Steven Furtick — Shutting the Door on Distraction
I think on one level or another, we're all kind of trying to decide how open should my door be to other people, to activities that I didn't plan for. How open should my door be? Should it be wide open all the time? Should I always be, you know a 30-second responder to every text, even at the expense of my own grammar? Or, should there be some times where I shut it down?
Touch somebody and say you've got to shut it down sometimes. You do! You have to shut it down sometimes. You do, because they're studying this, and they're finding out that we're giving so much accessibility that we're losing our attention.
We are a world that has gained accessibility at the expense of attention. And they've studied this distinctive feature of our age in depth, and it's pretty fascinating to learn about, but it all comes down to something that is a part of the passage I read to you, and it's really a part of our lives, and it's all about, number one, how to discern the demands.
When something comes up on that screen, that's a cue for you that you want to write it down. That's what that is. That's saying get out your pen and at least pretend to write something down. Discern the demands. So, I thought, like as a pastor, and really just as a person because we all deal with this, I would give you just a snapshot of five minutes in the mind of a distracted pastor.
Thursday, I was very brain dead. After teaching our staff all day, I knew that I needed to rest so I could come to you and be ready. Rest makes you ready, and so it becomes an important activity. And, so I knew I needed to rest a little bit. I knew I was drained. So, I was doing that. That was pretty cool. I even spent a little time by the pool, on a Thursday morning. It felt great! I felt great about it, felt happy about it!
But then, you know how it happens, like you start thinking about all of the things you've got to do, and I'm like, well, I can't rest too long. I've got to get this sermon ready. I've got to have something for the people, something for the people. So, I went in, started working on my sermon, and then I got a link of something that I needed to watch, and I needed to watch it.
I had to watch it, and I won't go into all of the detail why I had to watch, but I had to watch it. It wasn't, like a cat falling off of anything on YouTube. It was like something important I had to watch. It was a thing I had to watch. And so, like for you it might be a conference call or something like that... you know, those conference calls you always pretend to be on.
That's my buddy. But, I had to watch it. I'm watching it, and then the phone rang, and I remembered I didn't call that guy back last night, and he's an important guy, and I'm doing something with him. And I remembered I was supposed to call him back last night, and didn't call him back, and I texted him and said whenever you're free today, give me a call, and I didn't know he would call me right at the same time on the same device that I was trying to watch the thing.
So, it interrupted my stream of the thing that I had to watch, where I had started working on my sermon, but then I had to watch the thing. And so, then when the phone rang, which is so annoying when your phone rings... How dare you interrupt my playlist by pretending to be a communication device. If I would have wanted something to ring, I would have bought a phone. Oh-oh. So, that's funny right there, right? Come on, that's the good stuff! That's the premium stuff!
He called, and I've got to take this. Kids are loud. Went to the porch, was talking on the porch, and here comes Elijah, following me out on the porch, middle of my conversation. And he's trying to tell me something, and I'm doing that thing where you're like, uh-huh, yeah, praise the Lord! So he leaves, he comes back. He comes back.
When he comes back, he comes back with a piece of paper. I'm going to read you the note that he wrote. It wasn't from him. He scribed the note for Abby, our four-year-old. And so, he scribed her note, and the note says this. Abby says you are welcome to come to my tea party, but you don't have to. Let us know if or when you can come. That's my favorite, if or when. You need to make a reservation.
So, I wrote him back. I said, I don't want to drink your stupid lukewarm water out of your dirty cup, little girl. No! I went to the tea party! Who could resist that? Sorry. It was so good, too, the tea party. It was so fun. I'm glad I went. They had a rocking chair for me. I got the biggest chair. All three of the kids were there. It was fantastic! It was like, one of the best 15 minutes of my life, and I'm glad I didn't miss it because my kids only get along that well about once every 18 months, so I can't miss this. I'm ashamed to admit I thought about periscoping the tea party, but something about that felt unholy. Some things are just meant for the privacy and the enjoyment, so we had tea.
Now, I want to just ask you a question, because we've all been in a scenario that's similar, not the same exact demands, but similar. Which one of those things was the distraction? I mean, help me out because I'm trying to figure out, which one was the distraction? Because the phone call was something that needed to be done, and the sermon is something that you're expecting to hear. I mean, what would you do? I'm just asking a question.
What would you do if the last song sang today, you know, and we said the resurrected King, and He robbed the grave, and He robbed it twice, and then we got the King resurrected as much as we could resurrect Him, and then you know, they come out with the podium, you know, and put the thing down at the last part of the song, and then go off the stage.
And then they finish the song, and they do the thing, and then they come out and say, "Uh, thanks for coming today. Pastor Steven would have loved to have been here to preach for you, but he's actually at a tea party. He had other engagements. He is otherwise engaged".
I mean, it's like distraction is bad, and we're all fighting against distraction. But you know, it's a weird thing because half of my battle against distraction is trying to define what is the distraction in this situation? Because I've got some people that are counting on me to preach, but I've got a group of kids who want me at a tea party upstairs, and I know a lot of it's about timing and just getting priorities in order, and stuff that can wait and all of that.
