Craig Groeschel - Letting Go of Distractions
Whoa! Sorry about that. That video was shorter this week. Was that shorter? That's like distinctly shorter. Did you notice that? Everybody say, he got distracted. Maybe. Maybe I'm just messing with you. Maybe today we're in a message here, it's called Traveling Light. And last week we talked about giving up the stuff that hold us back. Maybe today we're gonna talk about letting go of distractions. See what I did there? Didn't work, did it? Didn't work, did it? We were talking about letting go, last week, of the stuff that holds us back.
Today what I wanna do is talk about letting go of the mental clutter. In fact it's really, really hard often to focus. How many of you have noticed that it's hard to focus? It's hard to focus sometimes on my message. Is that true? Do not raise your hand. Do not raise your hand about this point. It's easy to let your mind wander where we're gonna eat later on, why is that person knocking funny over there? I don't like this outfit that guy is wearing. It's so easy to let your mind wander. It's hard to focus. It's hard for me to focus when I'm looking in all of you. You have no idea how distracting you are when you're talking to people, when you're eating chips, when the baby's crying, when there's four people sleeping in the middle of my message. If you ever wonder why I get loud sometimes, I'm trying to wake up the poor guy that had the night shift last night and he's sound asleep. It's a fight to focus. Somebody say it's a fight to focus. But it is absolutely and completely worth the fight.
Today I wanna talk about letting go of the distractions that can destroy you. I looked up the root word for distraction. It actually is derived from a Latin word that was formed in the 1590s, and this word means a pulling apart. It means a separating. It means a drawing of the mind in different directions. A pulling apart. Do you realize that your spiritual enemy and every force of hell is trying to distract you from living for the things that matter most? Our enemy. Every demonic force wants to pull apart, divide your mind, discourage your soul, disengage your faith, distract you from the things that matter most. In fact I've often told my kids that devil doesn't need to destroy you if he can distract you. If he can distract you, eventually, he'll neutralize you or worse you'll end up destroying yourself. Letting go of the distractions that destroy.
I wanna set the tone for this message today with to me a very powerful story that shows the love of Jesus and His encouragement to stay focused on what matters most is found on Luke's Gospel. Luke 10, starting in verse 38, it's about two sisters hosting Jesus that what appears to be some sort of a dinner party. Verse 38 says this, as Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what He said, but Martha was what? Let's all say this loud all over church, that Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She was distracted. I don't blame her. If Jesus is in my house, my anxiety is high. I want everything to be just right. I can imagine she's like taking the casserole out and she's trying to get the cobbler in. She's trying to make sure that the candle is still burning, the toilet paper matches the shower curtain or whatever.
I don't know what matters. That He still has refills on His tea. She's up and to wanting to be a great host. I don't blame her one bit at all. She's distracted by all the preparations that needs to be made. Martha comes to Jesus and says, Lord, don't you care that my lazy no good sister... You all have one like that. Every family has one. If you say our family doesn't have that lazy person, every family has one, meaning it might be you. They never bring anything to the meal except for Tupperware and they take everything home. This is Mary, she's just sittin' there at the Lord's feet enjoying while Martha is getting all the work done. Martha gets a bad rap.
I wanna thank God for people like Martha. It's because of people like Martha that you eat, right? That your bills are paid, that you got Christmas presents to unwrap. If Mary was running the world, you'd be starving to death in a cold home with no heat and no Christmas presents. Martha sometimes gets a bad rap. She came to Him, said, Lord, don't you care that my sister Mary's left me do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me out. Then verse 41, we see a very unusual expression of love by Jesus. Watch how Jesus loves Martha in the very same way that some of you need to receive the love of Jesus. He says, Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, you're worried and upset about many things. Another version says, you're worried and distracted by so many things, but few things are needed. He could have said, but few things are important. But few things really, really matter most or indeed only one. And then with love, Jesus looks at Martha and says, Mary has chosen what is better. It will not be taken away from her.
