February 3, 2009
One particular Sunday as I finished preaching at a wonderful church in Virginia, the senior pastor came to the pulpit to share his personal response to the message. He noted his ongoing battle with distraction in the ministry, citing it as a primary ploy of the devil in making Christian leaders ineffective. He described Satan's effort as being "Weapons of Mass Distraction." I’ve been pondering that statement, and I've concluded that the enemy does not have to destroy us, but simply distract us.
Little distractions tolerated over a long period of time result in big disasters.
Twice in my ministry as a pastor, I have come to a mega-church in the wake of scandalous moral failure by my predecessor. The mass destruction is beyond imagination to the casual observer. But for the clean-up man who arrives next, the fallout is heartbreaking and long-lasting. Each of these disasters started with little distractions in the heart of good men. Fueled over time, the distractions led to spiritual disabilities. Eventually, those distractions became decisions that brought shame and reproach to the name of Christ.
Yet, some of the most dangerous distractions are the "good" ones. They are tolerable, but they eventually ruin our trajectory in the journey of honoring Christ with a well-lived life. It is said so often that we almost become numb to its truth: "The good is usually the greatest enemy of the best."
I tell people often, "The power of 'no' is in a stronger 'yes'." The ability to discard distractions is rooted in a firm understanding of the best priorities. We must embrace these priorities with a passionate "yes" in our heart of hearts. When distractions come, "no" becomes a positive Christian word, because it is rooted in strong convictions about the best and highest commitments. I hold high my own conviction to help current and future leaders identify biblical priorities and then equip them to become confident and competent in implementing those priorities.
These priorities are salient in the Scriptures. The familiar story of Martha and Mary comes to mind. Busy and distracted, Martha became frustrated and critical in the moment. Her sister Mary embraced a clear "yes" as she prioritized seeking Christ over serving Christ. Jesus commended her for her focus as being the "best" choice and the one that would ultimately matter in eternity (Luke 10:38-42).
I often preach on Acts 6:1-7. The early apostles refused to get distracted with the broken program for feeding the widows. They directed a process of finding qualified and godly servants to solve the problem, but they would not compromise their own commitment to "prayer and the ministry of the word." The result was that God blessed their focus with a powerful unleashing of His power. The word of God spread, the disciples multiplied greatly, and great numbers of hard-liner Jewish priests were miraculously converted. There was no such mass distraction among them.
Perhaps an even more powerful and clear reiteration of this principle is found in Exodus 18. Moses was overwhelmed and weary from judging the people. His astute father-in-law offered him some life-saving wisdom:
"So Moses' father-in-law said to him, "The thing that you do is not good. Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will also go to their place in peace" (Exodus 18:17-23).
Jethro charged Moses with three essential priorities: pray (v. 19), teach the Word (v. 20), and delegate important responsibilities to other leaders (vv. 21-22).
It is clear that this is a simple but profound defense against the devil's weapons of mass distraction. Yes! Yes! Yes! My friend, join me in asking God to deliver us from the ploy of the enemy to distract, discourage, disable, and destroy our lives and ministries. The power of a focused life is like a laser-powered defense system against any weapon that is formed against us by the "master of distraction."