Have you ever wondered why it’s so easy to get distracted, especially from God? If you’re like me you’ve got a mile-long list of things that distract you from God. But what if we allowed God to change our distracted behavior?
I’m certain God knew we’d get distracted because the Bible is full of people who got distracted. But it’s also full of God, stepping in and changing people’s distracted behavior.
How’s God help us change our distracted behavior?
God changes our behavior by changing our hearts.
Since Easter is approaching we’re going to look at distractions through the lens of Lent. We’ll look at why Christians celebrate Lent and how a Lenten fast can change our behavior. But it’s not just about behavior change, it’s about allowing God to shape our hearts to desire Him.
Then, we’ll explore the things that distract us from God and look at some Biblical examples of distractions.
To finish, we’ll open the Bible, look at behavior change, and answer two important “distraction identification” questions.
Are you ready for this journey?
Why Christians Celebrate Lent
Lent is an old “saxon” word that means spring and no, it’s not in the Bible. What is in the Bible are the practices associated with Lent – prayer, fasting, and generosity. These three practices are everywhere in Scripture;
- Moses fasted for 40 days when he met with God on Mount Sinai,
- Elijah fasted for 40 days as he journeyed to meet God at Horeb, and
- Jesus fasted for 40 days as He prepared for His public ministry.
And the other two practices, prayer and giving, are both things Christians are instructed to do. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 even tells us to “pray without ceasing.” And 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “God loves a cheerful giver.”
But these Lenten practices aren’t just about praying or giving more.
It’s a time where we knowingly walk into a wilderness season so we can draw closer to God, recognize our appetites for things of the world, and willingly lay them down.
This is where Lenten fasts come in.
Why To Fast For Lent
I like to think about fasting for Lent as “spiritual spring cleaning.”
Things are fasted during Lent to reset our human appetite and acknowledge that we’re the reason Jesus died and rose again. If you find that you fill your time with everything but God or usually try solving your own problems – a Holy Spirit powered fast might be for you.
Everything, including us, is always better after some spring cleaning.
What we have to realize is fasting isn’t done to destroy our flesh or to boost our egos.
Now let’s look at how we’re to fast.
How To Fast For Lent
Now that we’ve learned the what’s and why’s of celebrating Lent we’re going to look at Jesus’ teaching on fasting.
In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus said,
“When you fast, do not be somber like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they already have their full reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that your fasting will not be obvious to men, but only to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
There are two key elements to fasting:
Act normal and only tell God.
And while those seem easy enough…tell your brain that after you’ve decided to fast all forms of social media, TV, or sugar and need to act like everything’s “status quo.”
Part of recognizing our sinful nature is recognizing that we’re always seeking attention and trying to get people to think highly of us.
But Jesus says…nope, don’t fast for attention.
Think about it, Lenten fasts are about recognizing our need for a Saviour and drawing closer to God – not about man’s applause.
So do some “distraction identification” and think about the things you zone out with and that distract you. Then, think about how fasting these things would make you more aware of the reasons for Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
Then ask the Holy Spirit to empower you and for God to change your heart and draw you closer to Him as you fast these things.
Now let’s look at some things we zone out with and that distract us from God.
Things That Distract Us From God
Ever since creation man’s been getting distracted.
In Genesis 3 when Satan distracted Eve with all that’s good, pleasing, and desirable- self-interest took God’s rightful place.
I’m not saying all distractions are bad and that we need to live in a distraction free bubble to remain in right relationship with God.
Because when we do this, we’ll find ourselves more in love with God and our changed behavior resulting in a changed heart. So…
- What distracts you from God?
- What do you find yourself doing when you’re wanting to “zone out”?
This will look different for everyone so look at the list below, and cover it in prayer. It’s possible the Holy Spirit will show you something entirely different.
Here are some things that might distract us from God:
- social media
- the need for a perfect appearance
- a perfectly clean home
- serving others
- and more…
But before we look to change our behavior let’s look at a couple of Biblical examples of distractions.
Biblical Example Of Distractions
Thankfully the Bible is full of people getting distracted (God knew we’d need help). So much that I’d almost say everyone in Scripture, except Jesus, got distracted.
Eve got distracted and chose to focus on what she wanted instead of what God had instructed.
Israel spent the entire Old Testament getting distracted and again; their distractions were based on self-interest.
Skip to the New Testament and Peter got distracted when he took his eyes off of Jesus and looked to his surroundings.
Then there’s the well known story of Mary and Martha where Martha was distracted by her to-do list.
But that still leaves the question: Does the Bible say anything about how to change our distracted behaviors?
What The Bible Says About Behavior Change
Overcoming distractions of all forms – including the seemingly harmless one of “zoning out” – requires self-control. And guess what self-control is?
It’s a fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 says:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
The Greek word for fruit Paul used in this passage means: the natural product of a living thing. And Paul used this so we’d understand that the Holy Spirit is the “living thing” who produces this “natural product.“
Notice also that fruit isn’t plural.
These 9 things are one amazing piece of free Holy Spirit fruit that’s grown in us but, it’s not grown independent of us. We’ve got to battle the weeds of sin that are constantly trying to distract us from the things of God.
And fasting is one way of doing this.
As the days go by and we rely on the Holy Spirit’s strength, our love for God grows and He shapes our hearts to desire Him above all else.
Now I want to provide you with two “distraction identification” questions for figuring out if you’re distracted or “zoning out.”
Are you Zoning Out?
These questions are super simple but know this –
Sometimes simple works.
Spend time answering these questions and then, ask God to show you what He wants you to fast. And remember,
- When you’re stressed, tired, angry, depressed, or struggling with any emotion – what do you spend your time doing?
- Wishing you could do?
- Do you use food, social media, television, books, exercise, shopping, or alcohol etc. as a reward or retreat?
- Or do you turn to any of these things because you want to remove yourself from situations, people, or emotions?
I told you they were simple. The hard part is being honest with yourself and recognizing that you’re using these things to meet needs only God can meet.
Me, I zone out with YouTube, crackers, and peanut butter. I know they don’t make me feel better. And, I also know God desperately wants me to turn to Him.
As Sarah said Wednesday, God wants us to have an insatiable hunger for Him. And He walks with us through our wilderness seasons.
To shape our hearts towards Him.
If you’ve not read or listened to that post you can find it here.
So, will you join us as we purposefully fast the things distracting us from God? And will you ask God to shape your heart to above all else, desire Him?
Our prayer is that the days between now and Easter Sunday will be special, special days. Days where you willingly step into a wilderness season because you want God to shape your heart towards Him.
Will it be easy?
Nope. That’s not the question to ask yourself.
Instead, ask yourself:
Will it be worth it?
Because the answer to that question should be a resounding yes.
John 3:16 says,
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
And Lent is about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection; about the eternal life it gives us.
As you’re praying about what’s distracting you from God and what He might want you to fast, consider these words from Psalm 139:23-24…
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
- Will you allow the Holy Spirit to give you the self-control needed as you fast?
- And will you fast only because you’re wanting to draw closer to God and want to desire Him and Him alone?
Until next time remember that…
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18