Martha, Martha, you got a good heart. You got good intentions but you're distracted. Everybody say distracted. My phone just dinged, I just got an email. Oh, there's another ad and somebody just posted a cat video, and oh, I've gotta check my social media feed to see if I got a comment on that picture I've put up with a perfect hashtag and just the right filter. And oh my gosh, we gotta do a Christmas shopping. And our kids had to be at soccer, and another kid has to be at dance, and somehow we gotta get food into them. We better drive through a drive through or at least look for a french fry underneath the seat. Maybe we can feed them that. We got so many places to go, so many things to do. Oh, there's another cat post. Oh, and there's another this, and oh, there's that and what are they gonna think? And do my shoes work? And do I fit in? Am I gonna be popular enough? Am I living the right way? And do I have enough stuff? Because if I have more stuff I'd be happy. What are they gonna think? Where am I gonna go?
She was distracted. Martha, Martha, you're distracted and upset about so many things but only a few things really matter, really lasts, really are important. Mary has chosen what is better. What's interesting to me is that Martha wasn't doing something bad or wrong. Do you see that? She wasn't doing something bad or wrong. She was doing something good, but she wasn't doing what was best. We have to recognize that so often the most difficult choices aren't between good and bad but between good and best. If your enemy can't make you bad, he'll distract you away from using your life to the things that honor God and make an eternal difference. How do we, with the help of God, choose what's best? Every demonic force in hell wants to distract you from what matters and what lasts. How do we allow God to help us choose what's best? Let me give you three thoughts today and we're gonna let Scripture speak to us in a way that it hopefully really moves your heart.
The first thing I'm working on doing is that I wanna diminish the distractions. I want to distance myself from that which would tempt me to be distracted. In fact I love the directness of the Apostle Paul. He was actually talking about relationships and marriage. But I want you to look at 1 Corinthians 7:35 perhaps in a slightly different context. He says this. He said, I'm giving you this advice and I'm saying this for your benefit not to place restrictions on you. In other words, I'm not telling you this is the legalistic thing you have to do. He says, I want you to do what ever will help you serve the Lord best. I don't want you just to accept average or mundane or normal, but I want you to do what helps you serve the Lord the best with as few of distractions as possible. Every force in hell wants to distract you from that which matters most. I want you focused on the things that you really have within you that help you serve God the best.
What is one of the most common distractions today does not necessarily a bad thing but is certainly maybe not the best thing? I would argue as part of the Trinity, there is the Father, Son, and the mobile phone. This little device, although it does so much good, is something that's been around for less than two decades for literally thousands upon thousands upon thousands upon thousands upon thousands upon thousands of years mankind has managed to survive without it, and yet many of you get anxiety if you're this far away from it for more than five minutes. Don't touch that! That's my phone. In fact the average person today cannot go 10 minutes without checking this device. 10 minutes. If you wonder why you're not as productive, excuse me for a second, you're not as productive as you'd like to be, if you wonder why your relationships are not as intimate as you know they would be, if you wonder why you're not as close to God as you'd like to be, could it be that you cannot do anything meaningful when you're interrupted every 10 minutes to stare at a little device?
Since you're so quiet, I think I'll stay here for a few minutes longer. Let's talk social media. I enjoy social media. The average person spends more than two hours a day on social media. Two hours a day on social media. Two hours a day. If you are younger and you spend two hours a day, you will spend, are you ready for this? Over seven years of your life. Seven years of your pathetic life scrolling, tapping, scrolling, tapping! Whoa! Somebody just commented a heart face emoji. Seven years! Seven years! Feeling left out less than and wondering why Shane doesn't comment on my photo ever. I always comment on hers. Seven years. Not bad. Not the best where you use your time. I tried to tell myself this, that my life is too valuable, my calling too great, and my God too good to waste my life distracted by things that do not matter. I hope you feel it. I hope you internalize it.
Listen to me. Your life is too valuable. God created you. He gave you passion. He gave you gifts. He gave you callings. He pushed you at this time in history, because in this time in history you can best glorify Him. He is too good for you to waste your life. Not a bad thing. Martha, Martha, you're so worried, upset about so many things, but only few things really matter. Whenever Apple came out with the little thing that tells you how much you spend on this week, dear God, I had to repent. No, I literally looked at that and go, I've spent that much time? And the amount of time I spent is like significantly way less than average. But just because I'm better than average doesn't mean it lives up to my standards of what I wanna use my God-given days to do on this earth.
