About: A Listener
"If you want to drastically improve your productivity, get serious about drastically cutting out the distractions in your life. It's that simple."
I read this statement recently in an article about coding (this web site, for example). Coding requires concentration, especially when learning how to do it. Distractions interfere with being able to focus on the issue at hand and to work through it.
As I thought about distractions in my life and the statement above, memory took me back many years to the time when I was changed spiritually. Let me fill in the details:
I was raised a Protestant and went through all the rituals and steps required to be the best Christian I could be. I was not just going through the motions. In everything I did I was sincere. In my teens I was born again in an evangelical church and went through ups and downs for several long years before God settled me in a denomination that rang true for me.
It was a church that taught and practiced the doctrine of holiness and brought me closer to God than I had ever been before. My heart's desire was to live and be all He wanted me to be and to walk purely with Him. I did that to the best of my knowledge.
But there's something called conflict that arises when the Holy Spirit tries to take you forward and His call interferes with what your denomination teaches as being the truth. Over the years of my adult life, the Holy Spirit tried to show me there was more to knowing Him than I was experiencing. Each time He dealt with me, I pushed His wooing aside with the argument that this was a mis-leading from the devil meant to push me into fanaticism. That is what I had been taught and that is what I believed.
So, I lived from one urging of the Holy Spirit to seek Him for more of Himself to the next urging and my rejection of Him. Each time I shunned Him I knew I had grieved Him, but I did it from a spirit of being more true to my denomination and its traditions than to His dynamic Person.
Finally, when I retired--yes, He tried to work in me most of my adult life--I had to do something that was a drastic step of obedience to Him. He had been teaching me to obey Him explicitly through those years, as well, so when this occasion of radical obedience erupted in my life, I did exactly what He showed me to do, and it was huge!
What is amazing is that after that act of obedience, right in the sanctuary of the church that had taught me it was fanaticism, the Holy Spirit came over me so mightily that I literally wilted in the pew and could hardly walk to the foyer, get my coat and leave after the service.
It didn't take long for me to realize something had changed! The Bible took on new life and clarity just as if a fresh wind had blown into my heart! Prayer was dynamic and very personal with God every time I knelt. I was hungry to read the Word, to pray, to know God more and more. The Holy Spirit's role in my life was intimate and priceless..BUT, I still had blockages in my innermost self that interrupted His flow.
And, this is where the quote at the top of the page comes into play: The Holy Spirit began to put His finger on interests in my life that I enjoyed, and there were many. I thought about them all the time when I wasn't actually doing them. I was consumed by them. They were my distractions!
For instance, I loved to knit. I made afghans, sweaters, scarves: you name it! I collected yarn, needles, knitting accessories, and pattern books (all this was before the internet and its many resources)! When I wasn't knitting, I planned my next project or dreamed about buying more equipment. But, one day when I least expected it the Holy Spirit said to get rid of it! All of it--ASAP! So, I bagged up my yarn (and I had a lot of it), supplies and books and donated them to the Salvation Army store in one fell swoop!
Ah-h-h-h. He wasn't finished with me yet! I did the same thing with my sewing hobby: sewing machines, fabric, patterns, supplies--all had to go. So did my love for writing and my library of books about it, including all the stories and articles I had written to that point. He put His hand on things I collected that I'll call my memorabilia. I gave away my treasures. One by one the Holy Spirit cleared away the distractions in my life that prevented my absolute concentration on Him.
All of this occurred over a period of several months until I was empty of anything and everything that took my focus away from God. Now I could give Him my undivided attention!
While this was happening, the Holy Spirit continued to draw me to Himself, and my hunger for Him grew and grew as my distractions became fewer and fewer. Matthew 5:6 says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
I became so desperate in my desire for more of the Holy Spirit that finally I cried to Him, "I am even willing to speak in tongues if that's what it takes!" That was my last hold-out! My desperation went so deep it actually hurt!
The next day a friend showed me a book about apostles and prophets. In the foreword written by C.Peter Wagner was his statement: "my 'paradigm shift' from traditional Christianity to an openness to the person and to the full ministry of the Holy Spirit." The moment I read it, a bolt of lightning struck my head and went through to my feet. Unlike natural lightning, it didn't leave me! It continues to burn like a fire in my innermost being.
That lightning burned out all my slavery to religious traditions and superiority-ness--while I had professed to have the Holy Spirit's fullness, all those years I didn't possess Him in His absoluteness! I had rejected Him many times when He tried to bring me to knowing Him completely, and consequently, I had become a slave to a religious spirit that originated from the devil. It was a soulish stronghold that kept me captive and would not let me walk in freedom and fullness of the Spirit. I'm certain of that!
I don't know if this is the correct Biblical meaning or not, but John the Baptist said Jesus would baptize us with the Spirit AND with fire! The day in my church sanctuary when I was so changed after my act of obedience, I know I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. My relationship with Him and subsequent walk were empowered by Him in a way I had never known before and it continues to this day.
Yet, I was still prevented from knowing complete freedom in the Holy Spirit until I got rid of my distractions and slavery to them. In fact, let me call them my idols, because they competed with God for my attention! What happened to me the day I read Wagner's statement and electricity hit me broke all my bondage to religious spirits and strongholds. I have been free from idolatry ever since. I believe that day He was and is the FIRE Jesus sends! Two occasions! Two distinct baptisms! Each demanded obedience to what He said I should do.
I believe it is important that I also share one other happening to complete this picture. At 7 AM the morning after lightning hit me, the Holy Spirit wakened me and said I was to open to I Corinthians 12 & 14. He walked me through both chapters and said, "You will not pray in tongues. You will pray with your mind...fully aware of what you are praying." That was a real surprise to me! Since then, I have been embarrassed among those who do pray in tongues, because many believe tongues are the earmark of being baptized in the Spirit. I know that isn't true, but accept their belief in all sincerity.
In telling you these details I have not intended to originate a theological mandate. Neither have I attempted to outline steps you must take nor am I saying that you must have an experience just like mine. The Holy Spirit wants to possess you completely, whatever that takes, but He can't as long as you are encumbered by distractions or things you love more than God. Idols, if you will! Social media--hobbies--activities--certain relationships! Getting rid of them is part of what the Bible calls 'dying to our self.' So prepare to die!
Oh, yes, a few years ago Jesus said I could begin knitting again, but it's different now. No longer is knitting a distraction, because He possesses it; it doesn't possess me! I can't explain it better than that. You must experience the difference to understand what it means.
So, begin the process by obeying the Holy Spirit EVERY TIME He says something to you! Don't ignore Him. Don't grieve Him. Don't disobey Him---ever! Obey Him! He will bring you where you need to be! Only He can do it. Submit to His authority and Person beginning NOW--Today...because you are not assured of tomorrow!!