While Jesus was on earth, He could have done all sorts of fantastic things.
He could have built buildings that would have made the engineers and architects of the Roman Empire look stupid. He could have opened a university and taught science to the smartest scholars from every nation.
He could have conducted the largest Gospel crusade the world had ever seen.
He could have healed all the sick people on earth and cleared out every hospital.
He could have sent out 12,000 apostles instead of 12 to build His Church.
Why did Jesus refrain from doing these and a million other wonderful things that were within His power? The simple answer is this:
Jesus knew His mission—the one task for which He came.
He stated it very clearly: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).
Although He was well aware that He would die for the sins of the whole world, He also knew that He needed to accomplish His mission within the tiny nation of Israel. Jesus lived daily to fulfill His mission and never allowed Himself to be distracted by anything or anyone. When His journey came to an end, He simply said to His Father, "I have finished the work which You have given Me to do" (John 17:4). And on the cross, He looked at humanity past, present and future and proclaimed, "It is finished" (John 19:30).
Jesus was surrounded by distractions just like we are.
Right before He began His ministry, the devil attempted to cause Jesus to use His embodied spiritual powers in a selfish way and without the authorization of His Father. Jesus could have indeed turned stones into bread, jumped off the tower and survived, or walked away from the cross, but He refused.
Even when the devil used Peter and later the Greeks to try to prevent Him from completing His mission, Jesus still didn't give in to distractions. Instead, He explained why He was keeping His focus: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain [fruit]" (John 12:24). And then in the last few hours of His life, when Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him and all of His disciples ran away, Jesus could have easily given up and said, "It's all been a mistake. They betrayed everything I showed and lived before them. It's not worth it"—and walked away from the cross. Thank God He didn't.
Paul and Nehemiah also didn't give in to distractions.
One of the secrets behind the Apostle Paul's achievements in life was his absolute focus. His statement, "None of these things move me" (Acts 20:24) meant that none of the difficulties, persecutions and problems he faced could persuade him to walk away.
Nehemiah had the same determination when he was building the wall of Jerusalem. Although his enemies used every tactic in the book to frighten him into quitting, he kept right on building and answered, "Should such a man as I flee?" (Nehemiah 6:11).
Others gave in—and forfeited the most incredible possibilities they could have achieved in their lives.
Baalam the prophet was handpicked by God. Gehazi was in line to inherit Elisha's mantle and a double portion of his master's ministry. Demas could have possibly been the one to receive the torch from Paul. Yet all three got distracted by the love of this world and money and hence were sidetracked from their mission.
We are asked to follow Jesus' example in handling distractions.
Each of us has a mission to fulfill in winning the lost world and building God's kingdom. The writer of Hebrews gives us precise instructions about what we must do to keep our focus: "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross ..." (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Christ, our example, is the One who has gone before us in the race. We are not asked to look at the spectators in the arena or at the other runners, but to keep our eyes on Jesus and imitate Him. Jesus Himself said, "Follow Me," because He knew that staying focused would be one of the most difficult things for us to do.
I remember well when, during the early days of our ministry, someone offered me all the financial assistance in the world if I would give up my calling and commit myself to advance his cause overseas.
The thing that helped me walk away from this distraction was when my wife asked me, "When the journey comes to an end and you look back, what will you answer? If for the sake of money you compromise your calling and your walk with the Lord, how will you explain this to the people who are following you?"
My dear brothers and sisters, let us faithfully encourage each other daily to stay focused and to say no to distractions.
Dr. K.P. Yohannan
Founder & Director of Gospel for Asia