So what am I trying to do? Try to diminish the distractions. In other words, I want to leave this far away. If I can't handle it, I'm gonna put it away so I can be connected and intimately involved with the people that are in front of me because they matter so much more than a photo on a screen. Diminish the distractions. Thank you. What I wanna do is I wanna treat whatever could distract me, I wanna treat it like temptation to sin. So for me I'm gonna distance myself as far as I can from anything that's tempting. I like what Solomon says about the immoral woman. He says this, let me share what he doesn't say. He doesn't say invite her out for a drink. Hey, let's just go get a little drink. Hey, let's just get in the backseat of my car, we're just gonna play truth or dare and then pray a little bit together, sister. He doesn't say that. Does he?
Here's what he says. He says, stay away from her. Everybody say stay away. He says don't go near the door of her house. Don't get close to that which could destroy you. I wanna treat distractions the same way I treat temptation. I wanna distance myself from anything that would distract me from that which matters most. I'm going to stay away from it. Some of you it might be what I do with my phone. During study time, I give it to my assistant because I'm still too, like, ding. Is there a text I can't afford to miss even though I haven't had one in the last 17 years, I couldn't afford to, it could be the one! So I leave it to my assistant and say if it's family, come get me, if it's anything else, don't get me because I'm gonna distance myself from it. Some of you, you need to just get some little noise cancellation features because you work with some people who have the spiritual gift of loud. That's what they are. Silence that stuff out so you could focus.
Some of you, you need to delete distracting apps. Social media, if it's an idol to you, if you can't go without checking it, maybe, you know what, it's been seven years of your life doing that. For some of you, it might be Fortnite. You can still do the dance all you want, whatever it is, but you don't wanna waste your life doing things. It might be that you turn off notifications, ding, ding, bing, bing, your email, email. All those kind of stuff. Some of you, it might be people. There might be people that are distracting you. And by all means as followers of Christ we want to love all people, we're gonna be friend to all people, but in our inner circle those we spend the most time with, we want them to be people that are sharpening us, that are leading each other to serve Jesus more effectively.
Do not be deceived, Scripture says. Bad behavior, bad friends corrupt good characters. Walk with the wise and you become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. If four out of five of your friends are fools, you're a fool, too. You're a fool for being with them. You cannot live the right life when you always have the wrong friends. Some of you, you are dating a distraction. I just made a bunch of boyfriends mad right now. Listen to me. If he is distracting you from serving Jesus and leading you into sin and not treating you with respect and honor, press Delete on that boyfriend, let God upgrade him, okay? Same goes for a girl. You got some girl that's like all end up into stuff that's not pleasing to God. If there is anything that is consistently distracting, what I wanna do is I wanna distance myself from that which distracts people from God. It's fight to focus. Somebody say it's a fight. It's worth the fight. I'm gonna diminish the distractions.
The second thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna ask God to give me the power to focus on what's important. Focus on what's important. I love the words of Solomon in Proverbs 4. He says this. He says, set your gaze on the path before you. Then I love this phrase, he says, with fixed purpose. Somebody say fixed purpose. With fixed purpose looking straight ahead, ignore life's distractions. I'm setting my gaze ahead. The author to the Hebrews said this, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith. With fixed gaze we look ahead. With fixed purpose, we walk a straight path. In fact I learned this lesson years ago trying to slack rope. If you don't know what slack roping is, neither did I. If you know what a tight rope is, a tight rope is a tight rope; a slack rope is a rope that's not tight, it's got slack in it.
And so I was in Colorado and these guys were doing it, and I said, hey, can I do it? And they said, you could try but no, you won't be able to do it. I said, you have no idea of God's spiritual ninja balance skills. Just give me a shot. They laughed and they laughed harder when I tried. I got up on this thing and there's a tree where the rope is and it goes to this other tree, and it's like. And so I got up on the tree, I'm like. And I took one step, one step and when I did I was looking down and soon enough this rope went womp at this and it kinda cocked like pulling back a bow and arrow, and I was the arrow. Not only did gravity pull me down but this thing propelled me at 720 miles an hour toward the ground. And when I hit the ground, there was a thud. I thought I cracked a rib. I couldn't breathe. They're saying, dude, are you all right? I'm like, fine. Did-didn't hurt a bit. And they're like, you did what everybody does. Everybody gets up there and they look down, they look around. The only way you get across, they said, is to fix your eyes on a spot on the other side. With fixed purpose.
