Sunday Gathering – Dealing with all the distractions – Andy Hollingum
The sermon by Andy Hollingum on November 5th, 2023, is titled "Prayer - Dealing with all the Distractions." In this sermon, Andy addresses the common distractions that hinder people from praying and offers insights on how to overcome them. He also emphasizes the importance of creating space in one's life to spend time with God through prayer and reflection. Here is a summary of the key points and any Bible passages mentioned in the sermon:
- Dealing with Distractions: Andy acknowledges that distractions are a part of everyday life, including in the context of prayer. He invites the congregation to reflect on the distractions that often hinder their prayer lives, such as phones, TV, jobs, and more.
- Creating Space for God: Andy emphasizes the need to create space in one's daily or weekly routine to spend time with God. He mentions Jesus' example of seeking solitary places to pray and highlights the importance of creating space for intimacy with God.
- Overcoming Distractions: The congregation suggests various strategies for dealing with distractions, such as setting priorities, being realistic about seasons of life, and practicing discipline in time management.
- The Role of Discipline: Andy underscores the importance of discipline in the Christian life, drawing on analogies from the New Testament that compare the Christian journey to a race, a soldier's duty, or a farmer's work. He encourages the congregation to embrace discipline in their walk with Jesus.
- Practical Tips: Andy suggests using Bible reading notes, apps, or resources to guide and structure personal Bible study and prayer. He also encourages taking notes on Scripture, reflecting on its personal meaning, and seeking to hear from God through prayer.
- Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus: The sermon concludes by reminding the congregation to consider Jesus and fix their gaze on Him. Andy shares his own experience of a vision issue and encourages everyone to focus on Jesus despite the distractions and obstacles in life.
- The Role of Heroes of the Faith: The sermon highlights the importance of recognizing and considering the heroes of the faith who are cheering us on, as mentioned in Hebrews 12. These heroes include biblical figures who, despite their flaws and mistakes, encountered God and walked with Him.
Throughout the sermon, Andy uses Bible verses to support his points and encourage the congregation to deepen their prayer life and relationship with God. The key Bible passages mentioned include Hebrews 12:1-3, Psalm 46:10, and various examples from the lives of biblical heroes of the faith.
The central message is to create space for God in our lives, overcome distractions, embrace discipline, and fix our eyes on Jesus as we walk our faith journey.
Pray for him now in Jesus name. Amen. Amen.
Amen. Good morning, everybody.
Here you go, you can have your next book.
Yes, I spent the first half of the service in 146.
Hello, 146. It's great, it's buzzing there.
26, 27 adults, two dogs.
It's fantastic, it's both great to be a part of what's happening here.
You know, you're thinking a different location just watching a screen.
It wouldn't be like that.
It's a really great place and just starting to want to do the people there this morning.
They love going there because, you know, it's less overwhelming than being in here
and walking through that door and seeing all these people.
So it works really, really well.
So if you've never been, then get along but not too many of you at one go.
Because that would spoil the effect.
All right, so this morning we're continuing looking at prayer.
And the title today as we've got here is dealing with the distractions.
Now just like I think everybody else speaking in this subject,
I kind of think I can't possibly talk about prayer because I'm no good at it
and I don't do anything like enough.
But when I saw the subject was dealing with distractions, I'm good at that.
I'm good at distractions. I've got lots of them.
So I could perhaps maybe I could talk about this.
But dealing with distractions is part of life, isn't it?
I can well remember many years ago as a spotty face 16-year-old
screwing up my O-levels or GCSEs would be called them now.
Because I just spent too much time playing subUTO.
That ages me. A lot of you are thinking, what, what if that?
But rather than revising, I'd much rather do whole essay cup competitions
with all my subUTO teams.
And so that was then.
And guess what, distractions have carried on since then.
How many people look for distractions so they don't have to do the housework?
Yeah, yeah. There's not many people being honest this morning.
