Calvary Road Baptist Church

“DISTRACTIONS DESCRIBED”

First Corinthians 7.35

Are we established in our minds that attending upon the Lord without distraction is a good thing, a beneficial thing, an appropriate thing? Are we not agreed that when you are before the King of all glory, the Sovereign of the universe, the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, you really should pay attention? I refer to First Corinthians 7.35 once more, not as a passage which serves as a text for this evening’s sermon, but to remind you of a principle that you might find remarkable to have never thought of it before concerning your worship of God: “that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” The Greek word distraction is perispaw, and refers to being pulled away from a reference point, to be pulled/dragged, or to have one’s attention directed from one thing to another, to be distracted, quite busy, or overburdened.[1]

Imagine yourself involved in the worship of God. Perhaps you are praying in private or reading the Bible at home. You might be singing a congregational song on a Sunday evening or contemplating the Savior’s sacrifice for your sins until He comes again during the communion of the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps you are sitting in the auditorium while God’s Word is being preached, or you are engaging a visitor in conversation to make him feel welcome and comfortable during finger food fellowship. Maybe it is Saturday night and you are being a friend to a shy guy who has mustered up the courage to once again come to be with us. Each of these activities, whether engaged in at home or in the assembly, is properly understood to be worship, for to worship God is to pay homage to Him, to render to Him His due, to at that moment do for Him what He wants done . . . for Him. Parents, is this not what you want your kids to do? I stand before you in fear and trembling this evening, because I will preach to you about your life and not another’s life, your worship and not another’s worship, your attendance unto the Lord and not another’s. If God is pleased for you to welcome the lost among us so they will more attentively listen to the gospel when it is preached, then we must recognize that welcoming the lost is worship, and instead of doing that but to be driving home at that moment is most certainly not worship. As well, leaning over to make a comment to the person next to you while God’s Word is being preached is most certainly not worship.

What do you do with respect to your church’s evangelistic outreach? I am not asking where you are when the outreach takes place, but what you do when that outreach takes place. Many in our church are actually doing real things to get people in. What do you actually do? Do you do real things, actual things, productive things, evangelistic things? Or, do you waste time when you could, when you should, when you would if you wanted to reach unknown lost people, do something?

This is going to be one of those messages for you, to challenge you, to confront you, perhaps to provoke you. If you doubt what I say, consider how distractions from attending unto the Lord may be described in God’s Word:

First, DISTRACTION MAY BE DESCRIBED AS A WANDERING

Turn to read Proverbs 27.8: “As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.”

Parallelism is very common in Hebrew poetry, and so it is in this verse where a small sparrow-type of bird is likened to a man, the flitting of the bird here and there is likened to a man’s wanderings, and the bird’s nest is likened to the man’s place, be it his physical home or his proper state of mind and thought life. Not only does this proverb address the notion of a man being where he should not be physically with respect to the worship of God, but also being where he should not be mentally, with respect to his attention span.

How well this verse applies to me, especially an occasion in my childhood that I remember very well. I loved my second grade teacher, Mrs. Randall. Mrs. Randall told me again and again to stop looking out the classroom window one day. Each time I was warned, my head pivoted on my neck 90 degrees to the right, until Mrs. Randall came up from behind me and hit me on top of the head with the biggest book she could find. I was not consciously disobeying her. However, I just could not seem to focus my attention on class that day. A commercial currently airing on television declares that people have 3,000 thoughts per day, and what would have been a low number for me at age seven. I constantly wandered from my place, as this Proverb suggests.

Does this same thing not happen during prayer, during Bible reading, during the preaching service, while the congregation is singing, when someone opens or closes a door behind you, or for absolutely no reason at all? Throughout the day you see sparrows here and there, here and there, here and there, flitting about. And you are exactly the same way. The problem, of course, is that when you are supposed to be attending to God, waiting upon the Lord, it is wrong not to give Him your full and undivided attention.

Add to a person’s natural tendency to wander from his place, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, or physically, someone who lures or entices him intentionally, and you have a recipe for trouble. Not only must the lost actually pay attention to a gospel sermon in order to understand to be saved from their sins, but the saved should also play our part in persuading the lost by our attentiveness that God is in us of a truth, First Corinthians 14.25.

Next, DISTRACTION MAY BE DESCRIBED AS A HEART OR A MIND SECRET

It is one thing for someone’s mind or heart to wander as a result of a short attention span or a childish lack of self discipline. However, another cause of distraction is the quite intentional drawing away of himself by someone, as the Savior describes in Matthew 15.7-8:

7      Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,

8      This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

Here the Lord Jesus Christ describes the kind of person predicted by the prophet Isaiah, who is a religious fraud. He goes through the motions of pretending to worship God, but the attitude and action of the heart is at odds with the outward pretense. Oh, this person will seem to be listening to the preaching, will adopt a demeanor of respectful attentiveness, and may even say the right words. However, nothing is genuine, there is no sincerity, there is no real heart religion. It is quite obvious that this distraction is intentional.

Akin to the heart secret is what you might want to refer to as the mind secret. This is found in Paul’s discussion of his spiritual warfare in Second Corinthians 10.3-6:

3      For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

4      (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

5      Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

6      And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

Pay particular attention to verses 4 and 5, where the apostle mentions strong holds, imaginations, every high thing, and every thought. These are the mental barriers that are erected in the minds of lost people to counter the reasonable and persuasive truth of God’s Word. I am convinced that much of what happens in the sinner’s mind takes place unconsciously and generally unintentionally, even though God holds each of us responsible for the actions and decisions we take, even those which are not obviously intentional. A sinner hears God’s Word preached, yet he does not immediately obey the gospel because he holds a grudge against the speaker. Over the next several days, in the deep recesses of his mind, he concocts reasons and justifications for not believing the truth and not complying with God’s wishes. This is what the apostle refers to in the passage before us. Will the sinner voice his objections? Not usually, because his reasoning is flawed and his justification for continuing in his sin is ridiculous, and he knows it. However, it is good enough for him so long as he does not share it with anyone, so he embraces the distraction despite the damnation to his own soul that it brings. Yes, some distractions are secrets of the heart or mind.

