2018-02-10 / Religion

Don’t let yourself get preoccupied

“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’” (Mark 8:34-38, English Standard Version)

Recently, I visited with my brother. When I first arrived, he was trying to talk to me, but I wasn’t really listening.

I was thinking about a meeting I’d just left concerning our middle-school spring-break service trip to Kentucky.

My brother had been reading his Bible and opened it to a bookmarked section, handing it to me as he asked me a question.

I began reading the passage. It was the following:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8, ESV)

One word hit me: “preoccupied.”

I was so preoccupied with my thoughts that I was not really listening to what my brother was saying. I got myself together and started listening to my brother.

More importantly, as I looked at the passage in James, my mind began to stir in other ways, and the chief subject was, and is, preoccupation.

Look back at that passage.

How many of us doubt God – not because we directly hate or deny what he says, but because we ignore him indirectly by being preoccupied.

Think about the way the enemy works, too. For the most part, Satan is not going to get us to curse God or forsake him.

What the enemy will do is simply get us preoccupied with things other than God.

We can be preoccupied with the pursuits of success, popularity, pleasure, riches and notoriety. We can be preoccupied by trivial things, materialism, sensuality, battles of words, bitternesses and myriad desires of the flesh.

The problem of preoccupation surely makes us unstable in all our ways.

Preoccupation can also have much more serious consequences than these already stated.

Consider the Mark 8 passage above. It starts with any invitation: “…if anyone would come after me…” See the invitation? Anyone can come; but if anyone does come after him, Jesus says there is a reality with which one must be aware.

Jesus continued to say that we must deny ourselves and take up the cross. Whew! That’s a big deal!

Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain is the way of our culture, so it’s easy to see that taking up the cross of Christ does not seem very inviting.

However, if we are preoccupied with saving our lives, because we are avoiding pain or pursuing pleasure, we are in danger of losing our lives.

Likewise, we can’t be preoccupied with whether people agree with or like or approve of our living as disciples of Jesus.

Unlike a recent movie about some monks in Japan, we also must deal with the reality of having a personal faith that is also not a private faith.

There is no such thing as an undercover Christian. Jesus exposes his expectations of his disciples, and also demolishes any idea that we can live out faith in him without it being in the wide open, when he says, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the son of man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Preoccupation could stop us from becoming saved. Preoccupation could affect the sincerity of our walk with God. Preoccupation with bad theology can even make us think our religion is our relationship.

At the minimum, preoccupation makes us unstable in all our ways.

At the maximum, preoccupation could keep us from ever believing on the Lord Jesus unto salvation.

On what are you focused?

Better yet, on whom are you focused?

Return to top