But yeah, yeah. Or perhaps, how about where's Sheila gone?
I saw her a minute ago.
How about moving house and packing?
We look for distractions to avoid all that hassle we've got to do
with moving house and throwing things out or putting it in boxes.
We look for distractions all the time, don't we?
Or in the worst case, accidents can happen because we get distracted
thinking about driving a motor vehicle.
Or perhaps you're just walking down the pavement and you forget where you're put in your foot
sometimes because you're distracted.
Something can happen as a consequence.
So dealing with distractions is absolutely part of our everyday lives, isn't it, anyway?
And guess what, it's no different when it comes to prayer and to us praying.
So bit of honesty time, what are the kind of distractions that stop us praying, do you think?
The phone, yeah, good one, what else?
Jobs, yeah, good?
Leadership meetings, yeah.
I'm going through what you mean by that.
I think it was honesty time.
Very honest, John.
There's lots of them out there.
What are strategies for dealing with distractions?
Oh, it's gone quiet.
Wonder why that is, right?
But we naturally can think of the things that distract us, but we do find it difficult to
how do we overcome that?
So we just want to look at briefly this morning that he says looking at the clock.
But in this context, I'm not talking about prayer, just like when we're walking down the street,
we might shoot a prayer off or we go to a meeting like this and people say prayers.
I'm not talking about praying in that sense.
In the context, I want to look at this morning's, how do we create space in our lives to spend time with God?
Let's use that phrase.
Of which a part is praying.
How do we create space to spend time with God?
Because Jesus, you know, we had a couple of Sundays and there's been mentioned already this morning where we looked at the Lord's Prayer.
And the verse immediately before Jesus starts the Lord's Prayer.
You know what he says?
You've got a prayer like this.
Our Father and I are in heaven.
And the immediate verse before that, he says, when you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who love to be seen when they pray.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret.
And then when we read it, look at what Jesus did in his own life.
We read them.
We'll see this again in a minute.
In the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, you know, he got up early one morning while it was still dark and went off to a solitary place to pray to spend time with his Father.
And so he's talking and he's telling us that we need to create space in our daily lives or our weekly lives or the rhythm of life that we have to spend time with God.
Talking to him, listening to him and connecting with him.
It's about creating that space for you and I to do that.
In the same way we might do for any friendship or anyone in our family, we would sit down and talk with them and listen to them and spend time with them.
And that's how we get to know them and get to know about them, isn't it?
And it's exactly the same for you and me as we do this walk with Jesus.
We have to create that space to do it.
Now that can be different for different people, but it's still the same goal.
So for example for myself, I'm not very good at this, but once a week on a Sunday morning I managed to tend to carve out an hour where I will spend time with God.
And the way that I'm talking about, I might read a bit of scripture, I might pray, I might listen, I might use that scripture to drive what I'm going to pray about rather than just the things that are buzzing in my head for the day.
It's about creating that space, that segment in our life so that we spend time with God.
So what are the distractions to that? Let's just see if I can do this first.
Maybe you better do it James.
Thank you very much.
First distraction that we often, so I've come up with five things here which are a little bit prescriptive and I want to end on a different note.
But you will think of other things as we've already heard this morning.
So this is not just the definitive list of distractions, but these are some of the common things.
We can think this is too hard. Andy, what you're talking about is too hard.
How can I possibly create space in my life to do this?
How can I spend time with God? What does that even mean?
What does that look like? There are some really spiritual people sat in this building.
How can I possibly begin to emulate what they do?
I'm just in daunted by them.
One of the things that's really important is that we are realistic about ourselves and to start realistically.
If you're a new Christian and you're thinking, how do I spend time with God?
How do I pray? Don't launch in and think you've got to get up at 4 a.m. and spend five hours with the Lord.
I mean if you do, let us know. But that's not the starting point.
There's a little verse in the Old Testament, a book in the Old Testament called Zechariah.
This is shamelessly taken out of context, but it serves a really good purpose.
