Distractions to the Cause

By John Thiel, mp3

Martin Luther wrote the hymn ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God’. He knew what he was talking about as he knew that this world though filled with devils may threaten to undo us, we have nothing to fear for God has willed His truth to triumph through us. Some of those words, all the content of those words bring us to an appreciation that there is a warfare going on. The warfare is the upholding of the great cause that Jesus Christ came to this earth for and Satan wants to distract us from that cause.

The Present Work

I then saw the third angel. Said my accompanying angel, “Fearful is his work. Awful is his mission. He is the angel that is to select the wheat from the tares, and seal, or bind, the wheat for the heavenly garner. These things should engross the whole mind, the whole attention.” {EW 118.1}

Engross the whole mind, the whole attention …what things? The weeds and the wheat. Are you a weed, or are you a wheat? If you don’t want to be a weed, receive the engrafted word of God. Let it be a product within your heart and then be aware that now at this very present time the angel of Revelation 14, the third angel, is separating the weeds from the wheat, separating people. This should engross our whole mind, our whole attention.

This is not a normal time in earth’s history. This is crisis’ time, when you are in a crisis. When a ship is sinking, do you seat on the ship’s deck and bask in the sun? Or do you go down to the cabin and sit down and read a book, when the ship is sinking? Your mind is totally concentrated on ensuring that you and your loved ones are going to be in that life-boat. Any other crisis that comes in your life, you are focusing your mind, your whole attention, to steer through that crisis carefully. Careful focus, undistracted attention is common sense when there is a crisis. We are in a severe crisis right now. It doesn’t seem like it, does it? It seems like all is going well. We can still sit here in these pews and worship God in freedom; “What’s the crisis?” That’s the trap.

2 Timothy 3:1 … in the last days perilous times shall come.

We have accepted the perilous times and we sit in our cabin reading books. We lie on the ship’s deck basking in the sun going on as though everything was going normally when in reality the ship is sinking.

The following statement describes what we need to be considering:

Solemn are the scenes connected with the closing work of the atonement. Momentous are the interests involved therein. The judgment is now passing in the sanctuary above. For many years this work has been in progress. Soon–none know how soon–it will pass to the cases of the living. In the awful presence of God our lives are to come up in review. At this time above all others it behooves every soul to heed the Saviour’s admonition: “Watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.” Mark 13:33. “If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” Revelation 3:3. {GC 490.1}

We’ve read those words before. It’s old pioneer doctrine, it’s been going on since 1844. If so, how solemn, how momentous is this moment of earth’s history now, our lifetime?


Satan invents unnumbered schemes to occupy our minds, that they may not dwell upon the very work with which we ought to be best acquainted. The archdeceiver hates the great truths that bring to view an atoning sacrifice and an all-powerful mediator. He knows that with him everything depends on his diverting minds from Jesus and His truth. {GC 488.1}

Those who would share the benefits of the Saviour’s mediation should permit nothing to interfere with their duty to perfect holiness in the fear of God. {GC 488.2}

Permit nothing to interfere.

The precious hours, instead of being given to pleasure, to display, or to gain seeking, should be devoted to an earnest, prayerful study of the word of truth. {GC 488.2}

The language is very explicit for Sister White’s time and now even more for us. The earth is about to fall apart. Jesus is still calling the angels to hold back the winds of strife; but for how much longer? Now, more than any other time, it is of great importance to not permit ourselves to be distracted, our minds to be diverted. We should permit nothing to interfere, nothing. While the angel is sealing in bundles the wheat and the tares, what is Satan trying to do, in this serious time?

Oh, that all could get a view of it as God revealed it to me, that they might know more of the wiles of Satan and be on their guard! I saw that Satan was at work in these ways to distract, deceive, and draw away God’s people, just now in this sealing time. I saw some who were not standing stiffly for present truth. Their knees were trembling, and their feet sliding, because they were not firmly planted on the truth, and the covering of Almighty God could not be drawn over them while they were thus trembling. {EW 44.1}

If you’re concentrating on something, and everything depends on that concentration to bring about the desired result and somebody wants to spoil it for you, what will he do? He will say, “Hey John, look over here!” and you’ve just looked away, and you’ve missed your chance of doing what you had to do; and it’s either delayed, or it’s ruined. That’s Satan. He’s there at the crucial moments of our eternal salvation, to take our attention from the focus of what I’m really meant to be doing, to distract, to deceive, to draw away God’s people just now in this sealing time.

