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The Power A Diversions and Distractions | Sermon May 5, 2024

Updated: Jun 20

The Power of Diversions and Distractions

 

Scripture: Second Corinthians 2:10-11; Joshua 9:3-14; Deuteronomy 20:10-11 

 

Good morning Strangers Rest. This morning I am going to ask you to give me your undivided attention. Yeah, I know I should not have to ask, but as you listen to this message, it will become clear as to why I am choosing to do so. This is the final message of the four that God gave me to initially deliver as we start this journey together. The title of this message is “The Power of Diversions and Distractions.” If you have ever attempted to do something but was unable to complete it because you got distracted or your time was diverted to another issue then you will understand the importance of this message.

 

Before I go further, I want to again remind you that you have heard some elements of this message previously when the deacons spoke last summer. First, in Dea. Jones’ message, “Running for Jesus” he said that we need to lay aside anything that slows us down. He said “don’t be distracted.” You remember that? He said the Bible, and I love this, was Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” Now some may struggle with the idea that the Bible is anything but basic, but if you’ve ever been in the military you know that once you enlist, the very first thing you do is leave your home and go off to “basic” training. It is there that you receive your foundation for military life. Once we are saved, the Bible is where we begin our basic training in faith. Many people attempt to skip this training and their faith never grows, but that’s a subject for another day. The final message came from Dea. Howard when he spoke on “God’s Plan for You.” In his message he said we had to know our journey and that there will be a price to pay if we are going to truly follow Jesus. If you do not know your journey or are willing to pay the price you will easily become distracted and lose your way. Do you remember that message? I want to pause this morning and thank our deacons for allowing God to use them during a time of need in this Church. The messages that they delivered last summer to this Church body was Spirit-led and laid the foundation for what God is telling us right now. So thank you, deacons!!!     

 

This morning, as I said, we will be looking at the power of distractions and diversions. By definition, a diversion is “the act of an instance of diverting or straying from a course, activity, or use. It also means a deviation – trying to do one thing but ending up going off course. Satan wants to divert us from the place God wants us to go. Let me give you a military analogy. A well-known military war tactic is to feint attack on one area to draw the enemy’s attention away from the primary target. This is a strategy that military personnel are very familiar with and it’s not just used in the military. Boxers use this strategy and you also see it employed frequently in football games. The overall goal of this strategy is to get the opponent’s attention off the primary goal being attacked. If you think about this from Satan’s viewpoint, he is a master of getting us so diverted and distracted that we have very little time for the things of God. Yes, we have great intentions and we love to see the participation trophies we obtain for those intentions, but when it comes to doing what we intended, it is often lacking in substance. 

 

A diversion, as a principle, is neither positive nor negative until it is utilized and the intended outcome manifests. It all depends on the motivation behind it and who wins. If the person utilizing the diversion to gain something from an opponent and they are successful, then for them the diversion was extremely positive and had a positive outcome. The opposite is true for their opponent. For them it was negative all the way around. We can easily get distracted and diverted from doing something that we need to do because the things that distract us are often things that we enjoy. For example, how much of your free time do you spend on Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram, or YouTube? If you were to evaluate this time, would you say that you spend more time using those apps than you think? I have an Apple phone and there is a setting on my phone where I can check to see how much “screen” time I am using. In other words, it tells me how much time I am looking at my screen. Now the only reason I would be looking at my screen is because I am engaged in something. When I was writing this message I checked my phone and saw that I had spent 4.5 hours on my phone reading and researching – as I do not play games on my phone. If I am looking at it, I am responding to a message, reading the news or researching something. Regardless though, that was a lot of time for just the first 4 days of the week. I was averaging an hour per day and I do not look at my phone that often. Now imagine if I was spending that same amount of time everyday studying God’s Word or in quiet praise and worship of Him. Distractions and diversions are two of the most powerful tools that our enemy uses effectively against us to steal our time because oftentimes we do not recognize it is being stolen – again because whatever it is that is distracting us is oftentimes something we enjoy.

 

Let me give you an example of this that we normally would not think about. Paul wrote the following to the Christians in Corinth: “(10) Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, (11) lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.  (Second Corinthians 2:10-11) In verse ten, Paul talks about our willingness to forgive before transitioning to verse eleven where he tells us how Satan takes advantage of us when we choose not to forgive. Paul says that we open the door for our enemy to take advantage of us when we are not willing to forgive. But I really want you to focus on what Paul wrote in the last part of verse eleven. He said, “…for we are not ignorant of his devices.” Through God’s Word and the Holy Spirit residing within us, we can know how our enemy operates because his plans, thoughts, cunning, and skills have not changed since he first appeared in the Garden of Eden. We have absolutely no excuse for being ignorant or surprised by the great number of devices he consistently uses against us as he tries to minimize or destroy the effectiveness of our walk with Christ because many of them are recorded in God’s Word! All we have to do is study the Word and listen to the Spirit as He guides us.

