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Life Reference: Luke 10:38-42

Focus Verse:

“But Martha was distracted . . .” (Luke 10:40 NKJV).

The car was slightly ahead of me and one lane over. Or, rather, it was one lane over part of the time. The vehicle would drift over the line to the right and then back to the left. Right, left, and right again. The driver’s disregard for lane markings was unnerving to those of us nearby. Was the driver drunk, I wondered? It was still early in the day. Then I realized the more likely answer—he was distracted by his cell phone. It was endangering all of us.

A distraction is something that takes our attention away from what we’re supposed to be doing. We are not engaged in what is happening around us. It interferes with our concentration and focus. Distractions can be dangerous, like the 65-mile-per-hour weaving car that day. Some distractions are not as dangerous—like picking up a magazine to dust the end table and instead sitting down for thirty minutes to read that magazine. Admit it. We’ve all been distracted—many times.

Life Reflection:

What are some of the distractions you have noticed in your life?

Have any of your distractions placed you or others in danger?

Spiritual Distractions

If we are easily distracted in our everyday lives, isn’t it also true we may be easily distracted in our walk with God? Look around some Sunday morning. Is anyone sneaking a quick look at email or sending a text message? Do we sing praises while on “automatic mode” as our mind wanders to a multitude of other things? Such distractions keep us from thinking deeply about the Word of God being preached. We are present in body but far away in thoughts and spirit. Distractions can be dangerous to our eternal souls.

Satan loves it when we are distracted. It makes his work easier. That’s why we must always be on guard.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”

(I Peter 5:8 NKJV)

Life Reflection:

What are some of the distractions you have noticed in your spiritual life?

What are the causes of spiritual distractions?

Are there any worldly distractions that you need to repent of and lay aside?

We are not all distracted by the same things. Samson was distracted by a relationship with a Philistine woman (Judges 14:5). Demas was distracted by the culture around him (II Timothy 4:10). Martha was distracted by household tasks (Luke 10:40).

Life Response:

Not everything that distracts us is sinful. The same cell phone that keeps us from concentrating during the sermon or our prayer time also connects us with loved ones, helps in an emergency, and keeps our calendar. Hobbies can rob us of time if done to excess, but they can help us relax and unwind. Cooking and cleaning are necessary but must not crowd out time for relationships. Distractions will come, but if we are alert to them we can minimize their impact.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV)

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Look at the list below to determine the distractions that most impact your spending quality time with God. How can you control these diversions?

  • Media and entertainment
  • Technology
  • Relationships
  • Recreation
  • Work
  • Hobbies
  • Money and possessions
  • Worry and fears
  • Everyday routine
  • Pleasing others

Ways to Overcome Distractions  

We will all become distracted at times. We are only human. However, there are some things we can do to minimize distractions, especially those that interfere with our personal devotions. Here are some tips to help you lessen the distractions and enjoy your time with God.

  • Minimize distractions by setting a time and place.
  • Remove temptations.  Leave your phone/electronics in another room.
  • Ask God to help you focus.
  • Write down any distractions (errands, worries, etc.) for later.
  • Read and meditate on the Word first.
  • Keep a prayer list or journal.
  • Pray out loud.

My Prayer:

Lord, I come to you with all my busyness and the things that distract me when I’m with you. Let my focus be on You and You alone. Convict me of any sin that has taken my eyes from You. Help me to commit my problems, worries, and fears to You that I may bask in Your presence without distraction.

More Life with God References:

Proverbs 4:25-26
I Corinthians 7:35
Philippians 4:6-8
Joshua 1:8

This Bible study was adapted from an article originally published in Reflections Magazine.

Life Reference: John 11:1-44 

Focus Verse:

“This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4).

 

Have you ever cried out, “Where are You God? I need You now!

This is what happened with Mary and Martha in John 11. Their brother, Lazarus, lay sick. Jesus is their friend, so they send word to Him of the situation. He sends back the message, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God” (verse 4). Despite what seem encouraging words, Lazarus dies, and Jesus waits two more days before finally starting toward Bethany.

We know the end of the story—Jesus calls into the tomb and the bound Lazarus walks out, restored to life after four days. But Mary and Martha only knew the reality of that moment. Their brother was dead and now lay in a tomb. Where was Jesus?

We can imagine the questions that must have gone through their minds? “Why didn’t He come? Doesn’t He care? Didn’t He say that my brother would not die?” Their emotions would have gone from hope when they sent the messenger, to worry when Jesus delayed, and then to disappointment and despair when Lazarus died.

 

Life Reflection:

Have you personally experienced a time when you felt Jesus did not answer your prayer?

What thoughts and emotions went through your mind?

 

Have you faced the same emotions and questions when problems overwhelm you? In desperation, you cry out to God, but nothing seems to change. Where is He? Doesn’t He care? Is He ignoring my prayers? Perhaps you felt perplexed, lonely, disappointed, or forsaken.

 

Life Response:

All of us have faced times when we felt our prayers were not being answered. We may feel like Job when he was facing the most difficult time in his life. Listen to his words in Job 23:7-8.

“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him; he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.”

It is at this point that Job’s trust in God becomes evident. Although God seems to have hidden Himself completely, Job is able to declare, “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (verse 10). We also need to trust that God will bring us through our difficult situation.

