' Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord , my rock and my redeemer.' - Psalms 19:14
So what can be done? How can we battle the killer of our purpose and fight distraction with everything we’ve got?
This is a big, important topic and I can’t give you every strategy I’ve learned over the years. But I will provide you with three that have most helped me conquer my distractions and fast-track my pursuit of purpose.
1. Engage Your Decision Power
Time is fear’s favorite food. If you want to cut off your distractions at the knees, then don’t feed them by delaying the actions you know you need to take. Make firm, fast decisions. Vocalize your goals and commitments. Find ambitious Christians who can keep you accountable.
Your life is going to be difficult one way or the other. It can either be difficult because you’ve decided to do the hard, right things. Or it can be difficult because you’ve spent all your energy avoiding trouble and leaving the decisions up to others.
2. Cultivate Your Interest In God
Why was Jesus able to remain so focused? I think Hebrews 12:2 says it perfectly, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” Jesus wasn’t caught up in the current pain. He was focused on the future glory. He had a fundamentally different stance than we do. When we are struggling in some area in our lives, we usually hear the advice “just push through it.” When we “push” we are relying on our own strength and means.
Jesus never pushed, he was pulled.
The “joy set before him” was so strong, so clear in his mind, that it tied a rope around his waist and pulled him through the most terrible of circumstances. We need something to pull us. A joy that lies out in front of us, pulling us through every challenge and roadblock. All of this begins by getting into God’s Word.
We don’t need to create the joy, God already has one for us. He has an ultimate joy we will one day experience, AND a specific joy He has crafted for you to accomplish and experience on this Earth.
Cultivate it by reading what He says and believing the truths He says about you. Before long, the old distractions that used to pierce you will become like arrows bouncing off a metal shield.
3. Develop Proactive Habits
Reactive habits, like picking up the phone when it vibrates or waking up when the alarm rings, are necessary and enable us to function. But reactivity will never get us to where we truly want to be.
Proactive habits begin with the end in mind and work backward. If I want to make myself run before work, I would proactively lay out my clothes and shoes so that they were physically in my path.
If I wanted to read the Bible more consistently, I would print out a reading plan and place it in a visible location. If I wanted more time for prayer, I would schedule a block in my calendar and treat it like any other meeting.
Proactive habits don’t wait for the opportunity to make a good decision – they create an environment which makes the right choice easy.
In the end, distraction is a choice. So the question is: What will we do today to eliminate our distractions and make fulfilling our purpose inevitable?
Devotional:Purpose thrives on believing what’s possible, on dreaming up what can be, and by working passionately in the here and now.
Nowhere in that equation is there room for what was, what didn’t work, and what could have been.
Distraction #5: Our Past.
It was during my study of Joseph that I realized where we begin has no bearing on how far we can go. Yet, so many of us remain tied to the mistakes and pains of our past.
God wants your attention in the present. He wants you to “look straight ahead” because what He has for you is not behind you, but in front. History, especially personal history, has its role to play in our journeys. But often, we try to live in a place we should only visit.
Learn from your past and then keep going. That isn’t your home any longer.
What’s one action you can take today that will prove you are moving past your past?
Scriptures: Galatians 1:10
Distractions have a few different sources. Many of them grow out of desires and false beliefs we hold inside ourselves. Others come from outside—from the environments we’re in, the voices we listen to, and even the people we love.
This one might be difficult to work through, but it’s vital to understand so that it doesn’t knock you off track.
Distraction #4: What Others Want For Us.
Sometimes those closest to us, the ones we love and who know us best, aren’t the ones who will help us get to what’s next.
Paul says it so powerfully in Galatians 1:10, “Am I trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?”
You can almost hear the volume in his voice as we read this. What are we here for!? Whose opinion matters in the end? Let me answer this on his behalf: you are not here to be the person others think you should be. You are here to become the person God created you to be.
No apologies. No compromises.
In what area of your life have you allowed other voices to direct you more than your own?
Scriptures: Luke 10:38-42
Devotional:Christians falsely believe that every distraction they must battle will be a negative one. Some destructive opportunity or habit that clearly pulls them away from their spiritual walk.