The prophet says, God is speaking saying, do not despise these small beginnings or the day of small beginnings.
This is really true here. We mustn't beat ourselves up. God loves it.
When we get alone with him and spend time with him and he can talk to us and we talk to him.
If he's just five minutes or ten minutes, he thinks great, let's do it.
Let's do it. That's all it is.
We can think that it's too hard, but also recognize there are times and seasons in life.
I can just about still remember what it was like to have young children and the challenges of that on your schedule.
The idea that when we read about Jesus getting up early in the morning to go and pray,
I know what that's like if you try and do that when you've got young children.
I hear you and then they want to come and join in and you may make that work, which is fantastic if you do.
But the point is there are times and seasons in life and actually we need to be flexible with ourselves at times
in sort of how we carve out that time with God in the week.
It may change as our lifestyle and life circumstances change.
We can think, why do this? Surely God's not bothered about me, about what I've got to say,
about what I can't believe that God would want to listen to me.
In fact, it's been so long since I sat down and spent time with God.
He's going to be angry with me for not showing up.
That is so not true.
We kind of come to this image that God's going to be sat there on the chair
when we eventually decide we're going to pray and he's tapping his feet
and we turn up to pray and it's kind of like we feel that he's going to say,
I thought you'd come at some point.
We have that kind of negative impression of what our Father is like,
but he loves it. Read that story of the prodigal son again
and remind yourself how the Father is looking every day for that prodigal son to return.
Not knowing whenever he's going to return, but every day he's looking down the road
and he's my son coming back today.
Every day God is looking down there and are we going to turn up and spend a bit of time with him today?
And when we do, he goes, yes!
You know, he loves it when we do that.
Paul has this little verse he writes to the church in Ephesus,
we read in the New Testament.
He says, for through him, through Jesus, we have access to the Father by the One Spirit.
We need to get a hold of that.
This God that created the whole universe and everything around us that existed before everything
and then simply spoke and everything around us that we see and will ever know about.
He created simply by speaking.
We have been given access to him through Jesus.
Therefore guys, we need to take a hold of that and make use of it
because there is so much for us to learn and so much for us to live by
and so much to change our lives and challenge us and catch us up with him.
But he's made that access.
Let's get a hold of it and not take it for granted.
Mr. Hopegill, thank you.
Is I'm too busy?
Yeah, but we probably all said this various times in our lives.
And I think there's a quote from somebody.
I didn't look it up saying if you're too busy to pray, you're too busy.
I never really understood what that meant.
But, you know, I do observe busyness is relative, isn't it?
It doesn't make me smile at times.
I observe, you know, when one person says they're really busy and I compare that to somebody else,
it's not all the same.
Or you've ever had conversations with people who just tell you how busy they are
and then in the next breath, what they've been watching on Telly every evening.
So busyness is weird, isn't it?
Because really, it isn't about busyness.
It's really about prioritization.
And it's about letting things bump up the priority list of what we do with our time
and how we spend it.
It is about, in this context, creating space without interruption that's relevant for you and for me.
So, like I said earlier, Mark 135, very early in the morning, while it was still dot,
Jesus got up and left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed and spent time with his father.
And I read that and I kind of think, well, if Jesus needed to do it, yeah.
So, you know, we need to create that space in our lives where we can actually do that.
Like I said, even if we start at five minutes or ten minutes, yeah, we need us to create that space.
And the Psalmist writes in Psalm 46 verse 10, as God speaking, God says, be still and know that I am God.
That is a word for this day and age, if ever there was one.
Well, people's lives are so busy.
Even if people are not physically busy going from one place to the next,
a lot of people are so mentally busy and their heads are so full of stuff.
And it was very interesting we had freedom in Christ on Tuesday night.
There was a little video interview with a guy who was exactly at this.
He said, every time he sat down to pray and just be still.
He's mind immediately switched on and all this stuff started happening and so he never really concentrated and got through.
