The 120 degree heat of the sun bore down on my head with fierce zeal. At the moment there was no wind, but I was glad about the fact for it made things worse: just imagine aiming a blow-dryer at your face from only three inches away and turning it on “high”.
I determinedly clambered up the steep hill so I could look across the great rift that separated the Negev Desert from the Sinai. As I reached the pinnacle of the crag that I had climbed, I looked about me but could only see barren wasteland. Before my feet was a small gorge at least 300 feet deep, its far side rising sharply up into another cliff-face. Beyond each rocky and lifeless summit was another, the host of desert mountain tops marching on until they faded from sight in the dusty haze of the hot afternoon.
I glanced behind me and realized that the rest of my team members were preparing for a siesta so I would be left to my own devices for a time. I found a stone shelf near the top facing the west that was somewhat flat and out of sight and planted myself there so that I could have a few moments alone.
Well… not alone. It was, in fact, an opportunity to visit with God without the distractions of a busy schedule or the pressures of decision-making that constantly assaulted me. As I looked to the west, I thought about the mountains on the Egyptian side of the rift, the Sinai. Not so far from where I sat, the Israelites had been delivered by God from their centuries-long bondage and had marched towards the fulfillment of special promises that God had made them. Not so far from where I sat, the Lord had saved them from the attack of a hostile army as they made it through the impassable obstacle of the Red Sea and yet their pursuers did not.
As I sat there, I thought of those described in the Bible as having been used by God to powerfully change the world. What set them apart and made them especially attractive to God in His plans and in His mighty movements to work out His will for humanity? Merely their willingness to listen, trust and obey the Lord. Perhaps that was why God’s prophets and even the Lord Jesus Himself would withdraw from their busy lives to the remote wilderness.
Until I had spent that tiny bit of time in the desert, I had always envisioned the “wilderness” mentioned in the Scriptures as being a sort of “Rocky Mountain” or “Appalachian Trail” kind of wilderness… lots of green and lots of animals. But unlike places at which I had previously camped or visited, the wilderness of the Negev Desert was absolutely silent. There were no animals or birds to betray the ominous silence that seemed to fill my ears nearly as tangibly as cotton balls.
Maybe in those brief retreats wherein one was momentarily removed from the buzzing drone of human need and the blare of ignorance and idolatry seemed more remote, one could more readily hear the still small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12).
As I sat on my little rocky crag, I prayed. I praised. And I sat quietly in the vast silence. It was good to be alone with the Lord, if even for only a little while.
But then a fly landed on my arm. I flicked it away and resumed praying. The fly came back… this time with friends. I shooed the crowd of critters away again but they then began to buzz around my head. I continued to pray and worship God, but was now becoming increasingly agitated and less focused. It dawned on me then that my diminutive assailants were like so many little distractions and annoyances that accost all Believers in our walk with the Lord. Little things have a way of buzzing into the forefront of our thinking the very moment we try to settle down to spend some time in prayer or in reading (and meditating upon) God’s Word.
Let’s face it. Little things accumulate so quickly and easily in our lives that many of us are nearly drowning in details. There is such a buzzing going on in our minds so much of the time, even though we may go regularly to church and are perhaps even serving Him in some capacity, we can’t hear a thing He says to us. It’s like having Direct TV with hundreds of channels all on at the same time. Yeah, God’s “signal” is being “transmitted” (as His Holy Spirit moves in our lives), but we cannot make out what He’s saying (we can’t see the tree for the forest surrounding it). Consequently, the end result is that we lose our vital connection with God under the deluge of messages and signals sent our way and so we cannot be refreshed or given guidance: God’s divine provisions are sent, but we never receive them because we cannot find them in all the clutter of our fast-paced lives.
It’s those “little things” that dilute our passion for the Savior. It’s the “little things” in life that “get under our skin”, little annoyances that interfere with the peace of God that SHOULD be filling our troubled minds. It’s these “little things” that imperceptibly compromise our spiritual integrity and draw us from the sure footing of walking with the Savior.
But what do you do with the little buggers? As with me on that mountain peak in the Negev, you might try to “swat” a few here and there, but don’t even allow that to steal your gaze from the face of Jesus. Getting caught up in trying to eliminate ALL distractions is too distracting a venture to venture upon. Eliminate those things that CAN be removed but recognize that you cannot cut yourself off completely from responsibility nor can you foresee every contingency that might introduce distraction back into your life.
Also recognize that there is a spiritual power at work that does NOT want you to tune into God and will attempt to step up your distractions. Just as the Lord Jesus, in a critical time alone with God, found Himself the target of distracting ideas, suggestions, and temptations from the prince of that evil power (from Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, & Luke 4:1-13), you too will find yourself subject to notions and impulses that will try to grab hold of your attention and keep your gaze turned away from the Prince of Peace.
These spiritual “flies” will buzz and buzz, but you and I need to just let them buzz while we stay busy with seeking God’s face in His Word, through prayer, and in service to Him for the sake of His kingdom. It is not a coincidence that a “nickname” for the devil is “Beelzebub” (meaning, “Lord of the Flies”). He is indeed the “Lord of Distraction”, as well as, I might point out, the “Lord of Lies”. We too easily follow his leading over the leading of God Himself.
Nevertheless, we have in God both true light and real life. Let us not allow ourselves then to be robbed of an unspeakably marvelous gift by failing to spend quality time with Him in prayer and in personal worship. Even the “Lord of Flies” is tiny and inconsequential compared to the King of all creation. “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God… He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great… things that your eyes have seen” (Deuteronomy 10:17a, 21 ESV).
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 23 years. He is the author of “The Fairy Tale Parables,” “Crimson Harvest,” and “A Heart at Home with God.” He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).