"The number one reason why Christians get in the ditch: We got our eyes off Jesus, and we got our eyes on people," megachurch pastor James MacDonald told his Chicago-area congregation recently in a message entitled "New Power for the Distracted," which can be seen here.
MacDonald delivered a message to attendees of Harvest Bible Chapel, a multi-site church that now stands at more than 13,000 people in seven different locations, that had one point: focus.
The Chicago-area pastor used a variety of examples to illustrate how Christians get into ditches during their walk with God, in the process losing their focus. MacDonald described a person whose name he couldn't share, but someone whom his entire congregation knew. He described this unknown person as angry, negative, and isolated.
"This person is you, or me," revealed MacDonald, "within five years, if we don't take this content to our heart as a protection of our inevitable future."
He warned the congregation that if they didn't get this message right, that they would find themselves off the road of following Christ, and in a ditch, upside down with the wheels off. In more than 30 years of ministry, MacDonald said he knew plenty of people who loved Jesus, but didn't focus their lives, which led them to a ditch that is very hard to get out of.
The pastor then explained how distractions lead us to not hear the voice of Jesus. He illustrated by asking a man by the name of Landon to talk on stage without a microphone in front of the congregation. Meanwhile, MacDonald walked away, ignoring him. MacDonald used the demonstration as an example of how apparent it is when a person isn't listening because of distractions. He used the Apostle Peter as a specific example of a case of someone not hearing Jesus' voice, as he cited the final verses of John when Peter was distracted with wondering who might betray Jesus. He misread Jesus to say that the Apostle John would never die, which isn't what Jesus said.
Peter was beginning to tune out Jesus, MacDonald asserted. "Somewhere in there, Peter got off of the listening train."
He drew parallels to humans losing sight of Jesus to when Peter began to sink while walking to Jesus on water and losing sight of Jesus when he saw the wind and the waves. "The moment you get your eyes off Jesus on anything else, you start to sink."
Referring to John 21:21, he said that Peter asked, "Lord, what about this man?" in reference to who was going to betray Jesus, which was the equivalent to driving off the road and ending up in the ditch. He said that when people ask similar questions about other people, that that is a colossal distraction.
MacDonald started Harvest Bible Chapel with his wife, Kathy, and a small group of ministry partners in 1988. He also has a Bible-teaching television and radio broadcast ministry called Walk in the Word, and founded the church-planting ministry Harvest Bible Fellowship, which has helped establish more than 100 churches across North America.
In 2008, MacDonald was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and had to undergo 45 radiation treatments before his PSA levels dropped. He has been cancer free since 2009.