Have you ever felt like your life is an old VHS tape that is stuck on fast-forward -- like you're watching it play out scene-to-scene, but it just won't slow down?
Earlier this week, I was traveling for work and going through a familiar monologue in my heart: "Lord, I haven't had much time to just sit and talk with you this week so far! Why, Lord? Why do I always feel in debt to quality time with You? I'm doing many things FOR You, but I find that more often than not my heart longs to simply spend time WITH You!" I was driving to Wyoming for work. I wasn't particularly looking forward to the work I would have to do once I arrived, but now I had the time to pick up the phone to heaven -- now that there was nothing around me, I could pray.
There is a two hour stretch of highway between Rawlins, Wyoming and Lander, Wyoming where there are almost NO streetlights and very few cars. I don't always enjoy this part of the drive, because it is BORING! There is never anything to see on this highway, and driving this road in the dark makes it even more monotonous. This time I decided to slow down and pull over to the side of the road. It was dark -- pitch black. I had hoped to make it through this stretch of the trip during daytime, but circumstances hadn't allowed that. As I stepped out of my work van to take a quick break, I looked up and was awestruck!
WOW... There in the darkness and stillness, outside of the city lights and noise of traffic, I saw the stars. We may see the stars within city parameters, but in the confines of our contaminated cities, we will never see the stars like that. No light polluted my vision. No noise deterred my focus from the grandeur of the heavenly scene. God spoke in my heart and reminded me that all of this beauty and inspiration had never moved... it was always there to be seen and to remind us of His glory. Yet, it was the distractions, OUR distractions that caused us to go so long without seeing the stars, without seeing space in all its glory, and most importantly, without looking up.
Daniel was only a teenager when he was taken away from his home. At that time, Jehoiakim was the king of Judah, and the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had come and besieged the city, taking many nobles and people of the royal line captive and forcing them to make the long trek to an unfamiliar land. In the first chapter of the book of Daniel, we see that the king of Babylon's strategy toward his enemies is the same as Satan's strategy toward us: indoctrination and distraction. The name Daniel means "God is my judge," but Nebuchadnezzar changed his name to Belteshazzar, which means "Bel protects his life." Not only did the king change his name, but he also sent Daniel to school where he would be taught all the pagan mysticism of Babylon. While Daniel was being schooled in the ways of the Chaldeans, he was appointed some of the king's delicacies as his daily meal portion. HERE HE WAS! He had just been taken captive -- taken from his home and all he had ever known, but he was thrown -- not into a dark prison cell, but into prominence and position! He was cast -- not into a dungeon, but into luxury and distinction. The question is, though, "HOW did he respond? "
How do we respond in life when we are faced with decisions to take up a hobby, take a new job, or get involved in an activity? All of these examples could be a GOOD thing, but when they distract us from our walk with the Lord, they are an obstacle.
Even good and valuable things can be bad for us when they distract us from our relationship with god!
Daniel could have allowed all these things that could be pleasing to his flesh -- the recognition, the place of prominence he would be placed in, and the king's food to become heart distractions. King Nebuchadnezzar didn't want robotic allegiance; he wanted to win their hearts, and therefore their loyalty. The enemy wants the same things in our lives! Our lives can simply be broken down to this: A war for our heart's allegiance. If God has our hearts, and therefore our true allegiance, then we WILL walk in the works He has prepared for us, we WILL glorify Him, and we will GROW in our relationship with Him. Yet, the enemy promises us satisfaction in his many distractions; he is also vying for our hearts.
The author who wrote the book of Hebrews says in chapter 12, "12 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus..." Will we allow ourselves to become weighed down with hobbies, meaningless tasks, or pointless time-fillers until we have no time for the Lord in our lives? Will we give in to the draw of watching the next Netflix episode? It will only be the 7th consecutive episode we've watched! "I can make time for seeking the Lord after this one"... only to find yourself asking a similar question to what I was asking while driving to WY... "Where did the time go, Lord?"
Do we give God the throne of our hearts, or do we give God the leftovers?
Much like Daniel was at this point in his life, we too are surrounded by a busy, booming, and bustling society of wealth. He had just as much temptation to "dive right into" all that the king was wanting to indoctrinate him into, but it says that Daniel "PURPOSED IN HIS HEART" not to defile himself. The Bible instructs us in Proverbs to "guard our hearts with all diligence, for from them flow the springs of life"! WHAT DO WE GIVE OUR HEARTS OVER TO? Even something as innocent as a TV show can end up becoming the reason we are further from God than we want to be if we let the lure/excitement of "what happens in the next episode" keep us on the couch, when we haven't spent time with the Lord.
Let's bring all of this to a point. If there is one thing that I want you to take away, it is this: You live in a battlefield, not a playground. We think that the purpose of our life is our satisfaction, and though that may have been our personal pursuit before we gave our lives to Christ, now we are not our own. We have been bought at a price, the precious blood of Christ! We have a calling, and that calling is God's purpose for our life. The enemy seeks to litter our lives with distractions in order to take more of our heart equity from the Lord. He will tempt us, AND he will distract us... whatever it takes to render us ineffective toward the purpose God has for our lives!
Daniel ended up being ONE of only TWO men in the Bible who were never spoken of negatively. He continues to be an example of a believer -- no -- a disciple, who was RADICAL in his devotion and faithfulness to the Lord. God used him in a MIGHTY way and even used Daniel's prayer to bring Israel out of captivity. It all started when Daniel purposed in his heart and chose to not pick up any weight that would hinder him from seeking his God first, and avoiding the excuses that distractions inevitably bring.
Where are you at? Have you bolted so many things onto your life that you find yourself unable to really spend any time seeking the Lord? Throw off every weight which hinders! Run the race that is set before you with endurance! Don't give God the leftovers! We ought to make Him the very center of our lives by purposing in our hearts to seek Him above all else! God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him! Don't let the enemy take you out through simply making you distracted.