We will now consider two points; one, to identify the distractions; and two, to gain the skill to dismiss them.

The Distractions

Looking at the identification of the distractions, we can see a summary of the grave danger of our minds being distracted today:

1. The Abounding Iniquity

Matthew 24:11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

What are the distractions? The abounding life of iniquity, the abounding life of lawlessness. Tell me, as you look at life around you today, is it distracting from what you should be concentrating on? There are so many horrifying things around us, there are so many nasty things that are being done. People are hurting each other…so many terrible things are happening, and we go, “Oh, that’s terrible. And this, oh …” You’re being distracted. We’re being distracted. Because iniquity abounds, because these horrible things are happening around us, what is happening to the fine tuning, in your own heart, of concentration? Your love is growing cold; and does not faith work by love, and purified the soul? If my love grows cold, I’ve lost my concentration …abounding iniquity. What is Satan doing, as he uses the abounding iniquity? What is he doing to distract me, as I look at the detail of this? Remember it says, “He that shall endure unto the end” through all this; the one who does not become distracted.

… it is Satan’s constant effort to keep the attention diverted from the Saviour and thus prevent the union and communion of the soul with Christ. {SC 71.2}

What are the distractions?

The pleasures of the world, life’s cares and perplexities and sorrows, the faults of others, or your own faults and imperfections–to any or all of these he will seek to divert the mind. {SC 71.2}

… to distract you. Take a very honest look at these statements, and meditate upon it in living reality. Is this your experience? that Satan is managing to distract your mind by thinking,

2. The Pleasures of the World

“I’d love to go and do what I used to do. I used to go and have a nice time, here and this, or here and there.” That’s the pleasures of the world.

3. Life’s Cares and Perplexities

Or, you are so flat-strapped in keeping up with the demands of this fast society; and you’re just, Go, go, go, go; cares and perplexities that you have to solve and take care of.

4. Sorrows

Then, there are sorrows that are heaping up around you, as you see, in the time of the separating of the wheat and the tares, some sorrowful events between your own self and your friends and relatives …sorrows. Satan wants us to focus on them, and if we won’t focus on them, at least just to go, “Woo, look at that.” “Oh, just distracted me.” That’s what he wants.

5. The Faults of Others

Now, worst of all, are there plenty of faults amongst us? Yes. Satan wants to cause you to look at the faults, and to occupy your mind with the faults and things of those around you. That is a distraction of Satan. Then, if he can’t do that, he’ll distract you to look at yourself and your own faults. These are the distractions.

But then there are some other perplexing ones. It has to do with the faults of the church, but some very serious things happening within the church. Within the very body of Christ, the members of Christ’s body, there is this strange, distractive activity, to distract us from the high work that is going on.

Psalm 55:12 For [it was] not an enemy [that] reproached me; then I could have borne [it]: neither [was it] he that hated me [that] did magnify [himself] against me; then I would have hid myself from him: 13 But [it was] thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. 14 We took sweet counsel together, [and] walked unto the house of God in company.

That’s most distracting. Those with whom we have had deep wonderful fellowship, and we had wonderful understandings together, we trusted one another, we enjoyed each other fellowship; and lo and behold, they become enemies. That’s very disconcerting. That is very distracting. Satan wants us to be distracted.

Acts 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things,
to draw away disciples after them.

From among the church, enemies arise; from people that I trusted and I relied on in the body of Christ; they were part of the body of Christ. And lo and behold, there is this debacle of comfort now, mind affected, dreadful.

As pride and worldly ambition have been cherished, the spirit of Christ has departed, and emulation, dissension, and strife have come in to distract and weaken the church. {5T 240.3}

Distract …what is going to distract it there? As individuals become ambitious, they cherish ambition, a kind a worldly ambition, comparing ourselves among ourselves. “I’m not being treated as highly as another brother in the church. I want to be as high as him. I want to be able to do that and do this, and the other thing.” Ambition, worldly ambition it is. What does it do? It distracts.

… the spirit of Christ has departed, and emulation, dissension, and strife have come in to distract and weaken the church. {5T 240.3}

We’re not concentrating on the real thing anymore.

It is impossible for minds distracted by envy and strife to comprehend the deep spiritual truths of God’s word. {5T 241.1}

You’re supposed to be concentrating on the deep spiritual truths for these last days in God’s word. It is impossible for minds distracted by envy and strife to comprehend these things. It’s distractive. We are itemizing the distractions.

