By David Stahl

Our spiritual life (the level of spiritual maturity to which we have attained) is far more than the sum of the spiritual information that we have gathered or any compilation of our spiritual experiences. Rather the core and substance of our being “spiritual” relates to the level of inner peace and harmony that results from our making right choices, decisions, and our reactions to distractions in our lives along the pathway of our spiritual walk with the LORD. The Lord is seeking those who are willing to go beyond that which they have freely received through redemption and knowing our right choices, decisions, and distractions will never be easy.  Paul told the Church at Philippi, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)  No matter who or where we are we must make decisions as to what we will see, hear, and do, or where we will go or not go. The ever present temptation is to compromise and go along with the questionable and even the difficult situations that often line our path.  We make few major decisions, but each day we make many “minor” (seemingly to us) decisions that feed either the carnal or the spiritual aspect of our being. The accumulation of these choices will result in our becoming predominantly carnal or spiritual. As our spiritual decisions begin to outweigh the negative pulls and responses in our lives we become an “overcomer.” To the extent that we rise above carnal soulish desires we are lifted into a place of communion with our LORD and we grow spiritually.  Now the more decisions that we make which are toward the LORD and His purposes the easier it will become to continue making these correct decisions. The further down the road that we go in our walk with Jesus we will progressively become more detached from all that is either carnal or a temptation to us. In the beginning it may be difficult, but as we progress it will become easier. The pathway of our spiritual life can be considered as being an upward spiral. If we take a large wood screw and place our finger nail in the groove near the point and run it along the surface, we will gradually progress toward the head. Though it may seem to us that we are going in circles as we continue to make right decisions we are progressively moving upward. If we do this in reverse and feed the carnal aspect of our being it will lead us ever downward. There are those who have within them a quality of spiritual life. Now it may not be apparent as to why this is so, but if inquired into these folks would testify that through the struggles of life they have made quality decisions which bring them into increasing levels of fellowship with the Lord. Paul tells us, For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he that in these things serves Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.” (Romans 14:17-18)  The “kingdom of God” begins with “righteousness,” in the middle is “peace,” and ends with “the Holy Spirit.”  It is not a physical or mythical place, a church, or even a ministry as most Christians like to project in the earth, but is made up and we enter it by making right choices and by dealing with distractions in our lives in God. Our submission to God’s divine government will lead us to becoming a partaker with Christ.  In His realm our decisions do not relate only to right or wrong, but with the motives that underlie right or wrong. It is here that the final test of our union with the LORD will find its outworking. If we truly overcome in this area of our being we will be able to enter all three areas of God’s kingdom.  Now here is where all of my title comes into play. Not only is correct decisions and choices critical to our walk with the LORD, but so too how we handle distractions in our lives.  I do not know about you my friend, but the older I get and the longer I walk with the LORD the more I seem to get distracted. At first we are tested concerning the choices and decisions that we make. As we progress up the spiral we will be tested concerning the motives of our heart which provoke the things that manifest as right or wrong. It is not enough to deny only the “thing” we must overcome the very principle that allows it to abide within us and assert itself. Those who are satisfied with being blessed and eventually going to heaven have their reward (streets of gold and a mansion), but for those who intensely hunger for God’s higher level of spiritual reality there is so much more. These are in the place of pressures, discomforts, and distractions we deal with the issues of our heart. Distraction can fall into several categories which can knock us off the main track.  For example just look at the distractions that fill up our lives:  TV,  movies in the cinema (even Christians movies), hand-held electric devices, social media, sports, sports programs, cooking show, you name it man is doing it, all distractions from hearing God’s word to us.  In the political world:  Democrats strive against Republicans while the Supreme Court stands staking it’s fist in the face of God with each new law that it passes.  Just because the Supreme Court (Rove v Wade 1973) said it was okay to kill babies does not make it right in God’s eyes and America will pay for her disobedience. Sadly the spirit of national and world politics have leaked into the church where many denominational churches are divided along racial and political lines.  