Distraction is not the same as divine interruption. Jesus seemed to be entirely “indistractible” on the one hand but imminently interruptible on the other.
For example, in John 4, not even his own hunger can keep him from pursuing God’s will. His disciples go off to get something to eat, and he sticks around to minister to the woman at the well. A few hours later they come back from the all-you-can-eat buffet to find Jesus still sitting there. “Aren’t you hungry?” they ask, to which Jesus says, “My food is to do to the will of the one that sent me” (John 4:34). Now, if there is one thing that can distract me from focus in ministry it is hunger—I’m not great at counseling when I’m“hangry.” (It usually ends up something like this.) But Jesus was so locked into God’s will that even hunger could not affect his disposition.
But on the other hand, Jesus was also very interruptible. In John 5, Jesus freely allows his Sabbath to be interrupted by a man who needs healing. Jesus explains his openness to being interrupted by saying in verse 17, “My Father is still working, and I am working also.” In other words, Jesus recognizes that his Father is always at work around him, and sometimes the Father will invite him into something he is doing, and Jesus is ready to respond.
This is how Jesus lived his whole life. He’d be doing one thing, and all of the sudden some divine opportunity no one else saw coming would arise—seemingly out of nowhere—and he’d stop what he was doing and engage in that. And, he taught us that if we are going to follow the Holy Spirit, we are to live the same way. We need the focus and indistractibility of John 4, combined with the flexibility and interruptibility of John 5.
If being easily distracted is one fault, the opposite fault is not being open to interruptions from the Holy Spirit that God puts into our lives. We become closed off to what God is doing around us and inviting us into. Henry Blackaby said, “Some people can be so disoriented to God that when he begins to work around them, they actually become annoyed at the interruption!”
You see, distraction is not the same as divine interruption. There is a time for service, and there is a time for communion with Jesus. Like Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet instead of working like her sister Martha, we need to know what time it is and be all-in in that moment.
Have you noticed that often the best moments in our lives come in the form of unexpected interruptions?
The best parenting moments rarely happen on our schedules. The best witnessing encounters never happen on schedule—God just puts us next to somebody who needs a word from him, and it’s up to us to respond. People we love and who truly need something from us rarely have their moments of crisis on our schedules (has your child ever had a meltdown at an opportune time?). Even our conversions don’t happen on schedule.
A healthy Christian life is one in which you learn to live free of devilish distractions so you can be open to divine interruptions and obedient to the Holy Spirit.
J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and the 62nd President of the SBC. This article originally appeared on JDGreear.com.