Until he let Jesus deal with the stuff that was causing that to happen.
But it's just so interesting that God says, be still and know that I am God.
You know, like Moses appearing, God appearing before Moses, we read about in the Old Testament.
God wasn't in the world when he wasn't in the fire, he wasn't in the storm, but he was in a still small voice.
We need to learn what it is to be still and know that he is God.
You know, it's not about all the activity we can do, all the meetings we can attend,
all the worship stuff we can listen to online, all the whatever, but we need to be still.
And in that moment of stillness, then we discover who God is.
In that moment of stillness, then we discover how much He loves us, how full of integrity He is, how He is passionate about us.
And it's not easy, I know, but that is something that that is definitely something that helps us to overcome this sense.
Lord, I want to pray, if there's anything we learn this morning, help us to become men and women who create that space in our lives,
where we can be still before you.
And no, you are God.
Number four, please, Jane, thank you.
Honestly, time, right?
Side of this.
We're just fritter time away.
Yes, be honest.
We do, don't we?
We get tied to our mobile phones.
You know, how many hours a day can you spend doing this?
And it just consumes hours before you've done anything about it, or there are probably other things that is your bag that causes you to fritter time away.
When I was growing up, we thought about how many hours did you spend watching Telly this week?
And then they say, how many hours?
Compare that to how many hours you spent praying.
You know, I beat you over the head with, you must be better than that.
But the thing is, you know, as I look at this as a distraction, I can't avoid
there's an issue with discipline.
Now, this feels a bit odd, because we don't often talk about this.
But actually, when we look at the pages of the New Testament,
this discipline in our life is not something we should be frightened of,
but it's something we're encouraged to embrace.
So look at the analogies that are used throughout the New Testament about what living life as a Christian is like.
We talk about it being a race and how the athlete needs to train himself and discipline himself to run that race.
There's analogies about being in the army and being a soldier and operating according to the rules that being a soldier would mean.
There's analogies about being a farmer and sewing well and sewing early in order to get the crop that you want at the end of the day.
Paul writes to the church at Philippi about pressing on to taking hold of that for its Jesus has taken hold of you.
If you're a Christian this morning, you didn't choose Jesus, he chose you, as I think I heard David talk about earlier today.
Right? He chose you and he's chosen you for purpose.
And Paul is saying, and he's urging the church guys, take hold of that for which Jesus has taken hold of you.
Because he's got a hold of you.
The question is, what are you going to do about that?
And so Paul says, take hold of it.
There's an action involved. There's a discipline involved. There's a determination involved.
And that whole passage at the end of the letter of the Ephesians about the armor of God is a discipline involved in how we do that.
And you know, we mustn't balk at that and pull back and think, oh, we don't like that word, discipline.
But actually it is important as we follow Jesus and pursue him.
If we want to see the kingdom of God in our own lifetime do things, do more stuff than we need to get that discipline into our lives.
It's very, there's not many songs are there about the discipline of God.
Oh, Lord, how I love your discipline.
It never fails.
Well, there's no way songs about it.
But actually, if you read the pages of the New Testament, it's a key part of pressing on.
And you know, so we need to be tough with ourselves at times to overcome this tendency we have to fritter time away.
And actually it brings up a bit of discipline.
And the final distraction that I just, there's a bit practical.
We can simply say, I don't know what to do.
What do you mean, Andy, when you say get alone with God?
What have I even looked like? You know, how do I pray?
How do I read the Bible and make that sense?
Well, there's loads of Bible notes or Bible apps out there.
He uses Bible notes or a Bible app or something to help, yeah, loads.
So if you don't and you're wondering what they are, look around at the hands, put hands up again, please.
And go and have a chat with someone afterwards because that's far better than the example.
So I'm like, I'm that old.
I used every day with Jesus as the example on the screen because that's the ones I used to use a long, long time ago.
But I do something different now.