Is it possible we felt our prayer was unanswered because God did not step in when or how we thought He should? We may not always see the complete picture when in the midst of a problem. Only later can we look back and realize God’s hand was upon us the entire time.

There are many reasons God delays His answer or does not respond as we wish.

  • He may have protected us from a bad situation.
  • He may be sending us in a new direction—one which we would never imagine.
  • He may orchestrate a divine appointment we would otherwise miss without the delay.
  • He may replace our “good” plan with one that is much better.
  • He may be using the problems we face to transform us into His likeness. (Read II Corinthians 3:18 and I Peter 4:19.)
  • His work in our lives can become a testimony to others. (Read John 9:3 and II Corinthians 4:8-10.)
  • He knows how much we can bear and will make a way of escape. (Read I Corinthians 10:13.)

 

Life Reflection:

Has there been a time when God’s delay was actually for your own good?

What lessons did you learn during the waiting process?

 

Whether four days (like Lazarus), four months, four years—or never—we must trust His plan is for our good. Faith says that God can do it, but trust holds firm when He does not.

Who knows what things He will do in our lives that will ultimately bring Him glory!

Action Points

Don’t stop praying. “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6).

Confess any sin in your life. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18). Also read I John 3:22.

Pray with boldness. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Pray in the name of Jesus. “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13).

Trust God’s love. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Trust God’s timing. Read Hebrews 6:13-15.

 

This Bible study was adapted from an article originally published in Reflections Magazine.

Life Reference: I Peter 3:8-12

Focus Verse:

“The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:7).

Home repairs are one of my least favorite tasks. If the repair is complex—which with my skills can be most anything—it then involves calling a repairman, setting an appointment time, and then paying an unexpected bill.

A few years ago I noticed some water around a small foundational crack. I chose to be proactive and called a repair company. The cost was relatively small and the problem was soon fixed. End of story. It could have ended differently had I chosen to ignore the situation until it became a much bigger, and more costly, leak.

The same principle applies to our lives. A small chink may threaten to weaken our moral foundation. It may seem minor—a small misrepresentation or a broken promise—yet there is a hidden danger. Little things can become big things. Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.”

Life Reflection:

Can you think of a time in your life when something small became a test of your integrity?

How did you handle the situation?

Living with Integrity

What is integrity? We can describe it as honesty, strong moral principles, uprightness, or good character. In everyday language, it means always doing the right thing even when no one is looking (or will ever find out). This is opposite the philosophy that “the end justifies the means.” An article in Forbes said, “Success will come and go, but integrity is forever.”

The Book of Genesis devotes several chapters to the life of Joseph, a young man who had many opportunities and temptations to compromise his integrity. Had he yielded to the voice of temptation, who would know? He was in a strange country with no one from back home “looking over his shoulder.” But Joseph did not waiver. He stood firm because he knew to do less would be an affront to God Himself.

“A person is not given integrity. It results from the relentless pursuit of honesty at all times.”

–Unknown

“How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).

Life Reflection:

Describe the difference between reputation and character.

Has someone disappointed you by compromising their integrity? How difficult would it be to regain your trust in them?

What are the long-term blessings of walking in integrity?

At some point in life, all of us will be tempted to compromise our integrity. It may come from outside pressure, such as a boss instructing us to lie about a business matter, or it may come from inside to escape the consequences of our actions. We can argue with our conscience. “It’s not that big a deal. I’m not hurting anyone else.” The argument doesn’t hold up. Our lack of integrity does affect others.

Life Response:

Why is integrity important? We can list many reasons, but let’s just look at three.

  • Integrity gives us peace. We don’t have to live with the guilt of knowing we settled for the easy way instead of living by our principles. We will have a clear conscience. (See Hebrews 13:18).
  • Integrity brings trust. If we are a person of honesty and character, others will trust us. Even those who would discredit us won’t be able to find anything evil to say about us. (See I Peter 3:16).
  • A person of integrity becomes a role model. We exhibit honesty and uprightness to a world that often lacks these important characteristics. Little compromises, little omissions, little untruths erode character. By paying attention to these things we affect those around us. (See Titus 2:7-8 and I Corinthians 11:1.)

Keep the foundations strong. Repair any chips or chinks now. Remember, we are preserving integrity for the next generation.

“The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:7).      

Questions to Ask Myself

  • Am I the same in public as in private?
  • How do I treat others who cannot benefit me in some way?
  • Do I keep my word?
  • Am I truthful?
  • Am I willing to admit to myself and others when I am wrong?
  • Do I consistently live by the moral standards of God’s Word?
  • Have I made myself accountable to at least one person?
  • Do I seek to please God in all I do?

My Prayer:

Lord, my desire is to be a person of character—honest, truthful, and filled with integrity. When I feel pressured to compromise, give me strength to overcome. Make me aware of the little things that might undermine my character. Help me to live a life of integrity that I might please You and be an example to others.

More Life with God References

Proverbs 6:16-20

I Chronicles 29:17

II Corinthians 8:21

Proverbs 19:1

Psalm 41:11-13

Proverbs 2:6-8

Psalm 26:1-3

 

This Bible study was adapted from an article originally published in Reflections Magazine.