I once heard about a pastor in a persecuted country who was thrown into solitary confinement for over a year because of his faith in Christ. Day after day, he crouched in a tiny cell with no light, no sound, and no human companionship. When he was finally released from prison, his body was weak, but his face was radiant and glowing. His Christian friends asked him, "How did you survive? What was it like?"
The frail pastor joyfully proclaimed, "It was like a dream come true. I was completely fulfilled in the presence of Jesus!"
What an incredible statement! This man had spent more than 365 days in the most extreme isolation imaginable, with no earthly pleasures or comforts, and yet he was more than satisfied by the sweet soul-fellowship he shared with His precious King. Jesus became, in reality, his everything. As a result, he didn't just survive those lonely months; he triumphed through them.
Would Jesus Be Enough?
Imagine having all your pleasures and indulgences stripped away. No mall to shop at on the weekends. No coffee bars to make your favorite latte. No Facebook page to post on. No cell phone to text with. No Pinterest to browse. No Netflix or cable T.V. to entertain you. No gym membership to help you de-stress. No hair salons or spas to pamper you. No magazines or books to read. No chocolate desserts or whipped mocha frappuccinos to enjoy.
Would Jesus be enough to satisfy you?
Imagine losing all contact with those you love. No opportunity to see your husband or friends or children, or even to hear their voices over the phone. Imagine being completely by yourself, twenty-four hours a day.
Would Jesus be enough to satisfy you?
Exchanging an Eternal Focus
That piercing question changed my life many years ago. Eric and I had been in full-time ministry for several years; constantly traveling, speaking, writing, and counseling. As an introvert, I was often burned out from this demanding lifestyle. I knew that I should be turning to Christ to revive my spirit, but after a long day of ministry work, I found myself wanting to take a break from spiritual things. Trivial activities began to consume much of my free time.
Instead of reading my Bible or inspiring Christian books, I often turned to novels and magazines. Instead of cultivating meaningful relationships with others, I wasted hours surfing the Internet for the latest fashion trends and beauty tips. Instead of taking time for personal worship or Scripture meditations, I downloaded the latest music from iTunes. Though I was a Christian leader, I became more in tune with pop culture than with the Word of God.
Without even realizing it, I had exchanged an eternal focus for a temporal one. With my mouth, I proclaimed that the things of God were most important to me. But with my time and daily choices, I was placing much higher value on the things of the world.
My life began to feel empty and unsatisfying. I felt the gentle tug of God's Spirit, convicting me about the pleasure-seeking lifestyle I had chosen. I read in 1 Timothy 5:6 that "she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives." I began to realize that my life lacked purpose because my focus had drifted away from Christ, and I had become preoccupied with earthly distractions.
Jesus Became My All in All
With God's help, I began to change my daily habits to align with eternal priorities. Eric and I exchanged our movie marathons for powerful times of prayer. Instead of mindlessly surfing the Internet during our spare time, we began studying Scripture and reading inspiring Christian biographies. We talked for hours about what God was doing in our hearts and what we were discovering in His Word.
As I began to spend my time on Christ-centered activities instead of frivolous ones, Jesus became my all in all, not just in theory but in reality.
Something amazing happened as I began to spend my time on Christ-centered activities instead of frivolous ones. Jesus became my all in all, not just in theory but in reality. My relationship with Him began to satisfy all my needs.
I began to experience the words of Psalm 16:11, "In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." By seeking pleasure and fulfillment through pop culture distractions, I had settled for a counterfeit peace and temporary joy. But as I built my life and my time around the eternal instead of the temporal, I discovered a true peace and lasting joy.
My life has never been the same since.
Two Questions to Ask Yourself
It's not that I've never watched a movie or read a novel since that season of shifting my priorities. But my approach is far different than it used to be. I've learned not to turn to worldly entertainment to find the rest, joy, peace, rejuvenation, and fulfillment my soul needs. I have come to realize that the only place where I can find those things is at the feet of Jesus. If I turn elsewhere for comfort, I'm settling for a cheap counterfeit of the soul-level satisfaction that Jesus desires to give me. So now, whenever I'm deciding whether to spend my free time on a movie, novel, or similar activity, I ask myself these questions:
- Is this activity distracting me from Christ or causing me to adopt the ungodly values of the world?
If my answer is yes, then I shouldn't be doing it! John Tauler once said, "A pure heart is one to which all that is not of God is strange and jarring." This statement has been a powerful reminder to keep me from becoming careless about the things that influence my heart and mind on a daily basis.
- Am I turning to this activity for fulfillment instead of to Christ?
If my answer is yes, then I need to re-evaluate where I'm looking for satisfaction. There may not be anything wrong with a particular activity, but if it's replacing my relationship with Christ, my priorities are off balance.
I have a long way to go to become as satisfied in Jesus as that imprisoned pastor was. And yet, the more I choose to come away from trivial things, the more I catch a glimpse of the joy and fulfillment that is possible when I build my life around God's priorities instead of the shallow distractions of the world.
To become the set-apart women called has called us to be, we must remember that this world is not our home. Each moment we have on this earth is a gift from heaven; a beautiful opportunity to live out the calling Christ has placed upon our lives. May we not waste this precious time that God has given us! Let's ask Him for the strength to turn our attention away from distractions and onto the things that matter most to Him.
How will you turn from distractions to Christ today?