Chapter 23: Distractions

This is a guest series by Phil Cate. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them all by clicking on ‘Phil Cate’ under the Categories heading in the right panel. Watch for new installments every Friday.

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Chapter 23
Distractions

Exodus 20:3 (NIV)
3 “You shall have no other gods before* me.
*Or, besides

       I’ve been addicted to just about everything. I’ve worshipped money, career, leisure, golf, women, stuff, drugs, alcohol, success. You name it, and I’ve paid homage to it.

       At the time, I had little or no idea I was worshipping most of those things; I just thought they were a part of my life. While there may be nothing wrong with some of these per se, God does not want me placing any of them ahead of Him. He knows that, given my propensity to wander, I can and have let many of these things own and govern me.

       Now this is a tough chapter to write and I don’t want to give you the wrong messages, so let me be clear about this. I’m not saying that we can’t have hobbies or a career or ambition. I am saying, though, that when these things start to control my thoughts and my time and our money, they can be and were very destructive. Obviously, some of these things can get to the level of addiction; and I’ve shared how that happened to me.

       Here’s my perspective on this: as long as I’m addicted to or consumed with something, I simply can’t follow Jesus, period.  How can I take time to be kind to someone when I’m thinking about what time I can get to that first drink? How can I donate money to someone if my habits or behavior leave me financially broke? How can I appropriately tend to my family and my responsibilities if I’m not worshipping only the One True God?

       From my perspective, God and addictions,obsessions, and compulsions simply cannot coexist in my life.

I have some barometers on this as well:

If I’m ever doing something I have to hide from Kay, I shouldn’t be doing it.
If I ever hide what it costs, it’s a problem.
If I think about it all the time while I should be doing other things, it probably
       owns me.
If it breaks any commandments, it’s no good for me.
If it puts my finances in an uncomfortable place, I need to look at it.
If I wouldn’t tell my men’s group I’m doing it, it definitely needs to go.
If I don’t want to pray about it because I already know God is not cool with it,
       it’s a problem.
If any of my family rolls their eyes when it comes up, I’m in too deep.

       Let’s take a couple examples here and be very specific. I have loved playing golf my entire life, and there is nothing wrong with loving a sport. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to put some time and money into my hobby either. Playing golf once or twice a week is no problem for me. Going to the putting green to relax is one of my favorite things to do; and I’m lucky enough to have a club in my neighborhood, so I can do that with ease. It’s all good, right?

       Well, here’s the other side of it. What if I start playing daily and ignore my work and my family? What if I start getting very consumed with my performance instead of using it for leisure? What if I start missing church or my kids’ events to play golf? What if I decide I need that new driver and cash is a little tight that month, but I buy it anyway? What if Kay starts rolling her eyes every time I mention golf? What if golf becomes the focal point in my life? At times it was much more important to me than God’s agenda for my life, and that’s when it became a problem.

       The second example would have to be alcohol. When I was drinking, there was no doubt it owned me. There was no room for God; alcohol was the god in my life. Everything revolved around my drinking and when I could get numbed out. It ate into my abilities to manage my life and eventually all of my responsibilities. It ripped apart all of my relationships; and when it got to that level, I hit bottom. Now, I’m not one of these guys that thinks alcohol is the devil; I am one of these guys, though, that can’t drink normally, and I’m not alone in that.

       My point is that if alcohol or anything else impedes my ability to be what God wants me to be, it’s got to go. I would suggest that if there is an addiction of any kind in your life you simply can’t completely follow Christ. I know I couldn’t.

       Now we’ve got to be careful here, too. What I do not wish to encourage is for you to read this and go to your spouse and say, “See, that Phil guy said your ____ is a problem.” Kay and I do better when she looks at her issues and I look at mine. If I start telling her about her issues, it goes to bad places quick. If she jumps on my issues, guess what this rebel does? More of the same. So let’s not go there.

       (I know, in marriage all our problems are the other guy’s fault, right? Let’s just not go there, either. As you’re reading this, look only at your side of the street.)

       OK, so here are some brutally tough questions for you. What owns you right now? Are there things in your life that you need to dump? Are there things, habits, or people between you and your family? Are there things between you and God?

       Here’s a really tough one: are there things you don’t want to get rid of but you know you need to get rid of?

       Finally, are there things you can’t get rid of, because they are controlling you and your every thought? If so, are you willing to admit you need help? Are you willing to ask God to send you whatever help you need regardless of how hopeless it seems? Are you willing to tell some people that care about you that you’ve got things you need to break away from and you don’t know how?

       Are you willing to do whatever it takes to serve only the one true God? When I do that, my butt seems to stay out of a sling.

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Next: Faith — Don’t Underestimate God     

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Phil Cate is a resident of the Atlanta, Georgia, metro area and runs a small medical equipment resale business. He is available for speaking engagements and can be reached at PhilC@ER3.biz or by phone at 678-429-0901

Printed by permission from Phil Cate, Mama told me Jesus saved my soul, but who was gonna save my butt??? Confessions, lessons, and revelations of a born rebel, © 2008.

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