I have said it before and I will say it again if you call yourself a Christian and you are active in politics you must vote the Bible, what God says is true and not what man says is true. The late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was right, God is not too concerned about the color of our skin, but He is greatly concerned about our character. We must never support a politician (no matter who he is) or organization that does not speak the truth found in the word of God. I was listening to a radio program and a Christian was complaining about the Grammy Awards marrying off 33 same sex couples and I thought why in the world are you watching the Grammy Awards from Hollywood?  What did he expect something of God?  The world is full of distractions and we must not listen to them if we are going to follow the LORD.  Our advancement in God can often be measured by how we tune out things of the world. These distractions that come our way can distract us from our true purpose before God. We can become so immersed in our distractions that we see nothing else. In the same regard the worth of a person can also be measured by what happens when he or she is really facing troubles and distractions. It is a given we will face difficulties, troubles, and even distractions.  Paul told Timothy, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)  What a wonderful promise from God. So it is not that we have distractions and troubles rather it is how we handle these difficulties that really determine the quality of our relationship with God.  If we give up what does that say about our trust in God?  Now believe it or not these distractions can even be from God. Paul also told Timothy, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;” (2 Timothy 1:7-8) The longer we go with God the more He expects from us and the more He will exact from us obedience to His words.  When I first started traveling in ministry I was zealous I would go at the drop of a hat.  No fear, to the ends of the earth and beyond; well the longer I went with the LORD the more He was able to show me my motives, intentions, and my heart.  The more I traveled the more I saw my zealousness became a distraction to the work God wanted to do in my life. Soon the ministry to others became secondary, because primary was the work God wanted to do in me after all, “We are God’s workmanship. . . ” (Ephesians 2:10). Trip after trip God was killing me (for mine and others benefit) it seemed like I had to drag my sorry self from country to country (trip to trip) while looking for ways to escape not going or while deployed ways to return home early.  Now here is where distractions can be most divine for us, not in the distraction from the LORD’s purpose, but in the overcoming of the distraction.  You know I still get this fear (and probably always will), but now it seems it is present after I buy my ticket, I have some skin in the game. When God speaks to us it is His very word that can become a distraction (and get us off track) that threatens our self-life and causes fear to arise deep with our spirit revealing our lack of faith.  Do you know where fear lives? Fear is found in the pit of our stomach. Esther said, “if I perish I perish.”  Now no one wants to perish ahead of their time, but if this be God’s plan for our lives (to lay our life down so that others may live) so be it.  My good friend in Romania Pastor Jacob once said, “no one (Christians included) is afraid of dying, but what they are afraid of is how and when they will die.”  My friend we are not really ready to serve God (and go to the ends of the earth or even across the street) unless we first are ready to die for Him. On the other side of conquering our fear is the approving and qualifying of God.  Conquering our fear has nothing to do with faith, but everything to do with trust.  Faith is what God gives (it is God’s faith not ours we cannot earn it or work it up) us to believe for salvation and such.  How much faith do we need?  Just enough faith to believe God raised Jesus from the dead and if we die He too will raise us from the dead. Now trust is built in us by every personal experience, every time God takes us through difficult situations and circumstances where we are sure we will be killed along with our dreams and hopes (even those in God), but in the end we see as an open mirror before us, God and only God has saved us.  Job said, “though God slay me, yet I will trust Him.”  Do we have enough trust in God to allow Him to slay us?  If not at the end of the day and when we fail to keep moving through our fear it is because of our unbelief and selfishness.  Unbelief in thinking God is not able to keep us in the hallow of His hand no matter the situation of circumstances and if something what we call bad would happens so be it.  We must never allow our fear for self-preservation or our love for others and this world win the day over God’s word to us. And selfishness not wanting what God wants for our lives, but wanting our way. A selfishness were we do not want to experience loss (even if it is God’s idea), but loss is the way God measures our gain in Him. The writer to Hebrews told of the Children of Israel, “But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”  (Hebrews 3:17-19)  Unbelief will keep us out of God’s rest (even further than trust) not an unbelief of faith, but of an unbelief of trusting God in every situation and circumstance, in every decision we make and every distraction we overcome in our lives and our families.