6. False Reports and Representations

In the time in which we are living skepticism, infidelity, speculation, and pharisaism abound to divert the mind from the vital questions at issue. False reports, false representations of character, calumny, and every species of reproach, will be originated by the great deceiver to throw discredit upon the word of God and those who advocate it. {3MR 7.1}

What is Satan doing? In the time in which we are living, and all the more now, skepticism, infidelity, speculation, and pharisaism, and false
reports come from that. False representations of character, every
reproach; that is what is happening in the time in which we’re living. As I read these things and meditate upon them for many years now, I shudder to behold how the reality of the great majority of Christians having been distracted has truly taken root; and here we are, a little company, still seeking to hold on to the truths and the cause of present truth for this time, and Satan is really trying hard to distract us.

How much has he already distracted you? As you think back over the last week, events in your life, in your family, in your situations, isn’t it happening? So many distracting factors, all the time, so that I can’t pursue diligently the things that I know I should be pursuing. I keep on getting distracted.

How do I stop it? How do I get down to business and keep my mind so focused that I will not miss out in the great life-saving activity of heaven at this very moment? The angels are running to and fro. They are extremely busy, concentrating on what we are being distracted from. What are we doing?

1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

Take heed to yourself, and to the doctrine.” This is the deliberation of gaining the skill so that we can dismiss these distractions. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Dismissing these distractions, it’s not an easy thing, is it? Have you experienced how hard it is? Why is it so hard? Because these distractions are directly affecting our life. The faults of others are affecting me. My own faults are affecting me; so I want to deal with them. I want to face the problem, and I get distracted by doing that. As we experience the debacles in the church, these wrong things that people are doing, we want to deal with it; and we get distracted from concentrating on what we’re meant to be doing.

Dismissing Life’s Cares, Perplexities and Sorrows

What is the skill that I need to gain, very quickly now, to dismiss these distractions? It requires skill. Let’s have a look at one of them: life’s cares and perplexities. Indeed, how can you dismiss life’s cares and perplexities that affect your life? How can you dismiss them? Here is how you dismiss them. This is the skill we need. Instead of living the perplexities that affect my life, and the cares, and the sorrows; instead of letting them undermine my rejoicing spirit:

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: [and] again I say, Rejoice.

How can I

rejoice if I’m concentrating on these sorrows? I need to gain a skill here. What must I do? How can I rejoice?

Philippians 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord [is] at hand.

What does that mean? In my cares and perplexities and sorrows, the Lord is at hand. Watch him, not the sorrows, not the perplexities; concentrate on Him, on this way:

Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; …

Don’t worry about anything; those perplexities, those sorrows, those difficulties, don’t worry about them. Now, it doesn’t just say, “Don’t worry about them”, what should you do?

Philippians 4:6 … but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

The Lord is at hand, He knows it’s there, tell Him about it. Very simple. That’s an exercise of skill, to look to the One who is at hand during those perplexities, etc. As we do this:

Philippians 4:7 … the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

You know what it’s like, if you look at the perplexities, you lose your mind, you lose your self-control, you lose your composure; and your character has been marred. I focus on the problem, I’m getting weary and tired, I’m so overwhelmed with so many things, and then I’ve lost my focus, and I reveal unChristlike characteristics.

The skill is a skill of mind, that when things are really going wild around you, you say, “Praise the Lord, He’s at hand.” You say that to yourself; you don’t have to go and direct it to anybody else. “What are you getting excited for? Don’t get excited.” None of that, because the next minute you get excited too. The reality is we are all individually responsible to exercise the skill for myself. The Lord is at hand: that mind activity must govern me.

These perplexities, these sorrows, these cares, “Take no thought”, says Jesus, don’t think about the things that are oppressing you.

Matthew 6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil thereof.

Instead of worrying about the things that are coming my way, I concentrate on the Lord in dealing with the problems. And when you get so flat-strap with busy living, He will tell you you’ve put too much on your plate. “I didn’t ask you to do this. I didn’t ask you to do that. I didn’t ask you to do the other thing, but you’ve gone ahead and done them; and now you’re so busy that you can’t concentrate on what I ask you to do.” That’s how God will speak to us. That’s how God is speaking to me, all the time.

We’re living in a mad world. Everything is running so fast and because everything is running so fast, we keep on taking more and more and more, until we have too much on our plate because, “Oh, I’ve got extra-time here, and I’ve got extra-time there”, because of the fast technology around me, etc., etc.; and I heap more and more upon myself. Slow down. Don’t do what God hasn’t told you to do, just because you feel you want to do it. The next minute you’re so busy that you haven’t got time to concentrate on what the Lord wants you to do.

