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Easily (and Fatally) Distracted

posted Mar 15, 2016, 11:02 AM by Kelly Griffin   [ updated Mar 15, 2016, 11:02 AM ]
Joe and Bill decided to play for a little money to add interest to their golf outing. Joe said, “You’re better than me. How about giving me two ‘gotcha’s’?” Bill said, “I’m not sure what a ‘gotcha’ is, but okay.”

So as Bill was about to tee off Joe kicked him in the rear, knocking him three feet off the box. “Hey, what gives?” Bill asked. “That’s the first ‘gotcha,’” replied Joe. So, off they went. Joe won by a dozen strokes; Bill had the worst day of his life.

Later someone asked Bill, “What happened? How could you let Joe beat you?” Bill replied, “Did you ever play eighteen holes, waiting for the next ‘gotcha’?!”

There’s a life lesson there. Distractions can be devastating – especially when time-bound things distract us from eternal things.
Is there anything wrong with pursuing the good things of this life? Of course, not. We are meant to enjoy God’s creation. James 1:17 reminds us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” I Timothy 4:4 continues the theme: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”

The problem comes when we put good above best – God’s physical creation above spiritual realities. It happens easily because the physical is so real, so immediate, so compelling and so close. It takes faith to give priority to unseen realities.

The Apostle Paul addresses this very issue in II Cor 4:18: “as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” He’s pointing out that in our rush to enjoy the things that are seen, we dare not forget the things that are unseen. In the end, those are the things that will last.

On December 29, 1972, Eastern Airlines Flight 401 was a Lockheed L-1011-1 Tristar bound for Miami from New York City. It carried a heavy load of holiday passengers. As the huge aircraft approached Miami Airport for its landing, the landing gear light failed to come on. Had the landing gear actually failed to deploy, or was it only a defective light bulb? That was the question that now occupied the cockpit crew.

The pilot placed the plane into a holding pattern. The flight engineer began to remove the light assembly, and the co-pilot stood by to help. Another crew member was dispatched to the avionics bay beneath the flight deck to see if the landing gear was indeed deployed. As the light assembly proved difficult, the pilot put the plane on auto-pilot to help as well.

All eyes were now on the little bulb that refused to be dislodged from its socket. Thus no one noticed that after the first minute the plane began to slowly lose altitude. No one noticed that the auto-pilot had disengaged. No one noticed anything but the bulb until Captain Loft, a 32-year veteran, made the last recorded transmission: “Hey – what’s happening here?” Less than ten seconds later, the plane crashed into the Everglades killing over 100 people including the captain and all but one crew.

An experienced crew of seasoned pilots got distracted by a 75-cent light bulb and killed themselves and more than 100 passengers. They forgot the most basic rule of air travel – “Don’t forget to fly the airplane.”

Similar trivialities often distract us from the most basic rule of life: “Don’t forget to prepare for what’s next.” It’s the things that are unseen that are eternal. We must not get so distracted by “75-cent light bulbs” that we forget to make provision for a priceless eternity.

Dave McNeff is Pastor of Eaton Congregational Church, a member of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference,

Published in The Tribune on March 5, 2016.