It Sounded So Simple Until I Got Distracted


In a sermon, my pastor friend Chuck asked, “What distracts you from keeping the main thing the main thing?”

To be honest, the list grows long.

I’m distracted by …

… curiosity and questions …

What’s the musical lineup on Heaven’s playlist? Will we hobnob with those we deemed famous here? How long will the Jesus line be? Will I meet Him face to face or just get a peek at Him from a distance? Will we play sports in Heaven or learn multiple languages or create art? Will there be talking animals and will I finally know what my dog Gracie meant when she barked at me late at night?

… schedules and work projects …

Should I call Ryan in production or Ryan in marketing tomorrow morning? Let’s see. If I knock out my blog in the morning, walk the dog early afternoon, and finish my lesson before Ellen gets home, I wonder if she’ll have time for a movie. When will I rewrite my opening chapter? It’s okay but no attention grabber.

… fears and doubts …

What if people think I’m a fraud? Will God continue to provide for my family and me? What if the car breaks down or the roof leaks? Where will the money come from for unexpected surprises like those? Is trusting in Jesus really enough? What if people ream me out when they read my book? Can I handle the criticism? Or the silence? Will I ever finish another novel? What if I don’t keep the main thing the main thing? What if I don’t even know what the main thing is?

When I’m unsettled in my soul, I remember two things.

What God has done. He spoke into my life and brought me to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I remember the night of my salvation, the Lord’s incredible touch. John Wesley said of his own conversion, “I felt my heart strangely warmed.” I know of no better words to describe my own conversion experience.

I recount His provision in my life—the unexpected check, the paying job that I couldn’t have planned for, the thoughtful gift from a friend, the needed word of affirmation, the timely bit of advice, the convenient convergence of events—God’s resources consistently arriving at opportune moments.

What God has said. The prophet Samuel said to King Saul, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind” (I Samuel 15:29 NIV).

Paul wrote to the followers in Rome. “What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar” (Romans 3:3-4 NIV).

God through Scripture has said much to encourage us. “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame” (Isaiah 28:16, repeated in Romans 10:11 NIV).

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32, repeated in Romans 10:13 NIV).

“Anyone who believes …” “Everyone who calls …” Those words include me. My position in Christ Jesus, as saint and Father’s child, is secure—not because of my character but His, nor my word but His, nor my actions but His.

When distracted, I need to remember both what God has done and what He’s said. Then I’m prepared to stick to the main thing.

And what is that?

An expert in religious law once asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV).

Question: What helps you keep the main thing the main thing?

Top 3 Posts from the past week:

Can Angels Be Christian?

What Is Jesus Doing and Where Is He Doing It?

Why Am I a Businessman?

Recommended reading:

A Minute With Maxwell “Joy” (“Fake joy is better than genuine depression.”)

Jon Acuff’s “Does God Want You to Be Miserable?”

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About tnealtarver

I've traveled and spoken around the world but always love to come home. There I eat exceptional meals, drink coffee to my heart's content, and get loved like nowhere else on earth. I believe a community centered in Christ should be all that and so much more.
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15 Responses to It Sounded So Simple Until I Got Distracted

  1. Mary Jeffries says:

    you so hit the main thing on the head when you said LOVE GOD. recently in my travels a sign board simply read ” Love God
    Love People”

    I shared that when I preached a couple of weeks ago.
    praise keeps me focused not on who I am or what I do or need, but on whose I am and what HE is doing and has done.

    • tnealtarver says:

      Knowing “Love God” and “Love people” are good starts. The challenge for me is “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I want to preach that message so other people can live it. 😀

  2. My main distraction right now is discouragement. I seem to get pulled down easily these days. This happened yesterday, and I read several passages I have highlighted in Isaiah. I was immediately encouraged and felt energized. The rest of my day went very well. I love the book of Isaiah when I need to be encouraged and refocus on the Main Thing.

  3. tnealtarver says:

    I too love the book of Isaiah. To me, God’s heart is revealed from page one. I hear God’s call to us thick-headed, hard-hearted people who don’t recognize or acknowledge His presence in our lives. Being reminded of His loving grace would encourage me. I’m glad it encouraged you.

  4. Practicing (or keeping) Sabbath helps me keep the main thing the main thing. Fatigue gets me off track. When I rest with God and let His re-creative work energize my life, He re-calibrates me to the main thing — the Great Commandment and the Great Commission becoming the Great Completion in my life and others.

    • Kari Scare says:

      Sabbath rest is crucial. A great way to cultivate a productive week with the right focus. We need to protect our Sabbath rest, and so many people fail to do so.

    • tnealtarver says:

      Richard, the past three weekends I’ve turned off my computer on Saturday evening and left it off until Sunday evening or Monday morning. Yesterday I finished my second novel in a week and my wife Ellen said, “You’re reading faster.” I told her what I’d been doing the past three Sundays and how it has affected my reading pace. I know that Monday, after a good day of worship and rest, tends to be my most effective and productive day. As a pastor, when does your Sabbath take place? I know from experience that a pastor’s Sunday is anything but restful.

      • My Sabbath is Friday. I avoid e-mail, I read, I spend time with my wife. I enjoy God’s creation. I also try to do a bit of Sabbath daily, then weekly, and to maximize vacation time to re-create.Monthly I’ve learned to set aside a “day of solitude” to reconnect with God and be renewed by Him. As Rick Warren puts it, you need to divert daily, withdraw weekly, abandon annually. I guess I have added the meet monthly part to continue to re-create, while the world often simply sees Sabbath as recreate.

      • You set a great example of how to deliberately get your Sabbath rest. I’m sure you see the fruits of this constantly.

    • tnealtarver says:

      I like your list -divert, withdraw, abandon. If diversions equals “divert”, I definitely do that on a daily basis. I know there’s a difference between a distraction and a recreational (or re-creational) activity. Recreation tends to renew energy; a distraction tends to sap energy.

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