But this just isn’t the case. It’s important to know that positive things can often be just as detrimental to our purpose as negative ones.
Distraction #3: Our Service To God.
"Christians need to internalize this truth: Good is the enemy of great. - Jim Collins"
In Luke 10, we see Martha doing a good thing: preparing the dinner for Jesus and his disciples. We catch her in the middle of serving, fulfilling her duty. And yet, she is the one Jesus corrects. It’s so easy for us to get distracted by the good things we are doing for God that we forget to actually be with God.
Jesus says in Luke 10:42, “but few things are needed – indeed only one [and] Mary has chosen what is better.” When we confine ourselves to doing good things for God, we cut ourselves off from the great things He has for us.
What great thing do you feel God has put on your heart to accomplish? And what good thing might you have to eliminate in order to reach it?
Scriptures: Matthew 14:28-31
Devotional:Purpose requires progress while fear freezes those who participate it in. This second distraction may seem overwhelmingly large, but once you take action – you’ll see how hard it falls.
Distraction #2: What Scares Us.
In Matthew 14 we read the story of Peter walking towards Jesus on the water. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful and most heart-breaking examples of distraction. Peter challenged his own faith by asking Jesus to call him onto the water. He stepped out, but after a few steps in he began to sink.
Why is that? Because Peter started to pay attention to the how of his calling over the who. He looked at the water, the task, instead of the One who was calling Him. When we take our eyes off the One who calls, we let fear sink our progress.
Today, read this short story and ask yourself: What’s keeping me from stepping out of the boat?
From what I know about the heroes of Scripture, your ability to overcome distraction will be the number one determinant of how successful you are on your path to purpose.
David was distracted by pleasure. Abraham was distracted by fear. Paul was distracted by pain. We give our distractions all sorts of names, but at the end of the day, distraction is anything that pulls our attention away from God. And it can come in many forms.
The first distraction we must face is an all too common one. But thankfully, one which God has spoken about extensively.
Distraction #1: The Worries of Life.
Don’t let the life you have distract you from the life you want.
All of us have way too much on our plates: work commitments, family duties, church volunteering – and the list goes on and on. But that’s not an excuse God will accept.
In the New Testament, we see Jesus continually going off by himself, making room in his life and schedule to just be with His Father and keep His eyes on the task at hand.
Don’t let the urgent crowd out the important.
Read today’s verses and ask yourself this question: What am I prioritizing that is causing me to worry?
Devotional:In my third year of college, I had the opportunity to help lead and organize a game for an event called Junior Jam. To help you understand the scale of this event: approximately 800-1000 kids (ages 8-12) would all descend upon the college campus for a 12-hour day full of activities. Hundreds of churches, leaders, and students would organize the day. There would be food, speakers, a concert, and the main attraction: 4-6 “games” that tied in with that year’s theme.
That year, our theme was purity. Our theme song was “Be careful little eyes what you see.” Each game station took a specific body part and formed an activity around it. There were the eyes, the hands (be careful what you do), the feet (be careful where you go), and the ears (be careful what you hear). We were in charge of the ears.
Our game was simple, and (in my opinion) kind of brilliant. Let me explain how it worked.
The large group of 200 kids was divided into their section leaders (usually 1-2 leaders per 8-10 kids). These kids would have already spent a few hours with their leader so they would have gotten to know them and, hopefully, recognize their voice.
We separated the students from the leaders by placing all of the students in a giant circle in the middle of the gym and placing the leaders in smaller circles around them (each about 20 feet away). Two-hundred kids in the middle, 20 leaders surrounding them.
Before we separated them, we gave each leader a recognizable sound (a roar, a horn, a word, etc.) and had them share it with their group. The task of the game was for the students to listen for their leader’s sound and make their way over to them. The brilliant part, and where the real fun came in, was that all of the leaders would make their sounds simultaneously while all of the kids were blindfolded. The first leader to have all his/her kids reach them won the game.
