“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning…” – Luke 12:35
Over the years, I’ve listened to folks from the generations preceding mine, and one of my conclusions is that for many of them, there wasn’t much time to be distracted. Much of their lives were centered around ensuring the availability of the basic necessities to sustain relatively healthy and safe lives: shelter, food, clothing, and some mode of reliable transportation. For some, formal education beyond early childhood was a luxury because helping to provide for the family was a higher priority.
Chatting with their neighbors while picking up the mail at the post office or as those same neighbors passed the house while walking down the street or listening to an evening radio program or playing with a ball and stick in the yard before the sun sank below the horizon might have been more typical of the distractions engaged in by my parents and grandparents during their earlier years. More sophisticated distractions required a more luxurious life than they had.
Compared to those generations, we have a wealth of distractions available to us, some of which I confess I enjoy…nothing sinful, but distractions nonetheless. I can only guess how my grandmother would have reacted if I showed her selfies of my friends and family on Facebook and Instagram, or if someone walking down the street bumped into her because they had their face buried in their phone. Even as I write this, I’m fighting the urge to laugh at what I can nearly ‘hear’ her say.
Here are a few things available to many today that she and others from earlier generations would find astounding…and which multiply opportunities for us to be distracted:
- The size of some contemporary homes allowing a person significant privacy away from other family members
- Multiple bathroom households
- Multiple vehicle households
- Cell phones which do so much more than make and receive phone calls
- Purchasing online with home delivery of purchases
- Multiple TVs per home with one hundred+ show and movie options at any given time
I could go on, and perhaps there are some you think I should have listed.
There are times when we need to be distracted away from our obsessive behaviors or things that consume us so that we move points beyond the boundaries of physical or emotional health. Some distractions can help us regain needed balance. And some are just flat out fun, and we need that from time to time. But there are also those distractions that we may seek or to which we are susceptible, and which serve no good purpose.
2 Samuel 11:1 begins with “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David…” delegated his responsibilities to another, and was free to pursue a distraction. I assume you’re familiar with the rest of this story so I won’t detail it other than to stress that not all distractions are “profitable” in the language of Paul (1 Corinthians 6:12). Even distractions that are not, in themselves, inherently wrong may be wrong for us if engaging keeps us from that which is inherently superior, that is, whatever GOD wants from us or for us.
The lamps Jesus references in the passage above and in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25) were small vessels capable of carrying a small amount of oil. They needed continual attention and refilling to remain useful as vessels of light. Keeping them burning meant always having access to a supply of oil. Jesus reminds us in the previous chapter (Luke 11:13) that the “oil” (the Spirit of GOD) is available to those who earnestly desire Him. We need to seek Him; we need to seek Him to be baptized by Him in the fullness of GOD, and we need to seek Him to be filled with Him time and time again.
Am I preaching? Well, that’s what I am. What was true for 1st century believers is also true for us. Apart from this filling and refilling, we will be consumed by the subtle distractions that are so numerous that we don’t need to seek them out; they will seek us. Even the ones that we dismiss as harmless may cause us to be inattentive to the continual spiritual recharging we need.
In a scene from the movie GI Jane, Viggo Mortensen’s character, a Navy Seal Master Chief, confronted his Seal candidates just before a dangerous mission with a challenge framed as a question, “Who’s not ready?” Jesus is saying the same to us, and challenging us to be ready for Him, however and whenever He chooses to manifest Himself.
I want to be alert to whatever GOD says, wants or does. A good friend said it this way, “I want to fear missing out on what GOD wants to do more than I fear missing out on anything else.” I think this is a pretty good pathway of life.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2018. All rights reserved for text content.