You would think this would be a simple lesson, but I have found it to be a difficult one. Every day we have opportunities before us, but which to choose? How do we know for sure which is an assignment from God and which is a distraction from the devil? To answer this, we must first define distraction. The simple definition is anything that distracts. But more specifically, a distraction is anything that divides the attention, prevents concentration, diverts, or entertains. There's my problem.
I am by nature a thinker. I like to understand how things work. I can get deep into my work and have a hard time changing gears. Thus, I have purposely created "distractions" in my life - things to divert my attention off work and deep-thinking. A good book, a good movie, a game of solitaire, social networks, etc. are just a few of the ways I rest my mind and "chill." But therein lies another problem. These things, although individually not bad, can drain me of creativity and devour my time.
Referring to spiritual knowledge and wisdom, the Apostle Paul said, "Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you..." (Colossians 2:4). Deceive: Now there's a word I have spent most of my Christian life trying to expose and explain. The devil's greatest weapon against Christians is their own ignorance. If he can deceive us, he can beat us. The scriptures clearly say, "Lest Satan take advantage of us, we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11). Even God understood the power ignorance could have over His children. In Hosea, He said, "My people perish for a lack of understanding..." (Hosea 4:6). Ignorance is nothing more than a lack of understanding.
Paul was attempting to expose ignorance and deception concerning the things that would keep believers from growing in spiritual wisdom. But what he was really trying to say was: "...lest anyone should distract you..." The original language in Colossians 2:4 uses the word "beguile" which is also used in the King James Version. Beguile is not a word commonly used in our modern vernacular. But beguilement is a synonym for distraction and deception. They are interchangeable in meaning and purpose.
I read the Apostle Paul's warning and I immediately understood that if a person can distract and deceive another, so can a thing, such as a book, a movie, a game on my phone, etc. "Now this I say lest anyone [or anything] should deceive [distract or beguile] you..." (my emphasis). God's Word is meant for our instruction. Therefore, I am careful to seek full understanding of each and every word. My attention is especially aroused when the scriptures use a word of warning several times within the same passage. Paul continued his exhortation to the believers in Colosse reminding them to have a steadfast faith in Christ. He said, "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone [and I'll add: or anything] cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:6-8). The devil can and will use anything to distract us from God's assignment. We must beware.
But does this mean we have to always be at the church or in prayer or in the Word twenty-four/seven? No, not at all. It doesn't even mean we can't enjoy a book or a movie or a game. What it means is that we must be cautious of how much time we give to those things. If the devil can't deceive us with evil things, he will do his best to deceive (and distract) us with good things. I've even had to learn how to say no to good and profitable things, remembering that if God didn't call me to it, I have no promise of a reward from it.
Another area of distraction the devil uses against believers is defense of the Gospel. Whether in a discussion with unbelievers or amongst ourselves, if we're not careful we can get caught up in defending our belief system for hours on end. Did God call us to this? Or is it just another tactic of the devil to keep us from assignments that will add life and salvation to a lost and dying world? Paul said, "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive [distract] the hearts of the simple" (Romans 16:17-18). Paul wasn't being critical when he called some people "simple" - he was referencing their innocence. Innocently, zealous people will defend the Gospel because it is worth defending. (I am one such person.) But ignorantly, I (and others) have not realized how the enemy used our passion to pull us away from God's assignment.
Concerning his warning about those who deceive and distract, Paul continued by saying, "For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen" (Romans 16:19-20). And that's what we must remember: when we give our full attention to God, He will crush Satan's strategies against us - including all that distracts.