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Learning to Treasure Jesus in a Distracted World

A few years ago, Salzburg, Austria had to take creative measures to stop an increasingly big problem in the city: smartphone zombies. People were so immersed in whatever was on the screen in front of them that they became unaware of their surroundings. 

In 2017, 40% of all pedestrian accidents in Salzburg happened because unsuspecting pedestrians were distracted by their phones. So, what was the city’s solution? Airbags around lampposts. Not kidding. 

It’s not just them, though. A recent study in the United States found that the average iPhone user touches his or her phone 2,617 times a day. And that’s just the time we’re on our phones. Add time for Netflix and Hulu, YouTube, social media, video games, texts, email, etc. and we quickly see the ways that devices and screens are constantly stealing our attention. 

In an interview, Microsoft researcher Linda Stone said, “Continuous partial attention is our new normal.”

Someone once asked Tim Keller, “Why do you think young Christians struggle with God as a personal reality in their lives?” Keller’s response? “Noise and distraction. It’s easier to tweet than pray.” 

It’s fair to say we could replace “tweet” with a lot of things: scroll, binge, text, post, shop, watch, sleep. Of course, none of these things are bad. But all (at times) distract us from being with Jesus. 

Why? Why do we so often invite distraction into our lives? 

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I’m worried that many of us (myself included) invite distraction in our lives because, if we’re honest, Jesus isn’t really our treasure. We might not admit it, but that’s sometimes how we live. There’s something else we want, something else we desire, something else we worship, something else we love more than Jesus. 

How do we learn to love Jesus? What about learning to be with Jesus? How do we learn to treasure Jesus with all our hearts in such a distracted world? 

Notice I said, “learn.” That’s because treasuring Jesus, loving Jesus, takes time and repetition. It doesn’t sound super spiritual, I know. But it’s true. We need to learn to grow in our love for Jesus because it won’t always happen naturally, without effort. 

How do we do it? Here are three places to start.

1. Audit Your Habits

A lot of us have adopted daily habits and routines without much reflection. We just do them. Think about that for a second. 

What are your daily rituals, the rhythms of your day, the things you do regularly without much thought? Social media and email before you get out of bed? Gym before anything else? Netflix every night? Who do you spend your time with? How do you relax and wind down? 

Now ask yourself, what are those things doing to you? How are they shaping who you are (your loves, desires, values, sense of purpose, beliefs, behavior)?

Remember, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

If we want to learn to grow in our love for Jesus, we’ve got to realize that what we’re doing is actually doing something to us. And a lot of times that something rivals what Jesus wants for us. 

2. Recalibrate your routines.

In the early 1900s, not long after the Titanic, a merchant vessel rammed into a steam ship just off the Virginia coast. It too sank, and 41 sailors lost their lives. Why? As it turns out, the captain of the ship had a faulty compass. And it led him into catastrophe.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

In other words, our hearts are like a compass. They orient us in a particular direction. And because of that, we need to re-calibrate them regularly toward Jesus by forming habits that shape our love for him over other things. 

In what ways do you need to re-calibrate your heart? What habits might you need to unlearn in order to establish new routines that help you fix your eyes on Jesus instead of being continuously distracted? 

Maybe you need healthy boundaries with your phone? A break from social media? Limits on television and news consumption? New sleeping routines? A budget? Time with Christian friends? Or to cut a few things from your schedule?

Where can you simplify and slow your life down in order to create more time and space for Jesus? Remember, what we do shapes who and what we love.

3. Intentional practice.

It’s one thing to know something, but it’s another to actually do it. I know that I should often eat healthier, but I don’t always do it. There’s a gap between knowing and doing. 

If I want to eat healthier though, I can’t just think about it. I have to actually do it! Make a change. Create new eating and drinking habits. I have to train myself to develop new tastes so that I actually enjoy eating healthier food.

In Matthew 7:24, 26 Jesus ends his famous sermon on the mount by saying, 

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock… But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”

Closing the gap between knowing and doing in our lives means we’re going to have to develop new habits, new tastes, that shape our love for him. Learning to treasure Jesus in a distracted world takes intentional practice. Formation won’t happen without repetition. 

What practices do you need to start? Or start doing again? 

If spending time in the Bible is hard for you, try Dwell. It’s an app I’ve really enjoyed that helps cultivate a habit of listening to the Bible whenever you’ve got a spare moment. 

If prayer is difficult, check out A Bigger Lifea podcast led by Dave Cover. Ten Minute Bible Talks is another great podcast. Both will help you connect with God in deeper and more significant ways. 

If you’re overprogrammed, consider cutting something from your regular routine so that you can have a weekly day of rest. Feeling cynical? Try taking 5 minutes each day to write down things you’re thankful for. Or make it a topic of conversation around the dinner table. Lonely? Maybe it’s time to join a small group or commit to coming to church more regularly.

If you like to read, pick up The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry for more ideas on how to make these changes. You won’t regret it. 

Yes, learning to treasure Jesus in a distracted world is hard. It takes time and discipline and will definitely be costly. But make no mistake, it’s always worth it because Jesus is more.  

Want some practical ways to eliminate distraction and make more time for God in your life? Check out this post for some helpful tips on how to carve out space for God in your day-to-day routine.