One spring, I signed up for a 10K race with a particular goal in mind. I wanted to achieve a PR of finishing in fifty-six minutes or less, or roughly nine minutes per mile. It was a very attainable thing if I would faithfully put in the work for the remaining few weeks until that date came. Over the month leading to the race, I put in the effort to increase my speed. The results were pleasing, and I watched my total time drop steadily.
The morning of this particular race, everything went well. The weather was perfect—a cool morning with a cloudy sky. I was up early enough to fully prepare and felt strong as I got to the starting line. Sometimes when waiting to start a race, I feel full of nerves, but this morning I felt confident.
Yet by the end of the run, I had not accomplished what I had hoped. Instead, I missed it by almost a minute per mile. Not because of some glaring error or poor running conditions; looking back on that day, I remember all of the distractions that came during the race. So many things happened around me that I allowed to pull focus from my aim. Some of the distractions were insignificant: a falling branch that caused me to slow down, a rustling in the brush nearby and a visit to the mile 3 water station. Some of the distractions seemed legitimate: an untied shoelace, a fellow runner who I stopped to help and dealing with a faulty running app on my phone. Physically I was prepared, yet I allowed so many disruptions in my mind that in the end, I fell short of the goal.
Distractions can result in failure if we don’t push them out. It takes a fixed mind to see the race to completion. A sanctified heart desires to keep an unwavering vision of God, to follow Him without fail. There is a rest and calm to the consecrated soul.
We easily spot the negative distractions. We can point them out and say, “I must distance myself from these things or they will pull my focus from God.” But they also may be good things, blessings in our lives, which pull attention from the spiritual race. They may deter you from being all that God would have you to be; that pliable, usable vessel He desires. Distractions can sway us to spend ourselves for earthly things when God’s kingdom is calling for workers. It is not that we don’t enjoy the good things of life, but that we keep them in their proper place. They must not take our priority in time, love or effort.
You can be confident that you are going to run well and still disappoint if your eyes are not centered on Christ. Matthew 6:22-23 “If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” Consider trying to run, or even walk, if your eyes are pulled in every direction and you have no focus. You would be bumbling into everything in your path, causing detriment and hurt to yourself and others. So is the person who does not have a sole focus on God. There is a consistent pattern of falling short, of no clear victory in that life. There is agitation and distress around them instead of a steady walk with Him. Are you full of God’s truth and His ways or filled with the diversions of the world and your own ways? As the apostle Paul put it, “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.” Running this spiritual path with an unfocused mind will hinder your stride and slow your pace.
Distractions interfere with the true heart of a matter. Too easily, some are distracted with their own thoughts. When you place your own lens over the preaching, or over the preacher, you lose the message God was sending you. If you see your pastor as just a man instead of God’s chosen watchman, you will refuse the very counsels of God. If you look at the saints not as the body of Christ, but just as people you see every week, you lose the love and respect we need to show to one another. So often, we can be distracted by physical things: what we observe, what we feel, what we desire. Where are your spiritual eyes? Spiritual eyes help us understand the incredible truths of God, and to also recognize our true reflection in the Word. It takes an honest and submissive heart to see when we are not keeping step with the preaching.
Distraction can be a gradual process. The saved are slowly pulled off-track by the cares of life that demand attention. When Martha and Mary had Jesus in their home one of them became distracted. Mary chose to lay aside her work and cares to concentrate on the real issues of her soul. When Martha complained, Christ made it clear that Mary had chosen well and that Martha should reconsider her own focus. Distractions may come in the form of loved ones who are unsaved. While we care for them and pray for them, we cannot allow our minds to center on them and their decisions. We must leave them in God’s hands, even when it is painful. Distractions might be an affliction that we carry, that physically takes our strength. Yet our minds must be single-minded toward God to bring us through. Distractions could even include physical labor. Remember that our greatest reward is not for everything to go smoothly, but to reach lost souls and shine the truth of the gospel to them. Being busy for God is very needful, so we should work together with His blessing and leading, prayed up and filled with grace.
In all that we do, let’s move forward with a focused view of the goal. As Paul admonished in Hebrews 12:1, “Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
by R Smith