Is there anyone in your life that you think of, when you get into a conversation with this person, it’s going to be them talking the whole time, and you fighting to get a word in edge wise? Chances are your mind immediately found a name or a face. We all know that guy. That guy is me. I can talk for hours. (For example, this blog right here). It has taken me years to learn to stop talking. Ask my wife, she still asks me to stop, so she can talk. (Yeah, I can get on my soap box and there is no stopping me). I’m still learning (spoiler, I’m not perfect). In fact, my whole family is like this. We love to talk. Often times the volume in the room increases over time as we try to talk over one another. We all know someone like this don’t we?
It has been a struggle in my daily life to learn to listen. I can do it. It takes practice. The more I learn to listen, the more I actually hear. If you have ever tried to text someone at the same time someone is talking to you, you learn you can only do one at a time. You may hear what the other person is saying to you, but their words are stopping at your ear drums and not making their way into your brain. The words flowing out your eyes and into your fingertips have priority of the “train of thought” at this time. I have had to learn to ask my wife to wait a second while I finish, so she can have my full attention, or, I know I will never retain the information she is going to give me.
I’ll give you another example. How hard is it to hear when we are busy, when we are preoccupied? Just like texting, I cannot hear my wife when I am several rooms away. I will be walking down the stairs when she will ask me to…… What?! I can’t hear you! Or when the tv is on, or I am writing, or I am reading. I can’t hear what she says. I’m preoccupied at the moment. How many of us treat our master, our God, this same way; we are so preoccupied with things, we cannot hear him? Learning to place our attention on him, and away from distractions is key.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary, Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
Luke records this interaction between Martha and Jesus. It is important. Martha was distracted by the to-dos of the day, so much, that she missed the entire point of having the Master at her house. She was so preoccupied that she missed the Son of God sitting in front of her! She then tries to get Mary in trouble with the teacher. Jesus says, Mary is where Martha needs to be, at his feet learning from him. It is more important to listen to his words, than anything that needs to be done during the day. How many of us find we want to be like Mary, learning from God, listening to the Spirit who dwells within us; but instead find ourselves distracted by the things of this life, like Martha?
Once again, you are not alone. I too have been a Martha, when I wanted so desperately to be Mary, learning at the feet of Jesus. How much of my life have I wasted on watching sports? Way too much if you ask my wife and kids. It was always on, football, baseball, Hockey, and NASCAR, preoccupied my time. The times I would cry out to God, and complain that there just wasn’t enough time in the day to read my Bible. There was never enough time to get into God’s word. I couldn’t hear the Spirit talking to me. Just to find out, it was because I was preoccupied. God is a perfect gentleman. He will never interrupt you. He will wait patiently for you to come back. I couldn’t hear him above all the noise I had let distract me.
I would complain that I cannot find time for God, then turn on the TV for 4 hours before bed. I would spend hours on Facebook looking at memes and posts, and watching videos on just about every subject (there is just something about watching people restore things). I would pick up my PlayStation controller and play games for hours. I couldn’t see the distraction.
I would pray, but my prayers were more like complaints. It was all about me. What I wanted, what I needed, and what I was going through. Me, me, me. Asking, why can’t I hear your voice? Why am I still the same? I know I should look different and feel different, and be different if I am truly following God. But why was I the same? Why couldn’t I hear the God that supposedly lived inside of me? The answer is me! I was in the way. I was either doing all the talking, or distracted too much to listen.
When I turned off the TV, spent more time in prayer, and stopped to actually listen, things started to change. I have learned to be a Mary in a Martha world. It is a fast-paced world out there. There are a TON of distractions. You can be preoccupied by anything and everything your heart can ever dream of. It’s the American way. We have TV’s as big as the movie theaters, everything from sports to movies, to books, to social media, all at your fingertips. More and more things to occupy our time and distract us from being at the feet of the Master, every day.
I have found that countries like the United States, are the hardest countries to live in and be true followers of Christ. The word “Christian” translates to follower of Christ. Christ had disciples. The definition of disciple is one who follows the teachings of their master. Mary was being a disciple. Mary was being a Christian. She was following the teachings of her master, Jesus Christ. Martha represents a typical American, much like I was, too much to do, not enough time to get it done; easily distracted from following the Master. So preoccupied that I couldn’t hear his voice. Always two rooms away asking, “What? I Can’t hear you!” Always in the middle of what I want to do, holding my finger up, saying, “Just a second, let me finish this and then you can have my attention” (something my wife and I do). But then being preoccupied again, and never listening.
