Today, Christians observe Palm Sunday. On this day, we remember that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and was hailed King of the Jews. There was much fanfare and palm waving. It was a party. Hallelujah’s flowed like liquid chocolate in a fountain at a wedding reception. Palm Sunday marked the beginning of Holy Week, and it would be the last really good day Jesus would experience on this earth. Things went down hill pretty quickly for him as the week progressed.
But on his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, on what we now call Palm Sunday, there was no question in anyone’s mind who he was. There was no question in Jesus’ mind either. He had begun his final journey to save mankind. He knew he was this world’s only hope.
There was a time before Palm Sunday when the enemy tried to distract Jesus from his mission. You can’t really blame Satan. He had to try, didn’t he? If he could distract Jesus from his sole purpose for coming to earth, he would finally be victorious.
The Bible says, in Matthew chapter four, that the Spirit of God led Jesus to this date with the devil. It was a test he had to pass. Actually, it was three tests. The devil tried three times to distract Jesus from his ultimate purpose. Fortunately for us, Jesus stayed the course and refused to turn to the left or the right. Thankfully, he knew how to fight the enemy with the Scriptures, and easily defeated his adversary.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between opportunity and distraction. The enemy offered Jesus the opportunity to change his path; to save himself, but Jesus refused to be swayed. He knew the “wonderful” things the enemy was offering were merely distractions.
I wish it were always so easy for us. Distractions can often be dressed up as opportunity, and many times it is hard to tell the difference. We feel we are on the path the Lord has laid out for us, and along comes opportunity knocking. Opportunity is a positive word. We aren’t supposed to pass up opportunity. But what if that opportunity is really a distraction merely disguised as opportunity?
As a mom, I try hard to help my kids follow their passions, their path. They were created for a purpose. They have a calling. Parents know their kids better than their kids know themselves. Your parents are the only people who tightly hold memories of you before you do. I can remember my children’s first birthday parties. My kids only know what they have seen in pictures of that event. I know what their temperament was early on. I saw their leanings and the things that made their eyes light up as youngsters.
I hope to be able to help them navigate the distractions that will inevitably come their way. My daughter is an artist. Her talent completely blows me away. I can draw, but this talent she has did not come from me. No, this talent she has comes from a much holier place. Her dad and I are careful to guard against distractions that come. Laura has decided to hold off on dating for now. (Her dad is especially happy about that.) She’s sixteen and has never had a boyfriend. She’s had opportunity to have one, but clearly saw it as a distraction. She is focused. She knows who she is and she knows what she is about.
It’s not always that clearly marked out. Sometimes parents even have a hard time discerning opportunity from distraction for themselves, much less for their kids. So what’s a parent to do? The best thing a parent can do to help their kids discern opportunity from distraction is by teaching their kids to follow the Lord first. That’s what Jesus did in the wilderness when he faced his enemy. Jesus fell back on what he knew. He knew God’s word. He knew how to follow the Father. Distractions take us away from the Father. Opportunity takes us closer to him.
So your kid has a chance to chase after something new. Or maybe you do. Is it distraction or opportunity? Let’s say it’s you, and it’s a new job opportunity… it means more money or influence, but it also means you must travel away from your family quite a bit. It will put your family at potential risk. Suddenly, opportunity looks like distraction.
Avoiding distraction requires that we know who we are and that we know Who’s we are. That takes some time investment on our part, but knowing that is completely available to all who follow after Jesus. He set the example, we are just followers.