Life is hard and we have more and more distractions coming into our lives every minute with advances in technology and as our kids grow and become more active in academics and sports. We juggle our schedules with work in addition to those of our spouses or children. How do we find time to have a relationship with God?
Life is precious and we were each given special tasks by God to fulfill here on earth. We don’t have much time. James 4:14 describes our lives as a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Every day counts. We don’t have time for distractions. We don’t have time to get off the path.
So how do we avoid these mistakes and stay focused on God?
What are some of the distractions you manage daily?
What is your idea of a relationship with God?
One of the distractions I wanted us to discuss tonight is the need for approval. I personally have lived with this distraction all of my life. I believe that it is a distraction because some of us obsess over making others happy or seeking their approval or avoiding some form of judgment. For me, I feel that it started when I was a little girl and how I would seek the approval and love of my Dad so he would stay home. He was a jewelry store owner who later turned from selling diamonds to selling drugs and then becoming a user of his product. He was on the road a lot and when he came home, it wasn’t a good situation. I remember being on my best behavior and trying to win his attention so he would want to stay home and not leave again. Then after he died when I was 10, I continued the same cycle with friends and boyfriends. I felt like I had to make them happy and seek their approval so they wouldn’t reject me. This nasty cycle continued for 28 more years until 2016. I finally discovered the pain I was causing myself and getting further and further away from God and his purpose for me. It isn’t about the approval of others. It isn’t about making everyone around you happy. It isn’t even about making your husband or your family happy. Being happy derives from your love for God and focusing on your faith. If you develop a strong relationship with God, then distractions are few and far between and situations in your life tend to work out a whole lot better.
The first woman in the bible I want to study is Sapphira from Acts 5. Sapphira was married to Ananias and they were in the process of selling some land that they owned. They had noticed a man by the name of Barnabas, also known as Joseph, was surrounded by lots of friends and was respected and appreciated by all who knew him. Sapphira and Ananias discussed how wonderful it must be to have people show such appreciation and admiration. They wanted that same feeling. It was customary back then to take all the money from the sale of land and put it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:35). Barnabas had sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:37).
Read Acts 11:19-29 to know what kind of person Barnabas was.
Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
How do you relate to the situation? Has something like this ever happened to you or someone you know?
How do you feel about Sapphira and Ananias’ temptation for wanting others to see their good deeds?
Why is it so difficult for us to give without expecting something in return?
In what ways are you like Barnabas when it comes to encouraging others and sharing your gifts and talents?
What could Sapphira have done to change the situation?
Sapphira was given an opportunity to come clean when asked directly by Peter and she didn’t. She died as a result for her punishment. Why do you think Sapphira decided to continue to lie?
What fear do we have when it comes to admitting we don’t have it all together?
Read Matthew 6:1-4
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
How does living in today’s culture tempt us to flaunt our good deeds?
Have you performed an act of kindness or service that no one noticed? How difficult was it for you to not to share and seek praise from others?
Yes, I always seek approval. But I don’t want to be like Sapphira. I want a good heart and good purpose and I want God to smile down on me for the things I do. I’m a big picture girl but I constantly analyze things to see why things happened the way they did. Yes, I know God’s plan is only for Him to know and understand. He has put a lot of trials and turmoil in my little 38 years and I want to understand the meaning behind it. I have a strong desire to reach out to people and share my testimony. Not to seek recognition of the bad things that happened to me but to help people through the same things that hurt me so badly. Several forms of child abuse, losing my Dad to drugs, a brother to suicide, my rage from it, a mother to cancer, losing close friends, and almost losing my marriage. God puts these situations in our lives so we can become stronger and grow in our relationship with him AND so we can be there for others. After each heartache I experienced, I was presented with a close friend going through the exact same situation so I could help them through it. That’s not a coincidence. As Ephesians 6:11 describes, we should put on the full armor of God, so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. God gives us storms so we can make it through them as more powerful Christians. He wants us to be strong so we can fight the fight against darkness.
What situations have occurred in your life that allowed you to help someone else afterwards?
How can we avoid seeking approval from others and instead do things to praise and serve God?
What things would you like to change this week so you can be a stronger Warrior for God?