If you have perplexities and troubles–and these are the common lot of mankind–do not tell them to others, and thus shadow their path. {ST, March 5, 1885 par. 13}

As these perplexities bother you, don’t tell them to others and put another load upon their mind.

Do not go for help to every source but the right one; {ST, March 5, 1885 par. 13}

We need help, but don’t go and unload your burdens to others. Oh, how much we do that. “Oh, I want to share my burdens with my brother or sister.” And they feel, “Well, I’ve got to share my burden.” and they share their burden, and, “Why, I haven’t got time to share mine.'” That’s what goes on around me, I see it all the time. You’re not going to get any help. The only thing you’re going to get is a bit of relief because you’ve unburdened your words, but it shadows somebody else. There’s no help in that.

Do not go for help to every source but the right one; but tell Jesus everything; take it to the Lord in prayer, and then believe that he accepts you and your burden. Faith is the gift of God, but the power to exercise it is yours. A single earnest expression of faith strengthens faith; but every expression of doubt confirms doubt, and helps to gather about your soul the dark shadows of unbelief. Then do not open your soul to Satan’s temptations by cherishing and expressing the doubts that he insinuates. {ST, March 5, 1885 par. 13}

The word “insinuates” is: He gives you thoughts and feeling; and you feel it’s your thoughts and feelings. He insinuates. He is distracting our minds.

Talk faith and courage. Press to the light; and bright beams from the Sun of Righteousness will dispel clouds and darkness, and sweet peace will pervade the soul. {ST, March 5, 1885 par. 13}

Because our sorrows and our perplexities and our cares often have to do with our business, keeping a roof over our head, keeping our money flowing in, keeping money going so that we can use; and what did Jesus say? “Don’t worry about the fact that you haven’t got the money, let me carry your burden.”

Your mind is so occupied with your business, that you haven’t got mind occupation with the real business at hand, which is the angel doing his work just now.

You may be perplexed in business; your prospects may grow darker and darker, … {SC 122.2}

That’s a worry, isn’t it? someone who is trying to get his financial condition together, and it’s only getting worse and worse and worse.

… and you may be threatened with loss; but do not become discouraged; cast your care upon God, and remain calm and cheerful. Pray for wisdom to manage your affairs with discretion, and thus prevent loss and disaster. {SC 122.2}

I shared this statement once with a man who was going bankrupt; and he hadn’t yet gone bankrupt. I read him this statement. If you go bankrupt you will try to prevent that:

Do all you can on your part to bring about favorable results. Jesus has promised His aid, but not apart from our effort. When, relying upon our Helper, you have done all you can, accept the result cheerfully. {SC 122.2}

If a person does go bankrupt, accept the result cheerfully. You like that? What an embarrassment! What a terrible thing! If you’ve done all you can to prevent it, leave the rest with God. The whole world is going to go bankrupt soon, including you and me. We won’t have a place to live in. We’ll be running through the mountains. You’ll be bankrupt. Accept it cheerfully. You’ve done everything to prevent it, don’t worry about it if it’s lost. Let God take care of the stress.

Dealing With the Faults of Others

Then comes the second point: The faults of others, or our own faults, will distract us. How do we deal? What’s the skill needed there?

Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

What am I to do, as I look at the faults of others, or my own? How effective are these faults upon my life? Were they effective on Christ’s life? What does it say? He endured the cross. What was that? The evil of every sin, of every fault upon Him, that affected Him. If other people’s sins affect you, if other people’s faults affect you; what’s the skill of dismissing the weight of that? The thing that Jesus practiced. He endured contradictions of sinners against himself. He that shall endure unto the end, was the statement in Matthew. If Jesus put up with it, as I look upon Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith, I lay aside all these things that beset me. The skill of beholding Jesus in the very disaster of the faults of others or your own faults, is what will give you the victory. You will shut out and dismiss those distractions, totally. They won’t affect you anymore because Jesus is that wonderful comfort to you.

We should not make self the center and indulge anxiety and fear as to whether we shall be saved. All this turns the soul away from the Source of our strength. Commit the keeping of your soul to God, and trust in Him. Talk and think of Jesus. Let self be lost in Him. Put away all doubt; dismiss your fears. Say with the apostle Paul, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. Rest in God. {SC 71.2}

… as Jesus did. That deals with the faults of others.

