I remember hearing the phrase, just give them a shiny penny, to easily distract someone. It was not given as a compliment or in a positive way. It was to say they get distracted with what they think is the latest and greatest. It takes their eyes off of what matters in the moment.
Before you point the finger at someone else, remember how many you have pointing back at you? I can get distracted with the little shiny, less valuable thing, than the more valuable important task.
The problem with life and the many things in life can be that they are the shiny penny that so easily distracts us.
As a pastor there are many distractions that one can use to “get” people in the church. I know not all things are wrong nor promoting church (I hope one is excited about their church and would want to talk about it!). The danger becomes when one leads with other things as a means to the end instead of leading with the greatest announcement that one can hear- Jesus is risen- the tomb is empty- the Savior is alive!
The Greatest Treasure
The first American missionary sent out was Adoniram Judson (1788-1850). He returned to America, to visit, for the first time after spending thirty years in Burma. In Burma, he was prisoned and tortured, he lost his first wife, a second wife, and multiple children due to the extreme climate and lack of medical care. He went through a season of depression and lived in the innermost parts of the jungle were tigers lived for a time. He translated the Bible into Burmese as well as an English to Burmese dictionary. He labored for years before seeing the first convert to Christianity. He had a story!
When he arrived in America many people wanted him to share at their church. There is one account that is given by his soon to be wife Emily.
She writes, “As he sat down it was evident, even to the most unobservant eye, that most of the listeners were disappointed. After the exercises were over, several persons inquired of me, frankly, why Dr. Judson had not talked of something else; why he had not told a story…On the way home, I mentioned the subject to him.”
He responded, “Why, what did they want? I presented the most interesting subject in the world, to the best of my ability.”
Emily responded, “But they wanted something different—a story.”
Judson again said, “Well, I am sure I gave them a story—the most thrilling one that can be conceived of.”
She then said, “But they heard it before. They wanted something new of a man who had just come from the antipodes.”
I love what Adoniram said next, “Then I am glad they have it to say, that a man coming from the antipodes had nothing better to tell than the wondrous story of Jesus’ dying love.”
I see why Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For I deliver to you as first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4).
The greatest news or story is that Jesus lived, died, and rose again. The one who conquered sin and death—he is the victor! He so loves you! He died for you! Don’t be distracted with the shiny pennies in this life.
“Well, I am sure I gave them a story—the most thrilling one that can be conceived of.”
You may be distracted with the lures of this world, but they fail in comparison to the surmounting worth of knowing Jesus (Phil 3:8-9).
You may be distracted with the news of disease, sickness, or things like cancer, but Jesus conquered sin and death. He is our living hope not just in this life but the life to come (1 Peter 1:3).
Christian, you may get busy with the plethora tasks in life and forget your purpose which you are called to as a child of God. Go make disciples and be witnesses that Jesus is alive (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8)!
You may be tempted to want to woo others with your accomplishments but the greatest news you have to share is that Jesus is alive!
To my pastor friends- lead with confidence that we have nothing better to tell than the wondrous story of Jesus’ dying love! There are distractions to do other things or to go forward with lesser things, be aware.
If you find yourself distracted with other things, preach the gospel to yourself. Be in awe of what Jesus has done for you. See the despair of being outside of Christ because of your sin. Delight in his grace that he has lavished upon you. The Savior who took your place on the cross. The innocent one who took your sin so that you can be forgiven. When you do this, you see that the gospel is the greatest thing you can talk about! Those shiny distractions aren’t so shiny in comparison to the greatest treasure that you have in Christ Jesus.