As Christians, we often speak of the necessity of being on guard against sin. The inherent dangers of unrepentant sin in the lives of people is so easily recognized in Scripture, yet so often overlooked in application to our own lives, that it is easy to keep our focus solely on that singular area. However, the Bible also speaks a great deal about the necessity of recognizing the dangers distractions bring into the life of the Christian.
As much as actions that violate the laws of God threaten our eternal destination, so also must it be noted that continued distraction from the life of a Christian and the service of God can tear down the walls of our faith and rot the foundations of our focus. Many people find it difficult to understand how it is possible to not be performing inherently wrong actions, yet have those things become dangerous to us because of the distractions they engender. Consider the ways things that are not inherently wrong can serve as dangerous distractions.
As our children grow, most of them want to be involved in various pursuits that are not in any way wrong by themselves. It may be athletics, after-school activities, scout groups, or any number of other things that can be healthy and character building. But what happens when those things become a part of our lives to the degree that they endanger our service to God? Do we begin to make decisions to skip activities of the church and needed evangelistic pursuits because of the secular distractions to which we have committed ourselves?
Inherent within the character-building attributes of the activities we pursue as a family is the character traits the children see exhibited by the parents. Do the children see mom and dad deciding that this ballgame or that recital is more important than the service of God? If so, the character that develops will be one that follows this same standard and will lead to more decisions in their hearts following this pattern in the future. Remember Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Social media can also fall into this arena. There is nothing inherently wrong with Facebook, Twitter, and the like; in fact, there are some very tangible benefits to being able to keep in touch with people on-line that would be much more difficult, if not impossible, otherwise. However, if we allow ourselves to become distracted by such things, putting social media above family time, or focusing more on virtual interaction than actual human contact: the ensuing distractions become dangerous on many levels.
I want to add an admonition to preachers beyond the things that have already been stated, because it is just as easy for preachers to be distracted as anyone else. Paul warned Timothy multiple times about the dangers of being distracted by empty babblings and the minutiae of opinions over insignificant details in the overall scheme of things (1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7; 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:14-16). It is very easy for preachers to get into protracted, and sometimes heated, discussions over things that are of no eternal consequence. While periods of discussion are good, endless discussion over things of no intrinsic value is detrimental to our influence and distracting from our purpose. Paul wrote, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). How many times has the Gospel become lost in the conversation because the arguments are over nothing but opinions? We must be cautious.
A final area of caution for preachers is in the reading of secular materials. There is great value in reading and understanding the studies and works of others, whether it be in seeing their knowledgeable insight into biblical matters, or seeing where their reasoning has stumbled and caused them to blunder into the wrong conclusion. However, we are first and foremost to be servants of God and students of his Word. Therefore, the Scriptures themselves should be the primary focus of our studies. If the majority of what we are learning is from the words of someone other than God, then the majority of what we are preaching is likewise the thoughts, beliefs, and ideas of men. Do not become so distracted by secular resources that you lose your own studies and relationship with what God himself gave, for his Word is still its own best explanation.
Please understand, my purpose is not to say that any of the things mentioned are wrong in and of themselves. They can be good, valuable, and helpful in many different ways. However, we must constantly be analyzing whether we are keeping things in the realm of value or allowing them to decline into dangerous distractions.