Peter learned this whenever Jesus walked up on water. They're in the middle of the boat, Peter looks out and he goes, yo! Jesus, is that you walkin' on water? Jesus all holy like goes, it is I. Peter's like, I wanna come out there with You. Peter gets himself out of the boat, he's lookin' at Jesus and what does he do? Guys, walking on water. With fixed purpose he sees Jesus. Step by step, his eyes were on Jesus. His eyes are focused on the prize. It's only when he looks away, looks at the wind, looks at the waves that he starts to sink. Some of you are sinking. You always feel overwhelmed. You always feel behind. You always feel less than. You always believe there's something more. Why is it that you're sinking all the time? Could it be that you're looking at the wind and the waves? You're looking at them and you're looking at this, you're looking at that instead of living with fixed purpose with your eyes focused on Jesus.
The only way that we can truly serve God is when we seek Him first. What does Scripture say? Matthew 6:33, we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Seek first, first, first, first, first. That's why the first thing of the day is not Instagram, the first thing of the day is Jesus. Jesus, I align my heart with you. Jesus, would you give me the words to say today. Jesus, would Your word transform my heart that I may please You. Seek first of the day we seek Jesus. First of the week, what do we do? We gather together in the house of God just like you are today. We gather together with other people. We worship God together. We hear God's word. We are aligning our week to seek God first. Anytime God blesses us with any kind of increase, what do we do? We put Him first. We acknowledge that all comes from Him. We worship Him with the tithe. We put Him first. First of the year, what do I do? I set aside time to fast.
God, this year is Your year so therefore I deny myself physical nutrition that you may fill me with spiritual strength. First I seek You. Eyes focused on Jesus. You never wander into righteousness. You never stumble into effectiveness. You never fall into bringing glory to God. How do you do it? With fixed purpose. My eyes are focused on the prize step by step. I'm not being distracted by the things of this world. I've got my eyes focused on Jesus. Fix your mind on what matters most. It doesn't happen accidentally. I'll show you something that I've been working on. Because what appears to be a strength of my life and is at times can actually be a great weakness. I produce, I can be efficient with time. I get a lot done. I can drive people, inspire them, but oftentimes I do it at a cost both to me and to the people around me. So what I've done is I've created four different win buckets. That's what I call 'em, W-I-N.
And these are some buckets that remind me of a few things that are important, that often get left aside. I did this a few weeks ago and I want to just show it to you. This is actually making a real difference in my life. What I do is I got this little win buckets that remind me of things that are important. And when I do something that fits into one of the buckets, I put a penny in it which is just an indication of hey, you actually won in an area that you often overlook. One of them is irrational generosity. I love to be strategically generous but it's rare that I'm just like spontaneously generous. I've worked a long time to be financially strong, why in the world would I not take far more opportunities to be irrationally generous? Hey, we're in a grocery store. I see that family obsessing about prices. Hey, let's just buy the groceries. Don't even know this must be a blessing to them.
Hey, it's the end of the year. God has blessed us massively. Let's give the biggest end of year offering we've ever given. I see a person who's waiting on me at the table. We can tell this person's a student. Let's give them an irrationally large tip. What do we just do? We just had a win, and guess what? I'm defining. This is important and this is a way of symbolizing, reminding me this really matters. Moment of spontaneity. If you would not believe how boring and predictable my life is. Spontaneity to me is the S word, okay? Living on the wild side for me, when I get crazy, I put four extra blueberries in my oatmeal in the morning. That's living on the edge for me. I eat the same thing 365 days a year for breakfast. I have three meals I chose from at lunch. You can set your clock by me. I work certain days. I leave at a certain time. I'm very, very predictable. Moment of spontaneity. I'm gonna break through routine and invest in some relationships. For me people over production. People over production.