As you can imagine, the scene was absolute chaos! But even more impressive was that it worked. A number of teams found their leader. And the kids had a very concrete example of what you're going to learn about through this series.
What those kids faced is similar to what we face every day on our journeys of faith and purpose. We get bombarded with conflicting messages, driving us in all sorts of directions, while feeling as if we are blindfolded along the way.
This thing kills our purpose more often than fear and doubt and laziness combined. What these kids fought to find their direction is what we must fight to find ours as well: distraction.
What do we have to do?
The New Testament makes it clear that we have to do something to accept the gift that God offers. This is an act of faith. John writes that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).
Believing involves an act of faith, based on all that we know about Jesus. It is not blind faith. It is putting our trust in a Person. In some ways, it is like the step of faith taken by a bride or a bridegroom when they say, ‘I will’ on their wedding day.
The way people take this step of faith varies enormously, but I want to describe one way in which you can take this step of faith right now. It can be summarised by three very simple words:
You have to ask God to forgive you for all the things you have done wrong and turn from everything which you know is wrong in your life. This is what the Bible means by ‘repentance.’
We believe that Jesus died for us on the cross. You need to thank him for dying for you and for the offer of his free gift of forgiveness, freedom and his Spirit.
God never forces his way into our lives. You need to accept his gift and invite him to come and live within you by his Spirit.
If you would like to have a relationship with God and you are ready to say these three things, then here is a very simple prayer which you can pray and which will be the start of that relationship:
Lord Jesus Christ,
I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life (take a few moments to ask his forgiveness for anything particular that is on your conscience). Please forgive me. I now turn from everything which I know is wrong.
Thank you that you died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free.
Thank you that you offer me forgiveness and the gift of your Spirit. I now receive that gift.
Please come into my life by your Holy Spirit to be with me forever.
Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Freedom for what?
Jesus is no longer physically on earth, but he has not left us alone. He sent his Holy Spirit to be with us. When his Spirit comes to live within us, he gives us a new freedom.
Freedom to know God
The things which we do wrong cause a barrier between us and God: ‘your iniquities have separated you from your God’ (Isaiah 59:2). When Jesus died on the cross, he removed the barrier that existed between us and God. As a result, he has made it possible for us to have a relationship with our Creator. We become his sons and daughters. The Spirit assures us of this relationship, and he helps us to get to know God better. He helps us to pray and to understand God’s word (the Bible).
Freedom to love
‘We love because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). As we look at the cross, we understand God’s love for us. When the Spirit of God comes to live within us, we experience that love. As we do so, we receive a new love for God and for other people. We are set free to live a life of love—a life centred around loving and serving Jesus and loving and serving other people rather than a life centred around ourselves.
Freedom to change
People sometimes say, ‘You are what you are. You can’t change.’ The good news is that with the help of the Spirit, we can change. The Holy Spirit gives us the freedom to live the sort of lives that deep down we have always wanted to live. St. Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (Galatians 5:22-23). When we ask the Spirit of God to come and live within us, these wonderful characteristics begin to grow in our lives.
Freedom from what?
Jesus paid, by his blood on the cross, the ransom price to set us free.
Freedom from guilt
Whether we feel guilty or not, we are all guilty before God because of the many times we have broken his laws in thought, word and deed. Just as when someone commits a crime there is a penalty to be paid, in the same way there is a penalty for breaking God’s law. ‘The wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23).
The result of the things we do wrong is spiritual death—being cut off from God eternally. We all deserve to suffer that penalty. On the cross, Jesus took the penalty in our place so that we could be totally forgiven and our guilt could be taken away.
Freedom from addiction
Jesus said that ‘everyone who sins is a slave to sin’ (John 8:34). Jesus died to set us free from that slavery. On the cross, the power of this addiction was broken. Although we may still fall from time to time, the power of this addiction is broken when Jesus sets us free.
Freedom from fear
Jesus came so that ‘by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death’ (Hebrews 2:14-15). We need no longer fear death.
Death is not the end for those whom Jesus has set free. Rather it is the gateway to heaven, where we will be free from even the presence of sin. When Jesus set us free from the fear of death, he also set us free from all other fears.