Day 17, Chapter 17: The Undistracted
Several years ago when my daughter, Hannah, was only three or four, I was enjoying a great Broncos playoff game. Did you catch that? Not just a game - a Broncos playoff game. I had a great fire in the fireplace, had kicked back in my football recliner, and was into the game. Hannah had no understanding of football and couldn’t have cared less about the game.
She plopped down in my lap and, as girls do, began jabbering about something. She wasn’t talking about anything terribly important - at least I didn't think it was all that important. But I was listening. Well, sort of. I was actually dividing my attention between her commentary and the exploits of John Elway. This is real devotion to my daughter, I thought. Sharing my football time with her childish jabbering. A Broncos playoff football, at that. What a great dad I am.
I was doing the typical distracted listening routine, an “uh-huh” here, an “ohhh” there, with a smile or two and a head nod thrown in for added effect. Sure, I was missing a play here or there, but, hey, that’s just the price of devotion.
Hannah has always been very perceptive. And, of course, she has the distinctive female trait of wanting men in her life to really listen. I don’t know when that particular gene kicks in for women, but it obviously comes at an earlier age than I thought. After a few minutes of my divided attention, Hannah had finally had enough.
“Dad,” she said rather sternly, as she placed one index finger on each cheek and turned my face directly toward her. “Look me in the eye and listen.”
Women manifest these things at a young age!
I looked her in the eye and listened. That, my friend, is undistracted devotion.
Paul uses these two words, “undistracted devotion,” in 1 Corinthians 7:35, speaking of our commitment to the Lord. The phrase actually comes from one Greek word, euprosedros. Prosedros, by itself, means “to sit forward or toward” someone or something. Imagine a person sitting in the presence of someone they are completely enamored with, leaning toward them in order to hear every word. The prefix eu means “well,” intensifying the concept to mean “sitting well toward”; thus, the translation “undistracted devotion.” In our culture today we sometimes use a similar phrase, “sitting on the edge of my seat.” Obviously, we mean by this that we are fully captivated by someone or something.
Hannah wanted me to “sit well toward” her, giving her some face time. She wanted to know that she, not the Broncos, was number one. And she was. At that moment my favorite color wasn’t orange; it was brown, the color of her eyes.
God would like some face time with you. He knows you’re busy and can’t live like a monk, giving yourself to non-stop worship and meditation. He’s aware that you have responsibilities: work, school, family and more. He doesn’t want all of your time; He does, however, wants some undistracted time. It’s a matter of having the right priorities.
I have found that priorities are heart related. What means the most to me is what I prioritize. If we find ourselves uninterested in the pleasure of God’s company, the place to start is with repentance. We should ask God to forgive us of indifference toward Him, and to awaken passion in us. Then begin spending quality time with Him. As we do, hunger for His presence will increase and we will look forward to those times.
As King Solomon was about to begin his reign over Israel, he prayed a prayer God couldn’t resist. “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge these great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:9). The phrase “an understanding heart” should actually be translated “a hearing heart.” The translators struggle with the concept of a “hearing” heart, so they don’t word it this way. But the Hebrew word is shama, and it does mean “to hear.” Solomon asked for a hearing heart.
Hearts can hear, but only when they’re undistracted. In times past, before we had refrigerators, people used ice houses to preserve food. These buildings had thick walls and were well insulated. In winter, large chunks of ice were taken from the lakes, ponds, or streams and laid on the floor, then covered with a thick layer of sawdust to insulate it. This made a great “refrigerator.”
One day a gentleman lost an expensive watch in the icehouse. Due to the thickness of the sawdust, all efforts to find it failed. Others looked, also in vain. Finally, a small boy slipped into the icehouse when no one was around and promptly found the valuable watch.
Surprised, the man asked the boy how he had so easily and quickly found the valuable timepiece.
“I closed the door, lay down on the floor, and was very quiet,” replied the lad. “Pretty soon I heard it ticking.”1
The problem isn’t God’s refusal to speak but our inability - or refusal - to get quiet enough to hear. Silencing the soul is a learned art. The psalmist David spoke of this. “Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother” (Psalm 131:2). When we quiet the soul, we can hear His voice in our hearts.
Several years ago I was preparing to speak at a conference in Canada. As I spoke with the Lord about the service, I heard Him speak. It wasn’t loud, and it certainly wasn’t audible. It was a gentle voice in my heart, almost like the ticking of a watch: “Japan is heavy on My heart today.”
I was surprised. I knew it was God – I certainly wasn’t thinking about Japan – and the way He said it surprised me. It had never occurred to me that a particular place might be on God’s heart more than others at any given time. I suppose I just assumed every place was equally on God’s heart all the time.
“I must have a breakthrough there,” He continued.
“Rather than speak in your session today, would you give the time to prayer for a breakthrough in Japan?”
I was stunned. God didn’t demand that I do this; He asked if I would! It was almost as if I was hearing the longing of His heart, not words from His mouth. I was deeply moved that He would allow me into His thoughts.
“Of course I will, Lord,” was my quick and heartfelt response.
As I shared with the gathering what I had heard, several dozen people in the audience began speaking. They shouted from their seats that they were from Japan! We invited them to the ministry area up front and prayed for them and their nation. It was a very special time. The conference attendees were still praying for them an hour later when I left for the airport. A few weeks after this I received an email from someone in Japan thanking me for this time of intercession. Someone had taken a recording of the session to Japan, and it was circulated throughout many Japanese churches. The email spoke of the great encouragement the prayers provided and testified to breakthroughs they had received since then. God is amazing.
And He still speaks to those who will listen.
Slow down a little and let God into your world. If you do, He’ll allow you into His. He will find the pleasure of your undistracted devotion, and you will experience the pleasure of hearing His heart.
Look Him in the eyes and listen.
Pray with me:
Father, thank You for Your undivided attentiveness toward us. Pleasures are provoked within Your heart when we choose not just to glance back, but to gaze?
In repentance we come before You today, for letting ourselves lose interest in the pleasure of Your company. Forgive us for our indifference. Awaken passion for Your presence, and guide us in resetting our priorities.
Holy Spirit, teach us the art of waiting with undivided hearts. You are worthy of our undistracted devotion, where we sit on the edge of our seats, listening intently for every word, every intonation of Your voice.
Like Solomon, we ask for hearing hearts, hearts that can hear Yours. What could possibly be more important? We commit ourselves to slowing down, looking into Your eyes and listening. We want…the pleasure of Your company.
In Christ’s name we pray...Amen.
Today’s post was taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company.
Dutch Sheets, The Pleasure of His Company (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2014), pp 139-146.
1. Edward K. Rowell, Fresh Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997), p 93.
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