But they help, right?
There's nothing on the spiritual about using reading notes.
You know, you're not super spiritually think I just need to open this up and start reading.
Because that's very hard. It's a very big book, right?
And it's very challenging to know where to, particularly if you're a new Christian.
And so these notes are there to help us and they give a bit of structure, they give that bit.
Discipline we're talking about.
And they help us use notes.
You know, write down what the Bible is saying to you.
Think about the reader passage. What's it saying to me? What's it saying to my family?
What's it saying to the church? What's it saying to the community where I live?
Write that stuff down. Pray about the passage.
God, well, I think this means this to me. Will you help me live by it and help me change?
Holy Spirit, will you open my eyes to see what it is you're saying?
What I need to change and how I need to respond?
Sit and wait to see if God is going to say something to you about that.
You know, thoughts can come once you're in that mode of praying and reading God's word.
Thoughts can come in your mind that it could be God saying something.
Now, it could be last night's cheese, right?
But sometimes it could actually be God speaking.
And we learn that as we go older and as we walk with Jesus, what that is like.
And we need to be like Mary when the angel appeared to her and gave her the message about
she's going to give birth to Jesus.
She treasured all these things in her heart.
You don't have to go blogging around about what you feel God's saying to you.
But treasure them in your heart and see what God will do.
And lots of options out there to help us create this space in our lives,
this routine in our lives, this rhythm in our lives where we can spend time
with God praying and following it.
But I want to finish, because this is a bit pragmatic and I'm sorry about that,
a bit practical, but I want to finish, come back to Jesus,
come here for the next slide, James, please.
Because I don't know about you, but if we talk about overcoming distractions,
a lot of what I've talked about can descend into feeling a bit like a duty
and a bit hard work and a bit difficult.
But actually, if there is something in our heart that's driving us to want to pray,
if there's something in our heart that's driving us to want to get along with God
and hear what it is, he's got to say to me, to us, to the world today,
then that is going to be something that's going to be the motivator.
That's something is Jesus, right?
I can't avoid that.
That is the crux of the issue here.
I just want to read these verses from Hebrews 12, verses 1 to 3.
We read, the writer says this to Hebrews,
therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.
Now, that's what you think about this for a minute.
In the previous chapter in this book, in chapter 11,
the writers listed a load of heroes of the faith, as we call them,
from the Old Testament.
These are all men and women that have screwed up in their lives.
God has got a hold of them.
They've chosen the false Jesus.
They've encountered him and they're walking with God day by day.
They still make mistakes.
They screw up, but God is with them.
And they're walking with him.
And so we read about people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, built an ark, got drunk.
Abraham, who was so bothered about himself
that he pretended his wife was his sister twice.
Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, who had these amazing dreams
and then really got up the nose of his brothers,
because he didn't know how to handle the information.
Moses, who was a murderer, but then used by God
to bring the people out of Egypt.
Rahab was a prostitute, Gideon, who tested God twice,
to really prove God is it you really saying this.
And the list goes on.
Barack and Samson and Joseph and David murder a adulterer
and yet the man after God's own heart.
You are so gracious.
The thing is, all of these people are surrounding you and me.
And they're cheering us on.
Abraham is cheering you on.
Noah is cheering you on.
Samson is cheering you on.
Samuel is cheering you on.
David is cheering.
They are surrounded and they're cheering us on.
And so the riots are since we are surrounded by these guys.
And girls who are men and women of faith that God used.
Then let us press on together.
These are the people cheering us on.
These people knew the value of encountering God
and knowing what it is to have their lives transformed,
what it is to discover a God who is passionate about them
and who is for them and who forgives their past sins
and leads them into a new life.
They're all in here and they're all cheering you on.
Right now, right now.
So when we think, yeah, God.
Because Abraham and Moses, they are amazing when I read the stories.
Wow, they're cheering us on.
But they're not like cheerers at a sporting event.
