The first time I ever stood in front of a crowd to speak, I made sure to dapper up. I slicked my hair back, put on my best sweater and pair of corduroys, made VERY certain to smell nice, stepped on stage, and then…
I totally forgot to hold the microphone close enough to my mouth so anyone could hear me. During my message no one bothered to say anything. It wasn’t until after the event when I asked a friend what they thought, that I actually knew what had happened. My friend’s response?
“It was good,” they said. “I just couldn’t hear you.”
Really? So much for killing it, I suppose. A hard cross to bear when you’re 17 and overly self-conscious.
I’d like to tell you the second time I spoke to an audience went much better, but I can’t. It was mostly an open confessional where I sobbed, others listened, and we both left in a quasi-bewildered, almost repentant state. Life changing, I’m sure.
Despite the awkward moments and public blunders, God would use these experiences to open my eyes, creating a springboard to share my passion for His love and truth with others.
This passion for God’s truth and people has long sustained, but I battle in a growth of overwhelming distractions. This war is chronic. As soon as I’m over one distraction, I find the next one waiting in line to greet me. I hate it. As much as I appreciate the invention of the smartphone, I can’t help but think that it’s making us dumber. Netflix is fun, but 4-6 hours later you’re left wondering where the day went. You sit down for a meal with family, but conversation is offset by a barrage of text messages or worse yet, it comes to a complete stalemate because when was the last time you actually talked? And how clever, too; that rather than underachieving or overachieving is the idea of almost achieving. Getting 3 stars on said phone app is fun enough, but apart from temporary appeasement, what void does it actually fill? So it is, that rather than being genuinely fulfilled or experiencing life in its fullness, we press on sidetracked and distracted.
If you’re like me, then you know that courting distractions can easily become a life lived in servitude to immediate gratification. Why wait when you can have it now? Sadly, this message is everywhere. It’s in our culture. It’s in us. In my own struggles, I’ve pressed against many arguments in attempt to justify this behavior. “I may be a bit distracted, but I’m certainly being productive” I tell myself or “I’m not distracted, I’m multitasking.” However, evidence strongly suggest that while multitasking may have the appearance of productivity, we’re actually getting schooled in how to better distract ourselves. Start looking and you’ll find plenty of blogs, conferences, and professionals devoted to sharing secrets on how to become the next productivity machine within your sphere of influence. I’ve read and studied much of this material myself and there’s a lot of good to gain from it, still I would like to propose an alternative.
In the backdrop of the early church, Paul writes to those in the city of Corinth, a group that is struggling to keep their focus. In its time, Corinth was hugely successful, serving as a main commercial city, a literal land bridge, between the East and the West. Furthermore, the city was submerged in Greek culture which meant the celebration of logic, philosophy, law, and high living. Unfortunately, this also made the area grossly immoral, where sex, lust, idolatry, and self-seeking were considered commonplace. Now, wouldn’t you suppose that living in this kind of environment would present its fair share of distractions? So Paul, a scholar and one familiar with the Greek school of thought, starts off one of his letters by encouraging the Corinthians to simplify their lives. He tells them in 1 Corinthians 2:2 that he is determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He follows up on this idea in the very next chapter stating,
Let me spin it to you like this: what Paul is advocating to the Corinthians is that despite their present sin, division, and even distractions within the church, what really matters most is that they maintain a pure focus on Christ.
As glaringly simple as that last sentence sounds, as elementary as we think it is, and no matter how much we profess to have graduated from this idea, so could you now please bring on the “real” epiphany; regardless of any of this, this simple realization remains the most profound truth in the life of a Christian.
Christ before all. More important than trinkets, devices, “to-do” lists, and calendar events, are our relationships. People should matter or our message will not. Of all the relationships, none takes more precedence than our relationship with Christ or so it ought to. Have you ever noticed how polarizing the words of Christ are in scripture? He speaks and people are either compelled by the godly wisdom they hear, or like the Pharisees, they retaliate with words of poison and clandestine schemes. Absolute truth, as with a sword, cuts through the façade and rightly divides the condition of our hearts. So this proclamation of truth, God’s truth, never tires, it never grows old, and despite its many pallbearers, stands the test of time. Call it antiquated. Call it outdated and nothing new, but its existence is certain. Like God, the gospel is hinged upon that which is eternal. It is upheld by His very nature, and that nature begins with His glory. God is deeply invested in revealing His glory to mankind. By His grace, He allows us to participate in this narrative. This narrative is one of love, where He chooses us.
This is why the message still matters.
Because in lieu of the many distractions, there is a truth that still challenges and changes the hearts of men. People may argue this truth, and let’s be honest, they do and they will. They can even deny it. But what cannot be denied is the story, where in Christ we are forever changed. It is a story that is still worth telling.
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