual health.
Yes, even in these calm and meditative morning moments, a spiritual contest engages. The enemy and his minions know that if they can keep you out of step spiritually at the beginning of the day, they can induce a limp by nightfall. They know that your daily time to consciously abide in Christ, delight in His Word, seek His face in prayer, and meditate on His truth is the secret to your victory. Subtlety is their mode and distraction is their weapon. If they can keep you unengaged and drifting as you seek to meet with God, they can chalk one up in the win column for another round of spiritual battle.
The Struggle – Real and Personal
This commentary is the primary personal concern for my walk with Christ these days. Maybe you can relate. From my waking moment, the “to do” list swirls like storm clouds in my mind. The “ding” of arriving e-mails screams for my attention as I try to focus on my walk with Christ in the quiet morning hour. The “posts” and “people” I encounter daily via social media seem to call my name with abnormal enthusiasm as I read the Word. “Weapons of mass distraction” bombard my soul as I seek my daily renewal.
In recent days, I have been working with a friend to insert some accountability into this daily struggle in order to fully engage in my designated time of spiritual enrichment. Together, we have agreed on six key ideas to help me overcome distraction and fully engage my soul in these moments of vital spiritual nourishment.
Download and Detach from the “To Do” List
Many people are wakened by an alarm clock. Too often I am stirred by the alarms of all the things that have to be done that day. In recent years, this problem has become more serious. When I was a Sr. Pastor I had a full staff of people I could entrust with many of the necessary tasks. Now, in this present role, with limited staff, more of the duties seem to gang up in my job description. It can get overwhelming but these tasks are not worth sacrificing my time with God.
I have decided to keep a simple notepad on the bed stand and the table where I read. As soon as any item on the punch list hits my radar screen, I write it down and choose to get it out of my mind, knowing the reminder will be there later. Whether it is in the middle of the night, during the waking hours, or in the midst of my “quiet time” I can register these responsibilities on a list that I will address later.
Keep All Technology on the Back Burner
The primary tools for my time with God are on my laptop. The Bible and an electronic journal program have helped me for many years. The problem is that four different e-mail accounts and several social media programs also conspire throughout the night to capture my attention first thing in the morning. The very simple discipline of keeping these completely off until I have enjoyed and finished my devotional time is a great help. I have even agreed with my friend to not pick up my phone until the spiritual work is finished as so many of these same programs scream from my HTC in the early hours.
Rehearse the Dangers of a Distracted Mind
A lot is at stake in these moments of personal spiritual renewal. By listing the price tag of distraction I have been able to strengthen my resolve and focus. Some of the dangers I have noted are:
- Losing spiritual vibrancy and perspective
- Not hearing from God
- Becoming malnourished by living on spiritual leftovers
- Experiencing emotional weariness and discouragement
- Becoming relationally lean and selfish
- Ministering from a shallow soul
- Lacking fresh insight and authenticity
- Diminishing Christ’s glory in my life
Embrace the Benefits of a Focused Soul
The flip side of this exercise is to focus on the positive outcomes of maintaining a focused and fruitful time with the Lord. Here are some I review each day:
- Experiencing spiritual, emotional, and relational well-being
- Having a positive and Christ-centered perspective
- Focusing on right priorities
- Reprogramming my mind and habits away from the addictions of technology
- Receiving strength for the day to honor Christ and serve others
- Living from the overflow of spiritual health
- Ministering from an authentic life
Surrender to the Spirit’s Self-Discipline
I have often defined self-discipline as “regulating one’s conduct by principle rather than emotion, impulse, or convenience.” The fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-discipline (Galatians 5:23) and the Bible tells us that God has given us a spirit of self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). In my weakness, I must surrender to the Spirit’s control and experience His holy and healthy discipline in my life, especially during these crucial moments of spiritual renewal.
Seek the Support of Others
The Bible tells us that we are foolish when we isolate ourselves (Proverbs 18:1). We are wise when we solicit the counsel and encouragement of others (Proverbs 15:22, 20:18; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 3:13). I don’t need to fight this battle alone and neither do you. Be honest about your struggle with a trusted friend, counselor, or coach. Seek the accountability you need until you have forged fresh habits of focus.
The devil does not have to destroy us. He simply has to distract us. Over time, he will dilute, discourage, and derail us in our walk with Christ and our fruitfulness in His service. So tomorrow when the rooster crows, focus and flourish – for the good of your soul, the enhancement of your relationships, the advancement of the Gospel, and the glory of Christ.
Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.