A few weeks ago, it was 2:30 on a Thursday, I looked it up, the movie we wanted to see played at 3:30 which is earlier than I ever leave. Amy, drop everything, we're going to the movie. First time in probably 15 years. I've just broke through routine. A very close friend of mine, a pastor friend, we've got no time together. We needed time to encourage one another. I canceled a schedule, erased everything on my calendar. I haven't done this in probably ever. Hopped a flight and spent a day, a moment of spontaneity. This is a win for me. People over production. Another thing for me is meaningful conversations especially in the office time. I hope I'm not rude but I am focused. I always joke with my staff, like, you guys talk to each other and you walk so slow. And you have meals together and weird stuff like that because on production, produce, produce, produce.
And so what I'm doing now is I'm just stopping. I did between services. One of the band members needed to talk, I said stop, let's just pray together a for little while. We were out to dinner on a date night two nights ago and we met Addison and her fiance, Mark. They both came to Christ on the same week. And we put the food aside and we talked for a long time. And Addison and Mark are getting married on January the 6th but they're not going on a honeymoon until March because it's spring break for them. And we know all the details about their life and there were tears and there is a prayer, and the food got cold, and it was one of the most meaningful moments that we had because we've stopped everything, and we had a very meaningful conversation.
For me resting can be difficult. When I'm off, I feel guilty. I feel like I should be doing something, I mean even just productive around the house. And so Friday we planned ahead of time we do nothing. Just pajamas for half a day, just date at the end of the day. It's Netflix and whatever else you do after you watch Netflix. Pray together, spiritual stuff like that. Seek God in His word. Hold hands, slow dance, whatever you do after Netflix. And that is a win. It's not accidental, it's intentional, because every demonic force is trying to distract us. Ding, bing, look, this, stuff. Martha! Martha! Can you feel how much I love you? You're so freaked out about so many things that really don't matter that much. Only a few things are really important therefore I'm gonna distance the distractions. I'm gonna focus on what's important.
And then number three, everything in me I'm going to listen to the voice of God. I'm gonna listen to the voice of God. I love the imagery from Isaiah verse 30, verse 21, it says, and your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, this is the way, walk in it. When you turn to the right or when you turn to the left and your ears will hear a voice behind you. I love that imagery. Almost as if the Spirit of God whispers. Wait a minute. You can do that. That's good. Or you could choose something so much better. Let's walk into this way. Let's go that way. You see when you seek God first, listen to me, you will hear Him. He is a God who speaks. When He created the world, how did He do it? He spoke, He is a speaking God.
If you've never heard from God, open up His word. He will always speak to you through His word. He'll speak to you through the voice of His Spirit. If you have ears to hear, you will hear. He'll speak to you through people. He might speak to you through a message. He could speak to you through a song. He'll speak to you through circumstances. If you have ears to hear, a voice behind you will say choose this, walk in this way, be a blessing to this person, give something. Take a moment and listen to them. Take a moment and pray. Stop what you're doing. People over production. Love over judgment. You can make a difference in this world. Your life is too valuable. Your calling is too great and your God is too good to be distracted by things that do not last. Listen to His voice. He'll redirect you and show you the way to walk in it.
One of my favorite times of hearing a voice was years ago. I obsess about this view we have in our house. When you come in, it's a weird thing, I know. Don't judge me, you have your things. If I got up into your business, I know your weird things too. When you walk into my house, you overlook the living room and there these French doors with glass that overlooks my backyard. It's a very beautiful view when I come in. It calms me. The only problem is we have six kids. And so you know what's always on the glass? Hand prints, all sizes and ages of hand prints on the glass. I tell Amy, surely there's a way. We'll make the kids clean it every day. Well, I'll pay for somebody. I don't care, I want those things clean. She said, you try, you go do it.
So I cleaned one window. I cleaned the second one. By the time I got to the third, there were three hand prints where I started. It's just a spiritual principle. I don't want hand prints on my windows! And a little voice, I promise you I heard a little voice that said embrace the hand prints, because one day they won't be there. And when they're not there, you will wish like crazy they'd be back. In other words, Craig, Craig, you're worried and upset about many stupid things. You're distracted by the things that do not matter. Tap, tap, scroll, scroll, look at me, more, more. And there are really only a few things that matter. And you have the ability to choose. It's your choice. Feel it. Your life is valuable. Your calling is great special. Your God is so good.
