I’m sure we’ve all experienced it and most of us have done it.
We have been trying to talk to someone when they were preoccupied with their phone or other device. Whether it was a clerk at a convenience store or a well-intended but foolishly distracted pastor, it’s frustrating to feel like someone at the other end of a mobile connection or internet site is more important than the people in the room.
It’s become an absolute epidemic of inattention. For some people I wonder if I wouldn’t be more effective at communicating with them only through their device since that seems to be a way to jump in line in front of anyone in their presence. Then again, maybe I’m the one…
Consider the counsel of this gentleman and his urging to be present…
You see, whether it is an unhealthy hanging on to the past or a problematic anticipation of the future, we can only really live here and now. We need to focus on who and what and where we ought to be here in the present.
The book of Hebrews, after urging us to let some things go and run the race of faith with endurance, gives the greatest advice for how we ought to run the race in verse 2 of chapter 12:
“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Such a simple phrase, “…looking to Jesus…” I don’t think we realize that the greatest thing we can give to God is probably our most precious commodity – our ATTENTION.
He says that to run the race well we must look to Him – lock our eyes upon Him, get our bearings from Him, pay attention to Him. And when we do – especially when we stop regularly and disconnect from everything else in order to really focus in upon Him and our relationship with Him – we begin to see all the other stuff of life in the proper perspective.
Let’s take that one important step closer. When we are genuinely fixed upon Him, we begin to see each other through His perspective instead of our own. We begin to see how to love one another. We begin to learn to love our neighbor as ourselves when we really begin to love The Lord our God with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strengths.
What God is calling me to be is simply this: PRESENT. Not distracted or preoccupied or sidetracked…present.
So tell me, what are the distractions that make it hard sometimes for you to see Him clearly?
I have done enough running to learn that what you wear and what you carry with you can make a huge difference in how you run. I have run enough to know that you don’t want over-sized, loose-fitting clothing. I will spare you the mental images that naturally come with an explanation of this matter, but do trust me.
That’s why it’s no surprise when I read Hebrews 12:1 these insightful words:
“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
The extra stuff – even if it’s not a lot – can get heavy. That’s incredibly true of an extra 40 or 50 pounds of excess weight. It gets old in a hurry.
The clothes you wear can be a help or a hindrance depending solely upon how they fit. It’s way to easy to get tangled up.
But the writer of Hebrews was not talking about running a physical race. He was talking about the spiritual journey of faith that is a long-distance run. It requires perseverance and endurance. It requires discipline and a great deal of faith.
He tells us that, in order to run the race well, we need to lay aside the extra weights that slow us down. We can think of that as the things that may not be wrong or bad necessarily, but just get in the way and slow down our running of the race. Sometimes good things can really crowd out the best and most important things.
But we’re also told to lay aside the sin that trips us up. We all have things in our lives that we know are not pleasing to God. We also know that they present an obstacle to our spiritual growth.
So, as we take a moment to look through our lives, what are the things that need to be laid aside? What are the weights that need to be dropped by the wayside – activities that get in the way of your walk with God, involvements or relationships, or anything else that is not wrong, just in the way?
What are the things that we know ought not be in our lives – ungodly habits or attitudes, inappropriate relationships, or other practices that need to be removed?
Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with a DELETE button. Though, as you begin to look at your life, this process may begin with deleting some apps or programs from your phone or computer or tablet. It may mean getting rid of a device or a TV channel or such. But I believe in the willingness of God to enable us by His Spirit to delete things that need to be deleted from our lives.
It’s like the story I heard of a wise father that noticed the bulging pockets of his little boy. The father asked about the contents and the boy said, as boys do, “I don’t know…just stuff.”
The father asked the boy to come to the table and empty the pockets. There were all kinds of things there stuffed into those little pockets. As the contents were brought to light, the father sorted them into two piles there on the table. Once his pockets were empty, the boy looked anxiously at his dad, wondering what was about to happen.
The father pushed one pile back over to the boy and said, “Here you go, son. You can keep these.” The other pile was placed in the trash. You see, the father could see the problems that the little boy could not. He could see complications that the little boy would never see coming.
I believe our Heavenly Father is inviting you and me to come and empty the pockets of our lives out before Him. He will gently affirm the things we need to keep. But He will insist that some things need to be deleted. He knows they’re just slowing us down or tripping us up as we run.