Sorry, I Have to Take This (3 Nephi 13)
It happens from time to time. I'm talking to someone and their cell phone rings. After they glance at the screen to see who's calling, I get the inevitable, "Sorry, I have to take this," and the person who was talking to me is now talking to someone else.
Now, there's not necessarily anything wrong with my former conversation partner talking to whoever is calling — it could be their spouse, parent, boss, someone they've been trying to get in touch with, etc. Regardless, the point is that the person was focused on talking to me and has now chosen to turn their focus elsewhere.
Considering how automatic the above actions are for most anybody today, how would I feel if you and I were talking, and you refused to look at your phone when it rang or even went as far as turning it off so it wouldn't be a distraction? I would feel quite honored and respected that you would be willing to focus on me for that period of time.
In 3 Nephi 13, Jesus expresses God's desire for us to stay focused on Him:
"If…thine eye be single (focused on God), thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil (not focused on God), thy whole body shall be full of darkness." (3 Nephi 13:22-23)
What does it mean to be focused on God? It means that you seek the Lord's direction for each part of your life and then follow that direction. Where you live is where God wants you to live. Where you work and what you do is what God has inspired you to do. The people in your life were placed there by God. Your days are managed by God's direction such that you have time on a regular basis for church, prayer, reading the scriptures, serving others, etc.
Living your life as described above can be referred to as dwelling in the kingdom of God on earth. Your entire life is focused on God.
OK, so you're dwelling in the kingdom of God as described above. Unexpectedly, an opportunity arises for a new job. The job sounds exciting with the potential to earn significantly more money. Is it God's will that you take the job? Maybe it is. Or, maybe it's something to distract you from being focused on God. Make sure to determine whether it's God's will or a distraction before moving forward. You don't want your conversation with God to go like this:
"Lord, I know this job will force me to make compromises in my service to God. But think about all the good I can do with more money. Sorry, I have to take this — it's just too much money to turn down."
Jesus warns us about this distraction, referring to money as a potential master:
"No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." (3 Nephi 13:24)
Money is not the only thing that can distract us from our service to God. Here's another potential conversation with God:
"Lord, I know this woman doesn't share my faith and I won't be able to be as active in serving God if I'm with her. But I love her. Sorry, I have to take this — I'll never find another one like her."
Whenever we feel the need to explain to God why we are doing something, it's likely something that we know will be a distraction from our service to Him. It's as if we're communing with God and a ringing phone causes us to say, "Sorry, I have to take this," and we turn away to focus on something else.
It does need to be emphasized that the types of things we're talking about are not necessarily bad things in and of themselves — they just become a problem when we allow them to distract us from being focused on God. If, on the other hand, these things are provided by God as part of our dwelling in the kingdom of God, then they are very good things. As Jesus puts it:
"Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." (3 Nephi 13:32-33)
Stay focused on God in all things! He can provide all of your needs. Don't be distracted by what the world is offering — it's not better than what God is providing.
And one more thing. Wait, what's that ringing? Oh … sorry, I have to take this.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.