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There are many things in the world that can tend to captivate our attention. These are individually tailored to suit each and every one of us. For me it might be a video game, Poker, or a TV series – for someone else it might be racing cars, drinking beer, and playing billiards. Anything that shifts our focus for a significant amount of time, and therefore takes us away from what truly matters, is something to watch out for. Certainly there is time for leisure activity in the world, but when those activities become your world something is wrong. It’s a good time to question it when you notice for yourself. At first it can start just like any other hobby, something we do on occasion or 2-3 times a week for a couple of hours. Suddenly we notice that we are knee deep in it and our day isn’t fully satisfying until we get our fix of it.
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16 (NKJV).
We shouldn’t be deceived by the allure of these sorts of activities. The enemy deceives us into thinking that the time we’re investing is trivial. That the time we’ve accumulated is redeemed for the sake of personal entertainment. Many times in the short run we might enjoy this time very much, but in the long run we end up feeling unfulfilled in our ventures. We know deep down that our heart’s desire is to build up lasting joy and invest time into eternally valuable plans. When we reason it out properly, we realize that living these relatively few moments we have on earth for God’s Kingdom is infinitely better than the alternative.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33 (NKJV).
Don’t get me wrong though, there is certainly a place for some leisure activity and fun hobbies. I would be a hypocrite if I were to tell you that I didn’t have several hobbies I have put in countless hours enjoying over the years. One thing I like to do to attempt to redeem the distraction is to share God’s Word in the process at hand. I would share a “God bless you” to my opponents in a video game and see if it provokes someone to ask me questions about God. I would strike up a conversation at my Poker games that occasionally would lead to a witnessing opportunity or a discussion about Christianity. I developed a keen ear for good openings to pounce on for the glory of God. There were some times that I was tactfully able to initiate them with some of the ideas the Holy Spirit likely prompted me to share.
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore[a] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV).
Looking at the opposite direction, which is the direction that we take when we don’t keep an eye on what has captivated our time lately, we see a bleak picture. What started off as a simple distraction can deceive us to taking up a big priority spot in our lives. We have allowed something that isn’t a sin in and of itself to become an idol. Even worse sometimes we allow the initial distraction to be a habitual sin, and then we only deceive ourselves when we try to mentally reason out justifications for indulging in it. I have been distracted, to say the least, by both normal endeavors and unfortunately some sinful ones as well. I still have much room to improve, and I by no means proclaim myself to have obtained complete mastery over sin. The good news is that when I mess up, I turn my mistakes over to Jesus Christ. He helps me to repent, forgives me, and cleanses me of all unrighteousness. His grace is not a license to sin, but instead He lovingly showers me in it when I need it the most.
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NKJV).
6 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4 (NKJV).
Turn around before destruction arises in your life. Our critical relationship with Jesus Christ, and even many of our relationships with our loved ones, can be hindered to some extent by these idols. Focusing too much on something that has become overly important to us can mess up our priorities. We take away from time we could be spending with Jesus Christ, time cultivating our relationship with Him and as a byproduct loving other people. Selfishness becomes a way of life because we seek to maximize the amount of time available for our idols. We can always make time for the idol, but making time for other ventures is suddenly a big deal. Let’s catch ourselves before the distraction or deception become destructive in our lives. Even if it has already destroyed something, God will give us the tools we need to repair the problem. It all starts when we recognize that this addiction or idol we’ve been allowing in our lives might need to be put on the back burner indefinitely. It might be something someone else could or does enjoy responsibly, but we simply can’t keep it in moderation. Consider the future, think about what the ramifications of the current path might be if we continue to stay the course.
5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5 (NKJV).
Finally, I wanted to divulge that you’re not alone. I have certainly been there both in the past and to some degree I still do this in the present. It’s not something to be ashamed of. We live in a fast paced life, and it’s easy to seek to comfort ourselves in distractions. Often in moderation they are healthy, and certainly that mindset fuels the fire until they have become solid addictions in our lives. Don’t let yourself be fooled, keep your eye on Jesus Christ and prayerfully consider how you can make positive adjustments in your life. Ask yourself what kind of eternal value what you are doing brings to the table. Will what you’re doing lead to or directly bring something into your life or the lives of others that will be a positive change? Let these sorts of questions guide your judgment, as you decide whether or not to keep some of your favorite ventures, hobbies, and pleasures. There’s a place for some of these things, but let’s be honest, some of them just need to be kicked straight out of our lives with little to no contemplation.
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because[a] your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NKJV).