Last week we began this series on distractions and how they impact our marriages. We gave an example of the danger distractions can cause by texting while driving. Researchers at the University of Ohio have discovered that distractions from being on your cell phone while walking can be almost as problematic.
Jack Nasar and Derek Troyer collected data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. This database compiles information on emergency room visits. They looked at all injuries for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicle drivers between 2004 and 2010.
While more injuries resulted from drivers who were distracted while talking or texting on their phones, walkers were not far behind. The researchers’ report told of a 28-year-old man who walked into a pole while talking on his cell phone, resulting in a lacerated brow. And a 14-year-old, who was walking and talking on his phone, fell 6-8 feet off a bridge into a ditch.
Sabra and I have noticed many distracted people when we take our regular walks on our city’s exercise trails. Almost every time we go, we have to step off the path to avoid someone whose head is down, focused on their phone. It’s like they’re oblivious to everything going on around them. If we didn’t move out of their way, they would likely run into us.
It’s really sad. Distracted walking can keep us from seeing the people around us. But it can also make us miss some wonderful opportunities. Our walks allow for some great uninterrupted conversations and together time. Being outside lets us get close to God’s beautiful creation and enjoy life from a different perspective than being stuck inside four walls or staring at a screen. Even watching the squirrels work and play makes us smile. We would miss all these things if we let technology distract us.
But this is not only true when we’re walking. It’s also true when we are at home. It would be really hard to enjoy each other’s company and grow in our relationship if we were always on the computer or in front of the television. These things are not evil; they’re not bad in and of themselves. But we must not let them control us.
Let’s take another look at our passage from last week—Hebrews 12:1-2. God gives us some specific instructions here about how to stay on track and avoid distractions that can harm our marriage:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
God tells us three things we need to do to: “Stop, Look, and Listen.”
The words “Stop, Look and Listen” used to be common on railroad crossing signs. They warned of potential danger from oncoming trains and reminded those approaching to be careful and pay attention. That simple command likely saved many lives, especially where there were no flashing lights or drop-down gates to warn drivers to stay off the tracks when a train was approaching.
In the same way, this simple phrase can also help us remember what God is teaching us in this Hebrews passage. When we follow God’s Word it will provide protection for our marriage from distractions—distractions that can destroy our relationship like a locomotive can destroy a car.
So let’s break it down…
First, we must take time to stop and see what God has to say before we get distracted and rush into something that can cause us harm.
As a young Christian, an older and wiser believer gave me a great tip to use when I studied the Bible. He said, “Whenever you come across the word ‘therefore,’ you need to stop and find out what it’s there for.” (You may have heard that advice yourself.)
Well, Hebrews 12 begins with the word “therefore.” So we need to look back in the previous chapter to see what this refers to.
In Hebrews 11:1 we discover a definition of what faith is: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” The writer then tells of several people in Israel’s history who demonstrated this faith in their own lives.
So in Hebrews 12:1, “therefore” refers to those who have lived with great faith before us. These are the “great cloud of witnesses” we are surrounded by. These great people of faith should inspire us to put our faith into practice in our lives as well. And the instructions on how to do that are given in these verses.
We are told: “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1).
We are also told in Proverbs 22:3: “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”
And Paul writes in Ephesians 5:15-17: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
So, we need to stop before we do the same old thing out of habit or let something new and unimportant keep us from living the way God is teaching us. This is true in our lives. And this is true in our marriages.
This leads to the second step for overcoming distractions.
We must look.
Our stopping has a purpose. When we stop, we can then notice what is around us and be aware. We can see our situation for what it is. It’s in this determined stillness we can discover God’s will and plan for us and our marriages.
We must examine our lives in the truth of God’s Word. When we take time to thoughtfully and prayerfully study the Bible, we will learn God’s will and know if we are being faithful to follow it. We will gain wisdom and confidence to move forward when we see in God’s Word that it is a part of His purpose and will for our lives.
The Bereans were commended for this exact reason. Acts 17:11 says: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
God tells us in 2 Peter 1:3-4: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
Those precious promises are found in His Word. There we will find everything we need to live a godly life. This includes having a godly marriage.
We are told also in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” God wants us to know His will and purpose for our marriages. It is the only way we can have the joyous marriages that demonstrates His love to each other and to the world.
When we stop and look to God’s Word to lead us, we are ready for step three.
We must listen.
Now that we have seen our situation clearly and know what God wants us to do, we must move forward and do it.
God tells us in Proverbs 18:13: “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” But once we listen and hear God speak and lead, we must follow. He instructs us in James 1:22: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” To not do so would be foolish and disastrous.
Think back to the railroad crossing. If you stop and look down the track and see a train coming and hear the engineer blow the horn as it quickly approaches, you have an immediate choice to make. If you stop and wait for the train to pass by, you’ll be safe. But if you choose to go ahead and cross the tracks, you just might get destroyed by the train—you and anyone with you.
It is the same in marriage. We’ve got to be aware of the potential dangers that come from distractions in our lives. We need to stop before plowing ahead, look to God’s Word for what we should do, and then listen to His wisdom and instruction. If we don’t, the consequences can be disastrous.
Next week, we will begin looking at some of those distractions that can negatively impact our marriages and see what God’s Word tells us to do about them.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. What did God teach you? How can you apply it to your marriage?
♦ Do you regularly take time to stop and meet with God? Do you regularly read His Word? Do you regularly pray to Him? Do you do this individually and together as a couple? (Here is a tool that can help with this: Couple Connect.)
♦ Do you look to God to help guide you in every decision you make–individually and together? Do you turn to Him by searching His Word to guide every part of your life—your marriage, family, work, etc.? Are you following what He reveals to you through His Word and as you pray?
♦ In the Hebrews passage we’ve studied here, God tells us to lay aside “everything that hinders” us in our lives. One thing He specifically identifies is sin. But things that aren’t sinful can hinder us as well. What are some things that hinder you individually? And what are some things that hinder you in your marriage relationship? Ask for help from each other to lay these aside. Commit to pray for each other and help each other to overcome these distractions.
♦ Close your time together in prayer. Ask God to forgive you of any sin He has revealed to you that distracts and hinders you. Ask Him to help you with each step we have discussed today that will help you not be distracted from following Him.
Over the next few weeks in this series, we will look at distractions in marriage more closely. And with the truths of God’s Word we will learn how to stay close to the Lord and close to each other, no matter what tries to get in the way.
May God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,