Our world is full of distraction.
We have never been more connected with the news of the world around us, updates from the lives of our friends, and opinions of those we don’t even know. Research shows that iPhone users unlock their phones an average of 80 times per day. In addition, it was shown that the average iPhone user checks their phone between six and seven times per hour—or about once every 10 minutes. Our days are constantly being interrupted by texts, tweets, push notifications, ads, Instagram posts, emails, and on and on we could go. Our brains are being trained to crave distraction. With this increased connectedness, if we are not careful, we can become disconnected with our Creator.
If there is quiet, we seek to fill it with noise. If there is a moment to slow down and seek our Creator, we tend to distract ourselves instead of giving our attention to God.
A simple definition of distraction is “something that turns your attention away from something you want to concentrate on.” And this is exactly what Satan wants for us. Satan loves distracted Christians. He doesn’t care what that something is. He just wants to turn our attention away from the things of God.
We must remember that the enemy seeks “to kill, to steal, and to destroy” us (John 10:10). Oftentimes, when we read that verse, we think of drastic measures, but the reality is, all Satan has to do to accomplish his goal is distract us. And when he distracts us, we become disconnected from our Creator.
Of course, Satan wants to do everything in his power to make sure we don’t trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior on the front end. But once he’s lost that battle, the next best thing he can do is make sure Christians get as distracted as possible. The most distracted Christians are the most neutralized Christians.
Here are three ways we can stay spiritually focused in a distracted world:
1. Pay attention to what you pay attention to.
As Christians, we must be careful what we are giving our attention to. What we give our attention to is what we are being discipled by. Another way to put it is what fills our minds ultimately fills our hearts.
Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2 that as Christians we are called to “not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
In a world full of distraction, it is easy to be conformed to this age. If we listen to any and every voice without discretion, we will be discipled by the popular views of our age and not by God’s Word.
We need to pay attention to the voices we are letting speak into our lives. And here’s why: We become what we behold. What absorbs our interest, what we give our attention to most, shapes our thinking and fills our hearts. Where we spend our time will shape our life. What we watch will change the way we see the world. What we listen to will change the way we speak about others. What we read will change the way we think about issues.
So as Christians, we must make sure we are spending more time in God’s Word and in prayer than listening, watching, and reading the voices around us.
In order to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” we must diligently evaluate what we are filling our minds with in order to protect our hearts. Remember that Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Guard our hearts above all else, for it is the source of life.”
2. Create boundaries and constraints.
When it comes to guarding what is valuable in our lives, we set up boundaries and constraints to make sure those valuables are protected, even from themselves. For example, if you have a dog, you know you cannot trust your dog to stay by your side while you go on a walk. That’s why you put them on a leash. No matter how great your dog is, their instinct is to chase a squirrel, a cat, or really anything that distracts them, even if it means putting themselves in danger. A leash is a constraint that protects a dog from itself.
In the same way, we need to set up constraints and boundaries in our lives to protect ourselves from ourselves. We so easily forget that Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable.” As D.A. Carson put it, “People do not drift toward holiness … we drift toward disobedience.” That means we do not drift toward spending time with God; we drift toward distraction and letting other things fill our minds.
And in our day and age, distraction is always creeping around the corner. Our attention is the most valuable commodity for businesses and marketers, and they want to do everything they can to capture our attention. Which means we must do everything we can to control what we give our attention to. We need boundaries and constraints.
Let’s get practical with three simple ways you can take control of what you give your attention to.
Turn Off Push Notifications.
This may scare you. You may read it and feel like if you were to turn off push notifications, you would miss out. But actually, you will find freedom. Instead of being notified of every little thing on social media or every email that hits your inbox, you get to control when and what you give attention to.
Set Screen Time Limits.
If you find yourself endlessly scrolling through social media and other apps, set up screen time limits to help you control your time. This will cut off access to certain apps on your phone after a certain amount of time. I don’t know about you, but when Apple released this new feature and showed just how much time I was spending on my phone and certain apps, I was embarrassed.
Remember what Paul says in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” In order to make the best use of our time, we need limits.
Take Regular Breaks from Social Media.
I got this tip from my friend Mike Kelsey who is a pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington DC. He has created a personal social media rhythm by taking a break one day per week, one week per month, and one month a year.
If we don’t schedule our days and our time, others will schedule it for us, including our phones and social media. If you want to learn more about his rhythm, we discuss it on Episode 57 of the Unseen Leadership Podcast. As Mike put it during the podcast, “You don’t realize how much your feed is actually controlling the feed in your mind.” So let’s take back control of the feed in our minds and take scheduled breaks from social media.
3. Set your minds on the things above.
If we go back to Romans 12:2, we see that Paul tells us to “not be conformed to this age.” But we can’t accomplish this by simply protecting our attention. We must begin to focus on the right thing. This is why he goes on to say, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Paul reinforces this idea when he wrote to the Colossians saying, “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
We can’t just stop giving our attention to the world. We must start giving our attention to the things above.
The way we battle distraction is to become enamored by the things of heaven—to begin to crave spending time with God. When we set our minds on the things above, we will see Jesus as more beautiful, more news-worthy, and more compelling than anything else in our life. And everything else will be put in the right perspective.
The only way we can make sure Christ is ultimate in our heart is to fill our mind with the things of heaven constantly. So in an ever-distracted world, the way we stay spiritually focused is to set our minds on the things above.