A man told me that he is suffering from A.A.A.D.D.—Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder. Here is how he says it manifests:
Yesterday, I decided to wash my car. As I start toward the garage, I notice that there is mail on the hall table. I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car. I lay my car keys down on the table, put the junk mail in the trash can under the table, and notice that the trash can is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the trash first. But then I think, since I’m going to be near the mailbox when I take out the trash anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.
I take my checkbook off the table and see that there is only one check left. My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go to my desk where I find the bottle of coke that I had been drinking.
I’m going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the coke aside so that I don’t accidentally knock it over. I see that the coke is getting warm, and I decide I should put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.
As I head toward the kitchen with the coke, a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye. They need to be watered. I set the coke down on the counter, and I discover my reading glasses that I’ve been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I’m going to water the flowers. I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly I spot the TV remote. Someone left it on the kitchen table. I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, we will be looking for the remote, but nobody will remember that it’s on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first I’ll water the flowers.
I splash some water on the flowers, but most of it spills on the floor. So, I set the remote back down on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill.
Then I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.
At the end of the day: the car isn’t washed, the bills aren’t paid, there is a warm bottle of coke sitting on the counter, the flowers aren’t watered, there is still only one check in my checkbook, I can’t find the remote, I can’t find my glasses, and I don’t remember what I did with the car keys.
(End of the story).
What if this story is a condensed version of a person’s life? Then, that’s no longer funny. Life is full of distractions. If we are not mindful, we might end up in our deathbed wondering how our time flies away without our dreams fulfilled. Even worse, we might end up drifting far away in this sea of suffering without fulfilling God’s calling and missing out on a whole new world of happiness God has prepared for us.
How do we care for our life from distractions and digressions? Based on Jesus’ teaching in Mark 13, he commands the practice of mindfulness. First, let’s look at the context.
Previously, Jesus was at the temple in Jerusalem, observing the sacrificial offering of the poor widow and lamenting the corruption of the religious leaders (which is the focus of my message last week, “The Stewardship Of Sanity”).
Mark 13:1–2 NRSV
As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
All these beautiful and magnificent temple buildings will soon be reduced to rubble because of the corrupt religious leaders, (which did happen later in 70 C.E.). At that time, the temple is no longer a spiritual sanctuary but a sacrilegious stronghold. Jesus is replacing the physical temple with the spiritual temple. He is replacing religion with relationship—loving God and people. (Mark 12:28-34).
Later they went outside of the city, sitting on Mount Olive opposite the temple, and the disciples must be staring at the magnificent temple and remember what Jesus said, and they ask Jesus quietly, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Mark 13:4.
To the disciples, the destruction of the temple implies the end of the corrupt world, and the beginning of the new world reigned by God with love and justice. They are anxious to know when this would happen.
I am sure we all have a similar question. When will we be liberated from this sea of suffering? When will this fallen world be restored? Don’t we all want to know? Don’t we all want to know when Jesus is coming again, bringing the new heaven and new earth?
However, Jesus wants us to mind our own business because it is his business to bring the new heaven and new earth. The problem is, between now and then, there are a lot of distractions that we must face. He said our business is to be mindful of what’s going on and not be distracted by them.
There are three things that can distract us in life that we must be mindful of.
1 – Be Mindful of Ignorance
He says, “Beware that no one leads you astray.” (v. 5).
The word “beware” is translated from Greek βλέπω (blepo) meaning “to see” not only with eyes, but also with mind’s eyes. It means “to perceive” or “to be mindful.” He says, “Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.” There will be false teachers out there that prey on the gullible. You must be mindful, or you will be led astray, just like a sheep being led astray by a thief.
How do you become mindful of false teaching? The solution is to get intimate with God’s word—the truth. In verse 23, he says, “But be alert; I have already told you everything.” The word “be alert” is translated from the same Greek word βλέπω, so it means to be mindful. “Be mindful; I have already told you everything.” If Jesus has told you everything, and everything he taught is recorded in the Bible, then study the Bible seriously so you don’t get led astray by false teaching. You will know the difference between the good news and fake news. You will develop the gift of discernment.
It’s important to study the Bible constantly. It takes 20 to 25 years to fully formulate your belief and to know what you want to die for. If you don’t begin by 20 or 25, you won’t get there by 40 or 50. If you are lucky, you started when you are five years old in Sunday School, then youth group, and then adult Bible study group all the way to 25 or 30 years old without interruption. Then you will have a solid foundation for the rest of your life—a life built on the rock. No storm of life can shake you.
Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice.” How do you know the voice of the Good Shephard and not the thief’s? You get intimate with his voice by studying his words.
2 – Be Mindful of Mischance
Not only ignorance can distract us, but also mischance can distract us. Jesus said, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” (Mark 13:7-8).
Sometimes mischance can distract us from living a life God meant for us to live. He said, “do not be alarmed.” That means we cannot avoid mischance, but we must not be alarmed by it. The word “alarmed” is translated from the Greek θροέω (throeo) meaning “to be troubled in mind.” When your mind becomes troubled, you lose your mindfulness.
How do you overcome the distraction of mischance? Hope! He says, “This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” Mothers understand this the best. We all know the pain of giving birth, but on the other side of pain is a beautiful new life being brought to our presence. So, don’t let your mind be troubled by the mischance. Realize it is just the birth pangs. God is giving birth to a new world. Keep your hope alive so that you won’t get distracted or digressed by this sea of suffering.
Again, Jesus says that knowledge of his word will keep your hope alive. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mark 13:31). By this, he indicates that knowing his word will allow you to discern the signs of the time. You will see his handwriting on the wall. You will hear his voice of hope. You will be mindful of his presence.
3 – Be Mindful of Indolence
In addition to ignorance and mischance, indolence can also distract us and digress us. Jesus said,
Mark 13:32–37 NRSV
“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
In this passage, he emphasizes the mindfulness with wakefulness. He says, “be mindful and be awake.” Don’t be indolent! Don’t go adrift! The stormy waves of this sea of suffering will swallow you up if you are not mindful and awake.
He is saying, “I myself don’t know the time and hour that I will complete my salvific mission. But, that’s my business, and you mind your own. Your assignment on earth is to be good stewards. When I come back, I want to see you awake and have my house well taken care of.”
How do we avoid indolence? Be thankful! When we are thankful, we cannot become indolent. Only thankless people are indolent. When we are thankful, you become hardworking stewards. Remember the show Les Misérables. It’s a story of how a thankful life can change.
- Be Mindful of Ignorance
- Be Mindful of Mischance
- Be Mindful of Indolence
This is also the week of Thanksgiving. Let us be mindful of God’s blessings to give thanks for—the blessing of the Good News of salvation from this sea of suffering; the blessing of God’s word that keeps us from ignorance; the blessing of hope in the mischances of this fallen world; the blessing of purpose in life as stewards of God’s creation; and the blessing of life itself!
Until we meet again, keep cultivating a fruitful life. Amen!