But, what I love about Jesus... And I know you were worrying if I was going to actually talk about the Bible passage that I read you today, or is this story time. I'm going to talk about it, because Jesus was a master of discerning the demands, and He had more demands than you. Three years to save the world, only 33 years on this planet, and He got it all done.
And I want to see, not what did the young pastor say about how open the door should be, or even the older pastor, because that's just a philosophy. I want to see, how did Jesus do it? A lot of people have this misguided view of how a typical day in the life of Jesus went, that He must have been so holy because He was so alone all of the time. If you really read and study about Him, you'll see that every time He tried to get alone.
This is why I used to think that Jesus might be more like a woman than a man, because every time He tried to get alone, there was somebody at the door, at His heels, needing something from Him. And that just reminded me of a lot of you who really do have this vision of like, oh, I could connect with God so much better if I could have, like three days, and I could go to the mountains, and I could brew my own coffee, and then I could read Hebrews while I brewed my own coffee.
And it would be easy for me to plan my business if I could get away. I want to get away. I want to get away. But, the passage we just read was a product, not of what Christ did in the confines of solitary, but what He did in the crowd. Look at Mark 5:21. It said, "When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large", everybody say it, "crowd". "A large crowd gathered around Him while He was by the lake."
Jesus was very comfortable in the crowds. We live crowded lives. Crowded lives. Crowded with information, crowded with advertisement. We have crowded minds because we live crowded lives. We have crowded calendars. Not all of the things that we even write down, just the things that we know we've got to get done to get to the thing that we wrote down. Crowded, crowded, crowded. Life is crowded.
And a lot of us live under the illusion that one day, I'm going to slow it all down, and then I'm going to connect with God, when my kids leave the house, and then I'm going to really start focusing then on the things that matter. But I came to announce that Christ wants to come to you in the crowd! In the crowd. That He wants to connect with you in the crowded places of your life... Not just in the solitary moments, but in the crowded places.
Christ is coming through the crowd and He's making His way by boat, and He gets there, and He usually would teach against the lake because it provided an amphitheater type effect for His voice to project. He didn't have one of these. So, He had to make use of the natural elements, and so He built a PA system into the universe when He spoke the world into existence, so the way that the water would reflect His voice to the people.
This is just a little background on why He was speaking by the lake, so they could hear it, so His voice could carry through the crowd. He set it up so they could hear Him in the back. He set it up so they could hear Him, because they stretched for miles to come and see Him. And so, He set it up and He set up life where if you'll draw near, even in a crowd, you'll hear His voice speaking to you.
So, He's speaking, and He's teaching in a crowd. And then, He gets distracted. Jesus, the epitome of the focused mission, gets distracted by something that happens in the moment. Because it says that "One of the synagogue leaders named Jairus came, and when he saw Jesus, fell at His feet, and he pleaded earnestly with Him. "My little daughter is dying. Please come put your hands on her, so that she will be healed and live."
The next verse really touches me. "So Jesus went with him." Jesus left all of those demands for one desperate dad. It's a beautiful picture of how the God of heaven will give all of His attention to one person who has come to the end of striving to fall at His feet and say, show me how to live, show me what to do. I'm an important man, Jesus, but for this moment, there's something that my own importance can't do, and only you can do it, and I need you.
So, Jairus leaves all of his responsibilities at the synagogue because he's got a sick girl at home. And there will be times in your life where a demand will come upon you suddenly, involuntarily, where you'll have to leave the thing that seems more important. More people were counting on Jairus at work, but his little girl needed him at home in this season.
And so, we put everything aside because of the demand of desperation. And sometimes you've got to know when God is calling you to forsake something that was consuming your attention and say, "No, this needs me now. Somebody else can run the synagogue for a few weeks. Somebody else can make money this year. I've got to be here now. I've got to be here now, at the feet of Jesus, or my girl might not make it".
You'd better watch out how you spend all of those years where your kids are growing up, where they need a little attention from you to just look over them, and check over them, and make sure they're doing it right, because you might be doing a good job with your responsibilities, but failing where it really matters.
Jairus had a sick girl at home, so he left all of the people at the synagogue, and Jesus said, well, Jairus, if you're willing to leave all of those people at the synagogue in desperation for your daughter, I'll go with you, and I'll leave all of these people for one little girl. I really love that. I really wish you'd clap your hands and give God praise that He leaves the 99 to find the 1. Discern the demands.
You could ask God this week. It would be a simple step, but He would do this for you. God, help me discern the demands of my life. Help me see them for what they really are. Help me see what's really important. Because if I'm judging this, I'm thinking that the crowd's way more important than the one little girl, but only you can show me what really matters.
Otherwise, you'll define distraction in a way that will cause you to miss God's direction in your life, and you'll skip the tea party to take the phone call. And you can call them back, but the next time you see your kids, they're going to be Lord of the Flies, at least in my house. Touch somebody and say, go to the tea party, man. Go to the tea party. Just go.