It’s not just a 21 century problem. Paul saw that the Ephesians were struggling with a similar issue. His words to them apply to us as well:
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:15-21
From this passage, we can identify a few distractions that keep us from being filled with the Spirit, along with ways to overcome them:
1. Time and space challenged: My husband says I’m directionally challenged. Well I am also time challenged and space challenged. Paul says be careful how you walk, making the most of your time. How long do you walk, or linger, on a path of pointlessness? For me, I tend to linger on social media… definitely not making the most of my time.
It distracts me from reading my Bible. I will be studying God’s Word, decide to look up a verse via the internet, then pop on over to facebook to post it; 20 minutes later I have scrolled through too many ridiculous political memes, teenager-posts, and comparison-pictures. My mind is distracted and it will take a LOT to get back into a focused study of the Scriptures.
Remedy: lets expose our “lingering spots” and stay away from them while studying scripture.
2. Pity the Fool: Our own opinions can be a huge distraction as well. Paul reminds us to “not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
I think for many of us, our own will distracts us. We read scripture, and immediately form an opinion about it. We decide if we like it or don’t like it. If we like it, we keep reading. If we don’t like it, we skip to a different chapter or verse that feels more comfy.
Our will is a distraction that eventually leads to foolishness.
Remedy: Let us echo Jesus’ prayer before studying Scripture: “not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42
Also, try memorizing Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
3. Over-Consumed: Most of us live in a consumer-culture. It is natural to take in everything life has to offer, but it is not always helpful. Though we may not be getting “drunk with wine,” we are consuming something. Whatever that thing is, could it be taking the place of God’s Word? Are we feasting so much on the world that we have no room to be filled with the filled with the Spirit?
Remedy: Lets take some time away from the things that consume us? This might look like “fasting” from TV, certain hobbies, books, social circles, maybe even food. By not filling up on these things, we will have room to fill up on the Word of God. Our minds will not be so distracted; rather, we will be hungry to be filled.
4. ADHD Mind: Often we are distracted because we just haven’t prepared our heart or mind. We think we can rush from a work out, getting ready for the day, and checking our emails to a posture of quiet stillness before the Lord.
Paul knows how music helps our brains to focus on a concept. Our church gatherings get it too. We sing songs before a sermon to help prepare and focus our minds to receive teaching from God’s Word. In a hurried society, making melodies is an active way to quiet a busy mind and focus on God.
Remedy: Make a worship playlist and play it regularly before studying the Bible. (Have a helpful worship song? Share it with us in a comment below).
5. Bitter heart: Do you carry ungratefulness or bitterness in your heart? I know that my bitterness always distracts me from a fruitful study time in the Bible.
See James 3:13-18 for more on this.
Remedy: Pauls says to always give thanks! Lets start our Bible study with a heart of gratefulness. Write a list of 5 things you are thankful of God for. We also need to remember to extend forgiveness quickly so as not to be distracted by the Devil’s schemes (more on this in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11).
6. Going Solo: I tend to get distracted just by my own wandering thoughts, shiny things around, even squirrels (saw that one coming didn’t you). In the end, if we are pursuing a deeper relationship with God, longing to be filled with the Spirit, through the study of God’s Word, maybe we need a buddy. Paul reminds us to gather with other Christians, encourage them and be encouraged by them. His commendation, to submit to each other, reminds us of our need for accountability.
Remedy: Some of my favorite times in God’s Word has been sitting quietly next to my husband or a dear sister in Christ. Meet a friend at a coffee shop, or schedule a time with your spouse or roommate to study God’s word together. Remind your companion that you aren’t necessarily meeting to focus on each other, but to be a presence of accountability to staying focused on God. After a set amount of time, ask each other what God is speaking through His Word.
Still not focused? If you still feel unable to engage in God’s Word, perhaps you are struggling with a different issue. Press the “Follow” button to get updates on more topics for the Bible Study Struggle.