The thing is, this has always been a tactic of our enemy. The most useless “Christians” or “disciples” are the ones that are so occupied, they cannot stop and listen to the teacher. They never learn the true ways, because they “just don’t have enough time” (as they load Facebook for the 10th time today). Distracted disciples are the easiest to take advantage of. They are most likely to fall for a few word twists, like eve in the garden. They haven’t been in the word much lately, and are defenseless. It is easier for the enemy to hold us down, when we are distracted constantly.
C.S Lewis, one of the greatest writers of all time, wrote about the tactics of our enemy in his book “The Screwtape Letters.” A lesser demon is being taught all about the tactics of warfare against humanity by his “affectionate Uncle Screwtape”. Wormwood learns from his uncle the plans that work against man, to keep them from fully understanding the Gospel and turning to God. Much of the letters Screwtape writes to his protégé, are ways to distract his “patient.” The first letter from Screwtape to Wormwood includes a story of a “patient” of Uncle Screwtape. He goes on to tell Wormwood that the man was reading a book and then suddenly started thinking about science and theology. This allowed the Spirit of God to whisper to the man. Screwtape had to think fast, so he directed the man’s attention to the world around him. Told him, it was time for lunch. Although the enemy (the spirit of God in Screwtape’s case), had a chance, his quick thinking got him to look up from the book long enough to see a bus, and a paperboy, and lose his train of thought. The quick thinking saved his “patient” from listening to the Spirit of God. Distraction is a tool of the enemy….and it works!
Once again, I am going to ask, how is your Bible time? Tomorrow is day 120 of 365 in reading the Bible daily. Are you on track? Struggling to find time? Maybe you are genuinely busy. Maybe it is time to say “no” to some things. Maybe like me you find yourself watching too much tv or on social media all day, and “can’t find the time.” Maybe it is time for us to say no to the distractions. Maybe it is time for us to turn off the tv for a time, or declare a fast from social media. It is impossible to hear God when we are preoccupied. Just like in the beginning. I can hear my wife talking, but I’m not truly listening. Maybe if we give God the full attention he deserves, we can hear him speak. Maybe it is time for us to be more like Mary and sit at the feet of our master and be a true disciple.
God still speaks to man. He speaks through others, through dreams, through his word that is inspired by his Spirit, and through His Spirit that dwells within us. We must learn to get more in tune with him, if we want to hear, to learn, and to grow in our faith. It’s no coincidence that Jesus addressed this very subject everywhere he went. “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). Jesus is telling people to get away from the distractions. Jesus himself went away to mountain tops and gardens by himself. You need to get away from all the distractions! Find a place to that is quiet away from everything and everyone. Read the scriptures and let the Holy Spirit do his work, showing you something new, and teaching you. Pray to your Father in secret. Then stop and let him reply.
As my father Pastor Dave has preached for weeks, and as I have written for weeks, relationship is a two-way street. God needs his time to talk and teach, just as much as we need time to ask, seek, and knock. Just like in the garden, God still wants to walk with us. But how much time are we spending seeking his face? How much time are we spending in his word, getting to know him, and training at the master’s feet? How much time are we spending doing the talking? How much time are we spending listening for his reply to our questions? Are we being that terrible friend who talks nonstop? Are we being that disciple who never stops to actually learn? Stop and ask, am I Martha?
I can tell you from personal experience, it is impossible to learn, to grow, and to hear God answer, when we are distracted. If I was the enemy, I would spend my time trying to keep you distracted. Because distracted prey is easy to take down and devour. “Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). You cannot be sober minded, and you cannot be watchful, if your face is always looking at your phone, your tv, or anything other than God himself. Easy prey.
It’s time we take a stand. A little entertainment can be a good thing. It’s relaxing. But when our relaxation time is ten times longer than our Bible and prayer time, then we have an issue! We have become easy prey. Be sober minded. Be watchful. Tune out the distractions. Even the busiest of people can find time. We just have trouble wanting to. Time to make time. If being a true believer is in your prayers, you have the power to do something about it. Turn off the distractions. Say “no” to yourself. Time to be like Mary and less like Martha. The invitation Jesus extends to you still stands, “Follow me.” It’s your choice to sit at his feet or to keep focused on what is not important. For me, I choose “The good portion, which will not be taken away from me.” Will you?