I think I once heard football describe
there's 22 men charging around like mad things
desperately in need of arrest.
Cheered on by 20,000 people desperately in need of exercise.
So these guys cheering us on, they're not like that.
They've walked the walk and taught the talk.
They've been through it.
They know what God is like.
They know what it is like to follow him.
And they know it is worth it.
So they say, come on, you can do this.
You can pray.
You can carve out that bit of time.
You can get along with God because they know what it is like
to get alone with God.
And here is still small voice.
And the right goes on.
So therefore, let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles
and let us run with perseverance,
the race marked out for us.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus.
It's just like driving a car.
You've got to be looking where you're going to put the car.
All the time.
We need to be fixing our eyes on Jesus.
Fixing our eyes on Him.
Fixing our eyes is an active thing.
It requires us to do something.
You know, we need that immersive experience of Jesus.
It would be quite interesting doing a study in our house
whenever we watch a film.
Because me and Andrew watch it very differently.
Whenever there's a film on Telly, I'm glued.
I'm immersed in it.
And if Andrew is trying to talk to me,
she's got very little chance.
And he's just exactly on the arm to get my attention.
Because I'm just immersed in the film.
Whereas Anne, she sat there with the film on watching it.
But she's on a phone doing an e-mail.
She's writing something down.
She might be doing a bit in this thing.
She's just a bit in it.
You know, multitasking.
Yeah, I know.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Can we get it all out?
But we do it very differently.
But fixing our eyes on Jesus is about that immersive experience
that we're going to give to Him.
James, can we skip?
I think we need to go forward to slides, I suspect.
I knew there was a reason for this picture.
This is a photograph of my left eye.
Taken about three weeks ago.
Now, what you can't see.
I'm just going to stand on the chair a minute.
So I have what's called a tear in the retina in my eye.
Which is this thing here, which you probably can't see very well.
But take my word for it.
And the wonderful people, very clever people at the NHS,
healed it by using laser to scar the eye here
and stop the tear going any further.
But the reason why I use this picture
is because when this tear happened,
gunk behind the retina floats through the tear.
And what you've got there, there's a blood spot there.
That dark spot.
And that starts to happen across the vision.
I've had what they call floaties for years,
across your eyes, and some of you are the same.
If you're short-sighted, you get that.
But this was taken into a new level.
And so I can see everything fine.
But there's black dots floating across,
particularly against a light surface like that.
Or it looks a bit hazy at times.
But I need to learn to not concentrate on those,
but to look beyond them at what I can really see.
And that is what this is about.
Because we've all got stuff floating across our vision
that stops us fixing our eyes on Jesus.
And we've all got to make that choice.
I'm not going to look at that.
Actually, I'm going to fix my eyes, fix my gaze on him.
Because he's worth it.
And he is the one.
Can we go back to the side, James cheers.
And so the rest of those verses continue.
Jesus, for the joy set before him,
endured across, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men
that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
And I want to end here.
Let's consider Jesus.
This isn't considering us in weighing up.
This is setting our heart and our mind and our eyes
to look at who he is in all his glory.
The Son of God who left the wonder and glory and majesty of heaven
and came to this earth as we will soon celebrate
because he loves you and me and the communities around us.
He came because he loved us to set us free
from the things that separated us from within the first place.
Yet he was despised and rejected, crucified,
taking on him our punishment.
Yet he did not lose heart, but he endured it.
Why for the joy set before him?
And having triumphed at the cross, God raised him up.
I want to leave us with that thing.
Let's consider Jesus as we walk from this place this morning.
Let's consider Jesus, set our hearts and our minds on him
and consider who he is and the glory of what he has done for us.
And how he has transformed our lives and how he has changed us.
And the love that he brings to us and the mercy that he showers upon us.
And the plans and the purposes that he has for our lives
that he has caught us up within him.
And let our hearts be stirred by the passion that he has for you and for me.
Let us brothers and sisters consider him.