Are Distractions Hindering Your Walk With God?
By Col. Scott McChrystal, Battle Ready Ministries Board Advisor
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Can you imagine yourself as a security guard choosing to invite hostile invaders into the very space you’ve been assigned to protect—a bank, corporate headquarters, hospital, military installation, or research lab? Wouldn’t make any sense, would it? That decision could cost you failure in your mission, loss of your job, or even serious injury or death for you or others.
Distractions can be hostile invaders, but too often in today’s hectic lifestyle, distractions are viewed as petty annoyances, harmless little ankle-biters, or even good material for casual conversation. After all, everyone gets distracted. What’s the big deal?
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The Power of Distractions
Truth be told, I continue to struggle with distractions myself. Too often, I have come to the end of a day and felt as though I haven’t accomplished much. It’s not that I failed to expend the necessary energy or lacked motivation. Rather, I had allowed distractions to get in the way of doing what I knew the Lord wanted me to do.
Perhaps you can identify. You know the Lord has given you some important tasks and goals to accomplish, but you realize you’re not making much headway. Those distractions are robbing you of peace, fulfillment, joy, and purpose in daily life.
Some distractions are lethal. As an infantry platoon leader in Vietnam, I once authorized six of my soldiers to be flown by helicopter from our firebase to the rear area to get showers and have a few hours of down time. Somehow, the pilot became distracted as the chopper left the helipad. He banked too sharply before gaining enough altitude to clear the rice paddies situated on higher ground. The helicopter’s main rotor struck the ground. The aircraft tumbled about 500 yards, killing the pilot and co-pilot instantly. My soldiers did not have seatbelts and were tossed from the aircraft before that tumble. Miraculously, none of them were seriously injured. I will always remember that tragedy as totally preventable.
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Distractions can also affect our spiritual lives. Untold numbers of people, Christians included, go through life controlled by distractions—texts, emails, meetings, phone calls, errands, and surfing the internet. They bounce frantically from one activity to the next. Their goals and priorities take a backseat to an artificial tyranny of the urgent. Everything seems important. Ironically, they find enough time for distractions, but not enough time to restore their life’s equilibrium with a few minutes reading God’s Word and praying.
Does any of the above ring true for you? Are you tired of allowing distractions to rule your life? From personal experience, I can assure you that the Lord can help you get back on the right path. But it will take consistent focus.
Spiritual Focus: The Antidote for Distractions
When I am focused on the Lord as my top priority, I quickly discover the rest of my life goes much better. Maintaining balance in all areas—family, work, health, finances, leisure time, etc., happens more easily. Distractions will always be a challenge, but focusing on the Lord first will help the rest of your life to fall into place.
Scripture has much to say about focus, especially the importance of keeping your relationship with God at the top of your priority list. Below are some steps you can take to regain your spiritual focus while simultaneously limiting the disruptive impact of distractions.
1. Seek God first.
Jesus knows that our natural inclination is to chase after all kinds of things that relate to daily living. Jesus’ own words in Matthew 6:31-34 (NIV) provide clear guidance.
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“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Notice that Jesus doesn’t minimize the needs we have for daily living. But He urges us to seek God first. Fundamentally, you start in that direction by reading God’s Word daily and doing what it says.
2. Take inventory of your life.
Romans 12:1,2 provides wonderful guidance for doing this.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Are you really committed to living your life for the Lord? Do your daily activities reflect this, or do you find yourself conforming to the patterns of this world? As you pray daily, read God’s Word, and follow God’s guidance, the Holy Spirit will renew your mind and show you changes that you need to make. This won’t happen all at once, so be patient with yourself.
3. Pray and ask God to show you the disruptions that are hindering your walk with God.
God often identifies areas in our lives that may not be outright sin, but they still limit our effectiveness toward accomplishing His will. Hebrews 12:1,2 says this:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
The list of things that might hinder one’s Christian walk will differ from one believer to the next. Watching too much TV may be a problem for some, but not for others. Ask the Lord to be specific in identifying the hindrances in your life. He will faithfully answer that prayer, and you can begin to make changes. Again, be patient with yourself and rely on His help from day to day.
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4. Put on the whole armor of God—and pray!
God has provided the spiritual armor we need to be victorious against the schemes of the devil. Read Ephesians 6:10-20. Below are excerpts from that passage that exhort us to wear all our spiritual armor and stand strong. But notice how Paul ends this passage; he emphasizes the need to pray.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.… And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
Satan will use any ploy he can to take your focus off the Lord and what He wants you to do. One of his most effective strategies is to use distractions. When we take the bait and allow the devil to distract us, our joy, peace, and sense of purpose inevitably erode. Don’t let Satan get a foothold in your life. Read, study, and practice using all the spiritual armor the Lord provides. Above all, keep on praying. God will honor your prayers. You will experience the difference.
God is gracious, merciful, and loving. As you determine to get right spiritually with Him, He will respond. Seek Him with your whole heart, and the Lord will set you back on the right path. He’ll help you identify and eliminate distractions and restore the joy, peace, and fulfillment that comes with serving Him.
Chaplain (Col.) Scott McChrystal, Ret.
Chaplain (Col.) Scott McChrystal was commissioned in 1970 and served 31 years on active duty, 10 as an infantry officer and the remainder as a United States Army chaplain. His line officer experience included a tour in Vietnam as an Infantry Platoon Leader and three assignments with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
His final assignment was as the senior chaplain at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
He retired from active duty in 2005 and served as the Military/VA Representative and Endorser within the Chaplaincy Department for the General Council of the Assemblies of God from 2005-2019.
His decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Award, the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, and the Army Ranger Tab. His education includes a Master of Business Administration Degree, a Master of Divinity Degree, a Doctor of Ministry Degree, and graduation from The United States Army War College.
In recent years, he and his wife have written several Christian devotionals. In addition, Scott co-authored a Christian action-novel and served as the managing editor for the The Warrior’s Bible, an application Bible for the military community.
He presently serves as the Executive Liaison for The Warrior’s Journey, a non-profit organization that supports the military community.
He’s also a member of the Distinguished Advisory Board for Battle Ready Ministries. He and his wife, Judy, live in Springfield, Missouri, and have 4 children and 12 grandchildren.
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