Third, DISTRACTION MAY BE DESCRIBED AS A DISTANCE

Sometimes a man will sit in the auditorium while God’s Word is being preached, though he is not present (at least not mentally). Mentally, though his body is sitting in the auditorium, his mind is tuned to the baseball game, is focused on the basketball game, is imagining the NASCAR race that he could be watching if he was at home. At other times, someone will physically absent himself from the worship of God, catching up on his sleep when he could be in the house of God, doing yard work when he could be in attendance, or excusing himself by taking his kids somewhere when the family should be in the church house.

Hebrews 10.25 reads, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” God wants you in the assembly. I applaud those of you who let me know weeks in advance of plans that take you away, so I can work out the details of your absence, so your duties will be performed by others, and so I have the opportunity to ask you to change your schedule so you will not miss vital services. This last minute notification nonsense can be very discouraging to a pastor, though it is better than the self-worshipers who simply disappear without notice of any kind. Try doing that at work. However, do not think that the failure to assemble has only to do with entirely missing a preaching service. What about leaving on other occasions while important things need to be tended to? What about removing your child from ministry right in the middle of things, when your child is the only person who has succeeded in connecting with the visitor? I have observed three things that I think we should attend to: First, I watched one adult spend the evening ignoring visitors. Second, I watched other adults remove young people from the visitors they had connected with. Third, I watch still other young people hold back from connecting with visitors because they knew they would soon be removed by their parents and taken home. Parents, you can do anything you want to do, but I would like to ask you. Do you really want your kids to develop a life and friends somewhere other than here on Saturday nights? Do you want them at the mall on Saturday night or at a movie sitting next to the girl friend you know nothing about Saturday night? It is your call, after all.

In Zechariah 8.21, we find these words: “Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also.” Notice, also, in Daniel 6.10: “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” Daniel did not care how inconvenient or dangerous it was to go to pray, he went anyway. In both verses, we see that distance from the place of prayer was not allowed to be a distraction.

Thus, sometimes the distraction is a physical distance, meaning you simply are not where you are supposed to be for the proper worship of and service to God. At other times, distraction is an emotional, spiritual, or intellectual distance. You are here, you are just not here. You know what I mean. Can distance be a dangerous distraction? Remember Second Samuel 11.1? “. . . at the time when kings go forth to battle . . . David tarried still at Jerusalem.” When you are not where you are supposed to be, distance is a distraction. It is one thing to be emotionally or physically distant as a distraction from attending unto the Lord. It is quite another to be the mom or dad who is the cause of your child being emotionally or physically distant as a distraction from attending unto the Lord. Are you sure you want to go there?

Finally, DISTRACTION MAY BE DESCRIBED AS A NEGLECT

These descriptions of distractions obviously overlap. David’s distraction that led to his adultery with Bathsheba was both a distraction due to distance (he was far from where he should have been), as well as a distraction due to neglect (he was not tending to what he should have been tending to).

Are you watching television when you should be reading God’s Word? Are you napping when you should be getting ready for the evening service? What? You have no alarm clock at your house? Should you not be praying instead of doing what you are doing? Neglect is one of the prime factors in distracting someone from worship.

Turn to Nehemiah 6.3, where we see Nehemiah setting a tremendous example for all to follow: “And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” Returning from the Babylonian captivity of seventy years, Jerusalem is a shambles, vulnerable to robbers because the city walls were torn down by the Babylonians. However, Cyrus, the Persian ruler, has granted permission to rebuild the city walls, and Nehemiah is the Jewish man appointed governor who has rallied the people in a feverish effort to accomplish the rebuilding task despite great opposition. Sanballat and Geshem, two of Nehemiah’s enemies, sent word to him that they wanted to talk. Nehemiah realized that their interest in talking was nothing more than a distraction designed to delay the reconstruction of the wall. So, what did Nehemiah do? He responded by messengers, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”

How many times did your in-laws visit before they understood that you were not going to miss a church service for them, Brother Grey? Nehemiah did not neglect his duties in order to attend to something far less important, and neither should you or I. We need to do what we can to train our loved ones and family members. Failing that, we need to be willing to glorify God even if it angers some people, because we are working to build a wall here. We are actually working to build a church here.

The importance and majesty of God, Himself, is reason enough to attend unto the Lord without distraction. He is worthy of our focused attention, is He not? However, quite beside that, there is the practical consideration of how people will embrace the notion that God is more important than they are if everything dropped for them without them being expected to drop anything for God?

It is a matter of priorities, my friend. Distractions will always be the bane of our existence, but our struggle against distractions is a battle we must constantly wage. Therefore, whether it is wandering about mentally or physically like a sparrow flying about, a secret of the heart or mind, an emotional or physical distance, or a neglect of the most important for anything less important, it is wrong.

It is our duty, our honor, our privilege, and our great opportunity to worship, serve, and show others our opinion of our Savior and our God by attending unto the Lord without distraction.[2]



[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 804.

[2] This sermon has been developed from Richard Steele’s Wandering Thoughts In The Worship Of God, first published in 1673, Sprinkle Publications, 1988, pages 4-7.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org