Devotion and Distraction

We live in a time and a culture of distraction. This is so much the case that there are now signs on the highways reminding drivers to avoid driving while distracted. This usually refers to texting on cell phones, but they could add eating a burrito, changing your clothes, applying mascara, disciplining your kids in the back seat, completing your tax return, etc.

It seems to me that some people want to be distracted. They might say that they find their lives very stressful and rushed, and would like to be able to relax and focus on only one thing at a time. But if they were to be completely honest about it, they might admit to being scared to death of what thoughts would occupy their minds if they allowed themselves to become very still and listen.

Life as a disciple of Jesus should be different. It requires a measure of devotion that surpasses that which we give to any other pursuit. I’ve found that the distracted, busy mind is the enemy of this kind of devotional life.

In the famous account of Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha, we witness Martha busily preparing a meal. She loved Jesus and wanted to be a good hostess. What was wrong with that?  I would want to cook a meal for Jesus too, and watch him enjoy it. This was Martha’s ministry. But the problem was that she became “distracted with much serving” (Lk 10:41, KJV). This led to resentment toward her sister, who sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to his every word. Jesus commended Mary for her choice, because it was a choice of devotion, not distraction. There was nothing happening for Mary that evening but being in love with her Lord. It eclipsed every other concern.

The Apostle Paul makes a very important point about devotion and distraction in his exposition about singleness and marriage in the kingdom of God. The married person, he asserts, is perfectly entitled to be married, but cannot devote the same attention to ministry of the Word as his or her single counterpart. Married people, he says, are concerned about the affairs of this world” and how they can please their spouses, and their “interests are divided.” But the unmarried are “concerned about the Lord’s affairs,” pleasing Him, being “devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.” Paul brings no condemnation, but clarifies that whether married or single, the aim as a Christ follower is to “live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor 7:32-35).

“Undivided devotion to the Lord.” That seems like a pretty tall order these days, doesn’t it? But the Holy Spirit doesn’t ask us to do things that are impossible to do. We have the God-given grace to press into his rest and to give him our full attention, even with the other demands of our lives. We can be undivided, un-distracted, devoted. Like Mary, we can choose the “one thing that is needed,” wholehearted, abiding fellowship with our beautiful Jesus.

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