Why would you waste your life on things that don't last? God, help us. Help us choose what's best. God, give us the power by Your Spirit to overcome all the demonic forces of distraction that we can one day hear that voice tell us, well done, my good and faithful servant. As you pray today and reflect in all of our churches, those of you who say, Craig, I can be a little bit or maybe even a lot like you. I've got good intentions, I kinda can know what's important but it's so hard to focus. God, help me to distance the distractions. God, help me to fight for what matters. God, help me to hear Your voice. All of our churches, those who say God, help me to focus on what matters most, would you lift up your hands right now. Just lift them up high. All of our church is saying yes.
Almost as an act of worship or declaration of war, God, I pray that You will give us the power by Your Spirit to seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness, God, in all that we do. First of the day we seek You. First of the week we gather to honor You. First to the increase we worship You with a tithe. God, first of the year we dedicate to You with a fast. We put You first God. Fixing our gaze on You with fixed purpose, God, we step towards Your kingdom, towards Your glory, towards making a difference in this world. Ignoring all of life's distractions. God, I pray that Your Spirit would prompt us again and again and again and again and again. And we're ready to binge watch wherever we pick it up and wherever we're worried about what people think, God, just prompt us. We're loving You, God, and we're loving people. People over production. Relationships over image. Intimacy over stuff that help us to choose what is best, God. And we thank You that those choices can never be taken away from us. God, direct our steps. Give us the power to choose.
As you keep praying today at all of our churches, some of you, you're about to make the best choice of your entire life. Be honest. You're not living a good spiritual story right now. So many of you, you have to acknowledge, maybe you grow up in church like I did but you're not pursuing Jesus right now. You've been distracted. You may not be a church person at all and you say, yeah, there's no spiritual direction to my life, but something right now has got your attention. Something's drawing you. Something's peaked your interest. What is that? Let me tell you what that is. That is the goodness and the grace of God. You will never be drawn by a presentation. I make a sermon that I give by fear, by guilt, what you will be drawn by is the loving kindness of God.
Jesus looks on us. Martha, Martha, Martha, you're so freaked out. You're missing the point of what matters most and maybe you can feel the Spirit of God crying out to you. Why is it that we're so easily distracted? We're so easily distracted because we are bent away from God towards sin. We are born with a sinful nature. And this is why the grace of God is so powerful why it draws, because we don't work our way to being good enough, but it's only by the goodness of God that He sent His Son, Jesus, who never ever sins. Jesus was the Lamb of God, perfect in every way. Jesus became the sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. The innocent one died in the place of our guilt, but on the third day, God raised Him from the dead.
After His death He was risen. Why? Because God defeated death, hell, sin, and the grave so whoever calls on the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus, you would be saved, you would be forgiven. Many of you know you tried everything else. You tried the hit, the drugs, the party, the material things, the people, the thrill, the vacation, the luxury, and you've come up empty. Why are you empty? Because you're trying to fill a spiritual void with a material thing. There is no material thing that will meet that spiritual need. Jesus is what you're looking for. He is the Son of God. He is here. He loves you. He will forgive you. He is life. He came that you may have life and life more abundantly. Do not be distracted by the lower things of this world. He is what you're looking for.
All of our churches, those who say, I need Him, I need His grace, I need His forgiveness, today I give my life to Him, that's your prayer, lift your hands high now. All over the place, lift them up and say yes. That's my prayer right back over there. God bless you. And over here in this section, praise God for you. Right back over here, lift them up high. Right here, sir, other if they didn't say yes. Right over here in this section. Way back here toward back, others today call on His name. Call on His name. Call on His name. Church online, you all click right below me and guess what? We are family, and family prays together. Pray with those around you.
Heavenly Father, forgive my sins. Change me. Make me new. Jesus, be my savior. I put You first. Feel me with Your Spirit so I could know You, so I could live for You, so I could follow You. My life is not mine. I give it to You. Thank You for new life. Now You have mine. In Jesus' name I pray.