I am a genius! I have discovered a way to travel to America in under 3 seconds. In fact I have taken quite a few trips there in the last 6 months of living in South Africa, and I am sure no one had any idea I was even there. I am sure you are dying to know my secret. It is a great device called VPN which provides me with an American IP address and with an annual fee you can have one too!
All I have to do is connect to the internet and open the VPN application and with a quick push of the button my South African flag magically turns into the flag of the land of the free and home of the brave: America! Amazing! I know. With this great device I am able to keep up with all my favorite shows and have access to any website just as if I was still living in the U.S.A.
Each week after a long day, I would come home and take my 3 second trip to America and spend as much time there as my limited internet would allow. In fact I would ration out my bandwidth to insure I had just enough to catch my favorite shows of the week. This gave me a sense of comfort and connection to my old life back home especially since South Africa is seasons behind the current one in the States.
Although this was only a 3 second trip it would end up being an all night stay, and slowly I found my quiet times becoming shorter and more rushed after a marathon of the latest dramas on TV. In fact, I found myself at times too tired to stay up to even spend that needed quality time with God each night. Not good at all! So the Holy Spirit began to convict me and reveal to me that this was breaking God’s heart. My appetite for God and His presence became dominated by my appetite for the newest suspenseful drama on Hulu. This began to hinder me from knowing God’s will.
A part of me was immediately defensive. It wasn’t like I was watching inappropriate or immoral things online. I just simply wanted to stay current on the shows that I enjoyed before moving to South Africa. But once again God showed me my true reflection. God showed me that it wasn’t the content of the shows I was watching that was the issue, the real issue was my desire for real intimacy with Him was slowly being replaced with a few hours of empty entertainment.
So maybe watching too much TV is not an issue for you. But we all have things, people, habits, places that are a hindrance to serving God and doing His will.
In Hebrews 12:1, it tells us to “…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…”. We all have that something or someone that hinders us from being completely focused on Christ. It could be we devote all of our time and energy to working and have little left for fellowship with God and His people. Or we spend all of our energy on our relationship and forget that God is the one who blessed us with him/her. Maybe we get so busy pursuing our own agendas that we only allow God the 5 minutes each morning that it takes to read our online devotional.
Maybe what hinders you is none of the above. But as Christians the closer we get to God there will be things or people that will become a hindrance even if it never was before. Watching TV was never an issue for me or for God. But now as I seek to become closer to Him and know Him more, the time I devoted to my own personal entertainment has to be reworked. We all have things in our lives that prevents us from growing closer to Christ. It is unavoidable. We are sinful people; that is our nature. God is sinless, it is His nature. So the more we strive to become like God, the more our nature clashes with His. That is when we discover the hurdles that we must jump over in order to become more like Christ.
How do you identify what hinders you? Well, what are you hungry for…what do you wake up thinking about each morning? What is on your mind the majority of your day? Who or what do you talk about with your friends? Who or what are you spending the bulk of your time, money, and energy pursuing? Whatever or whoever was an answer to one of the above questions most likely is something that is hindering you from establishing a deeper connection with Christ.
We must be hungry for Christ! We should be consumed, possessed with the Spirit of Jesus. We can’t fully and continuously possess Him when we allow things to block our pursuit. So what must we do? According to Hebrews 12:1, we must “…throw off…” all of the things that hinder us and all of the sin that gets us caught up. This is pretty straight forward. We aren’t meant to just slowly cut back, but immediately make some serious changes on what we are pursuing. Now I am not telling you to quit your job or end that relationship or even to stop watching TV. But I do believe a reworking of priorities is in order.
This may mean you may need to cut back on some of the overtime or stop taking work home. So you can have daily, quality time with Jesus studying His word and sitting quietly at His feet. You may need to tell your ‘boo’ that from certain times of the day you can’t be reached because you are taking care of the most important relationship first (hopefully during this time they are also spending quality time with God…but that is another blog for another time).
What is distracting you from becoming fully immersed in God’s presence? What is fighting for your attention on a daily basis? Just as God pursues us, so does the enemy. We must make a conscious decision to identify our distractions, get rid of them, and “…run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
As for me, I still take my 3 second trips to America, but I am very strict about how long I spend there. At a certain time every night I return to reality and turn off everything and sit at God’s feet. Spending consistent time with God should be our number 1 priority. This is the time for us to be focused like never before.
God is mindful.