A new year has begun, and new prospects are on the horizon. The Bible challenges us to spend our time wisely and avoid wasting opportunities: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15–16).
Many of us are overwhelmed and distracted. Countless things cloud our minds and demand our immediate attention. But distractions can have consequences. For example, approximately 3,500 people died and 400,000 were injured in 2015 alone due to distracted-driving accidents.1
But there is an even greater danger. How many lives are ruined, families wounded, and opportunities lost due to the complacency of distracted living? Scripture abounds with tragic examples of people who lost their focus and lived distracted lives.
So how do we keep focused when distractions abound? The following seven biblical texts focus on the “one thing” we ought to do that, by God’s grace, will help us redeem our time in the days ahead and keep us on the path of life.
In Psalm 27:4, David proclaimed he desired and sought after one thing: daily, unbroken fellowship with the Lord: “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.”
The psalm’s intensity reveals David’s passionate thirst for God. He longed to dwell in the Tabernacle, or “the house of the LORD,” the one place that radiated God’s glory and the beauty of His grace and mercy. God personally met His people there, where His presence and the Ark of the Covenant dwelt. David sang, “LORD, I have loved the habitation of Your house, and the place where Your glory dwells” (26:8).
Of course, God’s glory no longer dwells in man-made structures (Acts 17:24–25). No Tabernacle or Temple has stood in Jerusalem for almost 1,950 years, and God’s glory departed from the Temple more than 2,500 years ago. Yet Jewish people come to the Western Wall of the ancient Temple Mount in an attempt to be close to where the Lord’s glory last resided. Some even enter an excavated tunnel that leads to an underground area believed to be exactly in line with the ancient Holy of Holies.
Yet David found God’s beauty in a tent. Today the Lord dwells within the hearts of believers who “worship the Father in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:21–24).
How passionate are we about our relationship with the Lord?
Luke chapter 10 records the account of two sisters, Martha and Mary, who hosted a dinner for Jesus. Mary sat and listened to Jesus while Martha, distracted and overwhelmed with serving, asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her.
Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part” (vv. 41–42). Martha allowed many things to distract and fluster her, but Mary stopped everything to sit at Jesus’ feet. Each woman made a choice: Martha chose tasks. Mary chose listening to Jesus—the “one thing…needed” and “that good part.”
Like weeds and thorns in a garden, the cares and distractions of this world can choke out the impact of God’s Word in our lives. If we’re not careful, we can become like barren trees, bearing no fruit.
How eager have we been to focus on the Word of God lately?
As Christians, we struggle to be free from the shackles of outward religious rules and practices. The apostle Paul encouraged the fledgling believers in Galatia to live freely in the liberty of grace, but he reminded them they still needed to obey the moral law.
The moral law, Paul said, is summed up in one word: love. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:14). Grace should free our hearts to truly love others. While the pressure of external religious standards creates discord and a spirit of comparison, grace frees us to serve and love because we are loved and no longer need to prove ourselves.
How have we gone out of our way to demonstrate sacrificial love for others lately?
One day, an influential, wealthy young man stopped Jesus to ask Him what he must do to inherit eternal life (Lk. 18:18). Jesus replied, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother’” (v. 20).
In what appears to be a quick but sincere answer, the young man’s self-evaluation found no flaws. “All these things I have kept from my youth,” he told Jesus (v. 21).
Jesus responded, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (v. 22).
Jesus often used questions to challenge the religious presumptions of people and to reveal their sinful hearts. Jesus challenged the young man to sell everything, give the profits to the poor, and follow Him. Sadly, the man chose his riches over Jesus: “But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich” (v. 23).
Jesus exposed the man’s heart, and the man left devastated. He was sorrowful not because he saw the truth about himself, but because he did not want to give up his riches. The one thing he lacked was an honest evaluation of his spiritual condition.
When was the last time we thoroughly and honestly evaluated our spiritual lives?
One day Jesus passed a blind man sitting by the road. The man had seen only darkness his entire life. The miraculous touch of the Light of the World gave sight to his eyes and light to his darkness (Jn. 9:1–11).
When questioned by the religious leaders, the healed man proclaimed, “One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see” (v. 25). The leaders became angry and excommunicated him from the synagogue.
Later Jesus found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” (v. 35). The man then openly declared his faith in Jesus—the Messiah and Son of God—and worshiped Him. Snatched from darkness into light, he didn’t know all the answers. He couldn’t even adequately describe Jesus when the religious leaders questioned him. But he knew one thing vividly: He had moved from darkness to light, both physically and spiritually.
How often are we overcome with a vivid awareness of our salvation?
We live in a busy world. Days and weeks fly by, and it seems we never have enough time to get everything done. Each day we have tasks to complete, people to meet, and obligations to fulfill. Some people schedule everything, prioritizing who and what need their attention. But sometimes we fail to prioritize time for God.
The apostle Paul faced many challenging and busy days; and he didn’t have an iPhone, day planner, or pocket organizer. But one thing he did have: the proper priority. He concentrated on his relationship with God above all else: “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13–14).
Paul strove to become more like Christ every day. He enthusiastically looked forward to the adventure of walking with Jesus, longing to know “the power of His resurrection” and “the fellowship of His sufferings” (v. 10). God had top priority in Paul’s daily schedule, even in prison.
How does our pursuit of spiritual growth impact our daily schedules?
Years ago, the Messiah’s imminent return for His church, the future judgment, the Millennial Kingdom, and the eternal state filled pastors’ sermons. Christians talked about them and used to live as if any day could be their last on Earth. Somehow the church has forgotten these truths, carelessly living as if tomorrow will always come.
Hope in Christ’s return motivated the early church to stand firm, share the Good News, and live godly lives in a fallen and perverse world. Peter charged the Christians of his day to remember that God’s timetable was not theirs: “Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8).
The Day of the Lord is on the horizon, and His promises are irrevocable: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (v. 13).
How sure is your hope of Jesus’ promised return at any moment?
It’s easy to become distracted and lose focus on what counts. This year, let’s evaluate and reorder our lives so we live wisely and purposefully—impacting others for eternity.
- “Distracted Driving,” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration <tinyurl.com/hbued5t>.