Letting Go

Now, finally, a third point: How to exercise the skill of false reports, false representations of character and every species of reproach when the very ones in God’s church have completely devastated my joy especially those who have been guides. The psalmist talks about how “It’s you, my equal, my guide, mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together.”

Psalm 55:13 But [it was] thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. 14 We took sweet counsel together, [and] walked unto the house of God in company. 16 As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me. 17 Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice. 18 He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle [that was] against me: for there were many with me.

God will deal with it. I will pray to Him. He will deliver my soul in peace from the battle that was against me. That is an important scriptural principle.

Psalm 55:22 Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

Again, we need to do what Jesus did; what was He given for as an example?

1 Peter 2:23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not;

There it is. When people give wrong reports and tear down your character, even within the church, that’s what happened to Jesus. Who was the one who actually delivered Jesus to the authorities? One of the twelve. Jesus is the One who helps us cope with that. It’s not a distraction anymore; it’s good, it’s normal, it’s to be expected.

On this point of character assassination and all that goes with it, we have a beautiful counsel that we need to exercise the skill in:

The adversary of souls is constantly seeking to divert our minds by bringing in side issues. Let us not be deceived. Let enemies handle your name and mine as they please. {OHC 360.2}

Let them. Let them destroy your character as they please.

Let them distort, misrepresent, our words and deeds. Let them fabricate falsehoods as best pleases them. We cannot afford to allow our minds to be diverted from Jesus and the preparation of soul which we must have in order to meet Him in peace. . . . {OHC 360.2}

We cannot afford to. Let them do it.

In Christ’s stead, I beseech you to pray as you never prayed before, to seek earnestly for faith and love, that seem to be almost banished from the earth. {OHC 360.2}

How true this is. Faith and love is almost banished from the earth.

Live each day as in the sight of God. . . . {OHC 360.2}

Let not false teachers confuse your minds and unsettle your faith by casting reproach upon those whom God has sent you with messages of warning and instruction. {OHC 360.3}

Because that’s what happens in the church; the Lord sends the messenger, and then the other messenger goes along and smites him (Matthew 24:49). The one who receives the smiting lets him do it; he concentrates on Jesus; and the ones that are looking on:

Let not false teachers confuse your minds and unsettle your faith by casting reproach upon those whom God has sent you with messages of warning and instruction. Remember that it is not mere men whom you have to meet, but “principalities and powers, and wicked spirits in high places.” {OHC 360.3}

Where? In high places.

Now is the very time when Satan is working with all deceivableness of unrighteousness. {OHC 360.3}

Have you experienced that? Let it happen. Don’t be distracted. Concentrate on the work that is going on: The angel is separating the weeds from the wheat. I love the humor of God. He calls them weeds. I found it so fascinating, as I was driving home, after I was giving this Bible study… weeds… He calls human beings weeds. If He calls them weeds, why are you worried?

Focusing on Jesus Christ

In conclusion, life’s cares and perplexities, the faults of others or your own faults, the false reports and character assassinations, etc., all these can be dismissed very simply by focusing on the living example of Jesus Christ, and on the beautiful way in which He dismissed it.

Now the great work from which the mind should not be diverted is the consideration of our personal safety in the sight of God. Are our feet on the Rock of ages? Are we hiding ourselves in our only Refuge? The storm is coming, relentless in its fury. {18MR 63.1}

Isn’t it already raging? Relentless …it just doesn’t stop; it gets worse and worse, doesn’t it?

Are we prepared to meet it? Are we one with Christ as He is one with the Father? Are we heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ? Are we working in copartnership with Christ? {18MR 63.1}

Already kingdom is rising against kingdom. There is not now a determined engagement. {18MR 63.2}

That was way back when Sister White wrote that, before the First World War.

As yet the four winds are held until the servants of our God shall be sealed in their foreheads. Then the power of earth will marshal their forces for the last great battle. How carefully should we improve the little remaining period of our probation. {18MR 63.2}

Sister White wrote this in 1896. If that was relevant then, the little remaining period of probation, if that was relevant in 1896, how much more is it today? diOur time requires total focus on the topic at hand. While we have to work, while we have to fulfill our responsibilities on this planet, it is absolutely essential that you only do your utmost to fulfill the responsibilities that God has placed on your plate; and then, with the remaining concentration, which you do together with dealing with your responsibilities, you pay close attention to Jesus Christ so that you can dismiss every distraction. Very close concentration is what is needed now, and it is my prayer that we will go to and do it. God grant us the grace.


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Posted on 15/03/2013, in Divine Service Sermons and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Mercedes Keller



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