 

Now turn with me to the ninth chapter of the book of Joshua. This chapter records a story of how the Israelites were distracted and their attention diverted in such a way that they failed to ask God about the situation they were facing. Joshua 9:3-14 records the following, “(3) But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, (4) they worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, (5) old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy. (6) And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, ‘We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.’ (7) Then the men of Israel said to the Hivites, ‘Perhaps you dwell among us; so how can we make a covenant with you?’ (8) But they said to Joshua, ‘We are your servants.’ And Joshua said to them, ‘Who are you, and where do you come from?’ (9) So they said to him: ‘From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God; for we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt, (10) and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth. (11) Therefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, ‘Take provisions with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say to them, ‘We are your servants; now therefore, make a covenant with us.’ (12) This bread of ours we took hot for our provision from our houses on the day we departed to come to you. But now look, it is dry and moldy. (13) And these wineskins which we filled were new, and see, they are torn; and these our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey.’ (14) Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the LORD.” (Joshua 9:3-14) 

 

Gibeon was the head of the four towns occupied by the Hivites. When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard that the Children of Israel were coming their way, they devised a plan to get the Israelites to enter into a peace agreement with them by deception. They knew that all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan were to be cut off and the Israelites would show them no mercy. This made them afraid of facing them because they understood that there was no way the Israelites would make a covenant with them. Their solution was to trick them into a peace agreement. By disguising themselves they made the Israelites believe that they came from some very far off country which the Israelites were not commanded to make war upon nor forbidden to make peace with but were particularly appointed to offer peace to. Unless they could convince the Israelites to make a peace treaty with them their fate would be the same as Jericho and Ai.

 

So, they used a diversion and a distraction to deceive the Israelites. In verse eight the Israelites asked the right question, got the answer they were expecting but paid too much attention to what they were seeing. And here is the kicker as recorded in verse fourteen, “….but they did not ask counsel of the LORD.” Their attention was so distracted by what their eyes were seeing and what their ears were hearing that they failed to ask God what they should do. When you read the rest of the story, when Joshua found out he had been deceived he honored his agreement not to kill them. But, and this is a big “but” Strangers Rest – that agreement caused them to disobey what God had told them to do. And to make matters worse, they knew why they were not to make peace people who were not Israelites. By not asking God’s counsel on the situation Joshua entered into an agreement that caused him to disobey the instructions God had given to him. This is the reason why our enemy desires to distract or divert our attention away from the things of God – it weakens our relationship with God.

 

Do you remember the parable Jesus taught about the sower in Mark chapter four? I want to focus your attention on what He said in verses eighteen and nineteen. When He explained what happened to the seeds that fell among the thorns, He said, “(18) Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, (19) and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Mark 4:18-19) In this illustration Jesus says that those who hear the Word and fail to produce fruit fail to do so because their focus and desires are diverted to and/or distracted by the cares of this world; the deceitfulness of riches and their desire for other things. Now let me bring this Scripture home to you as you sit here. How many sermons have you heard but cannot remember? Do you know why you can’t remember them? Is it because something distracted you and you forgot? Did you take notes as you listened to the message so you could go back to it later to refresh your memory? By show of hands, how many of you, since I started this message, have thought about something other than what I have been sharing? Maybe it’s what you will have for lunch. Maybe it’s how you are feeling and what you have planned for the week. Maybe it’s the person who is dressed in a way that you can’t take your mind off the fact that they wore that outfit to Church. If your mind has been on anything other than what I am sharing with you, then you my friend have been or are distracted and this word that I am sharing, sadly it is falling among thorns.

 

The Apostle Peter wrote the following in First Peter 5:8, “(8) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” One of the main reasons we must avoid being distracted is because it's a trick from the enemy. The enemy knows that if we're constantly distracted by the noise of the world, it will keep us from hearing the voice of God. Therefore, when he cannot destroy us, he distracts us. Another reason is that distraction pulls us away from what we really want to do. If you think of a lion sneaking around seeking its prey the prey that is most vulnerable besides those that are sick or injured are the ones not paying attention to its surroundings. They are so distracted that they do not see the lion approaching them. This is why we must be vigilant, focused and our attention not diverted or distracted. When we allow ourselves to let our guards down, the enemy comes in quickly and cause problems. Let me give you an example of this that you might have heard about at the beginning of this year.    

 

I want to set the foundation for this event by reading what the Apostle Peter wrote in First Peter 2:1-2. He told the Church, “(1) Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, (2) as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” The goal of the Church is to become more and more like Christ by putting aside everything that is associated with the world – malice, deceit, hypocrisy, etc. But one of the goals of our enemy is to use diversions to keep the Church spiritual babies by keeping us off the narrow path that leads to spiritual maturity and he is working through the pulpit to make this a reality. Yes, you heard me right. Satan is using some of us in the pulpit to make sure the Church body does not grow spiritually. Do you remember what the Apostle Paul said about this in Second Corinthians chapter eleven? He said, “(13) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. (14) And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. (15) Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” (Second Corinthians 11:13-15) Our enemy does not care about the Church growing in number because a lot of them still belong to him. But for those who do not belong to him, then his goal is to keep them as weak and ineffectual as possible and the best way to make that happens is through distractions. Some of the things that distract us actually keep non-believers from accepting Christ and becoming believers. 

 

So here is the example from the beginning of this year and I am sure some of you heard about the event that happened on New Year’s Eve 2023. Some of you may have seen the video of the New Year’s Eve service where the pastor/bishop of the Church entered the Church swaging to the secular song “Walk it Out.” This song has absolutely no place being played in any house of worship. I had initially included some of the lyrics in this message but decided to remove them as those lyrics even being read in a message has no place in God’s sanctuary – they are just that bad. Anyway, this pastor/bishop entered his Church for a New Year’s service with this song blasting. People were dancing and swaying to the music just as the song said and doing it down before the altar. If you didn’t know better you would have thought you were seeing a party at a night club and literally you would have been right. People were dancing and gyrating before the altar as if they were in a club. So how do I know this one act diverted non-believers away from the Church? Well because they actually said so. Some responded to the incident by saying they were appalled by these “church goers” and the church’s leader. They said they expected more from Christians as they did not expect to see a night club in a Church. Do you think by those statements they had a better image about what Christianity means? I do not know what this pastor was thinking, but when he was asked about it he justified his actions by saying he was being relevant to the people and making the Church relevant to them. Some have forgotten that Jesus never tried to be “relevant” as He held to His Father’s standards and those standards were never lowered to make the world feel better about themselves or their respond to Him.

 

I want to close by sharing with you one way we can minimize and withstand when Satan attacks us with diversions and distractions. Remember the story we read earlier about how the Gibeonites fooled the Children of Israel. Remember Joshua 9:14 recording, “And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.” When they were approached by the Gibeonites, they listened with their ears and accessed with their eyes and accepted what they heard and saw. In doing this, they did not “feel” the need to ask God about the situation. How many times do we accept what we see and hear as gospel and do not seek God’s face about a situation? There is a word in the Hebrew that aptly describes how we can minimize the enemy’s successful use of diversions in our lives and it’s the word sur. It appears 56 times as “turn aside”, and 51 times as “turned aside”. We are only going to look at the first time the word is used. Exodus 3:1-4 says, “(1) Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (2) And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. (3) Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ (4) So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’” (Exodus 3:1-4)

 

In verse three Moses said, “…..I will now turn aside, and see this great sight….” Moses was tending to his father-in-law’s flock when he became distracted by the burning bush. Moses made a purposeful decision to investigate the distraction and diverted his attention to it. You see in this situation, it was God providing the distraction. In verse four, based on Moses’ initial action, God did something. It says, “So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him…” The Lord made a purposeful decision to speak to Moses after Moses allowed Him to divert and distract him. What we see in these two verses are purposeful decisions to follow the leading of the Lord. For us today, it’s something that we feel on the inside. We can feel the Lord tugging at our hearts and minds, and we must come to the place of yielding to that tug. We must come to the place of turning aside when we feel it.

 

When I was in High school we were required to take driver’s education. This was a requirement that had to be met before we could take the test to obtain our official driver’s license. There was the classroom work that had to be successfully completed followed by behind the wheel driving training – where they actually took us out on the road and we could put into practice what we learned. During that training we had to hold the steering wheel at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock position at all times while paying attention to our surroundings. Now here is what’s important. We were not allowed to have music playing and those riding in the back seat were not allowed to be carrying on conversations. The car had to be quiet and the reason was simple – the instructor did not want us distracted.

 

Strangers Rest, distracted drivers are more prone to getting into accidents and injuring themselves and others because they run red lights or swerve into on-coming traffic because they take their eyes off the road. Many Christians are going through life as distracted drivers – getting into spiritual accidents because they are distracted. We cannot be distracted on this journey. Everything that I have shared with you led to this final message – we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by unforgiveness; bad memories of hurts and things that have failed in the past, nor the concept that since we are under grace how we live and treat one another does not matter. These things will distract us and hinder our ability to hear what God is trying to tell us about where He is taking us. My assignment from God is to help you, but the ownership of the decision rests on this Church. I want to leave you with what Solomon said in Proverbs 4:25-27, “(25) Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. (26) Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. (27) Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.”

 

Until next time, “The Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.”  (Numbers 6:24-26)

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VISION: 

“Til all the ransomed church of God is saved to sin no more"

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