Magazines 2023 Jul - Aug Staying true to God's mission in a world of distraction and noise

Staying true to God's mission in a world of distraction and noise

30 June 2023 By Maggie John

A guest column by Maggie John

en français

Everyone wants to be heard. Do you ever think about how much noise is around us? The competition for your ear and your attention is loud and it is real.

Recently I had the honour of moderating a mayoral debate in Toronto. With the six top candidates in a race of 102, there are a lot of thoughts on how the city should be run, and as we saw that evening, when someone stormed the stage, it can get contentious.

But how do we wade through all the noise? How do we decipher what is true in a world of plurality?

It often seems the holy trinity of social media – Twitter, Instagram and TikTok – have the market cornered when it comes to our time, attention and effort. However, the Book of Daniel shows us how a man and his three friends were able to drown out the noise and stay focused on the mission.

There were no memes or hashtags when this book was written (around 164 BC). The attention-grabbing voice belonged to one man – King Nebuchadnezzar. But consider the awesome integrity, strength and quiet resolve shown by Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Pulled into the king’s fold, they were among many young Israelite men forced to serve the king – yet their story is not one of standing against a king, but instead standing with the King of Kings.

Forcibly renamed, tasked with interpreting dreams, thrown into a den of lions and a furnace filled with fire – always their eyes stayed focused on the God of Israel, not the man claiming to be god.

How do we decipher what is true in a world of plurality?

"They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God" (Daniel 4:28).

Can we say the same?

holding on to god

I have been a voice in media for more than 20 years. I am one of those voices vying for your attention every week. I have reported on some of the biggest events in recent history, on countries reeling from the aftermath of natural disasters and terrorist attacks. At night I’ve heard the creaking of buildings threatening to crumble due to seismic shifts – the rebar and cement threatening to let go, failing in the one task they are expected to perform.

I wonder if, like these buildings, we are caving to the pressure of the seismic shifts we see and hear around us. I fear that, with all the noise, we are sometimes being swayed by the loud charismatic political and church leaders of our age, and neglecting to "study to show thyself approved unto God" (2 Timothy 2:15).

In the effort to keep standing, have we failed in the one task we are expected to perform, which is holding on to God’s truth?

I have watched people navigate through pain and loss over these years. I have looked into the eyes of people left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. And yet what stands out to me is that in every aftermath the noise eventually dies down – or at least there is a clear differentiation of what is noise and what is truth. And truth always stays, always sticks. It never leaves and brings with it a sense of hope and resolve.

It’s true for the woman in Haiti, nine months after the 2010 earthquake, living in a muddy tent with her two small children, nowhere else to turn, her eyes filled with pain and bewilderment, and yet clinging to hope because that’s all she had left.

It’s true for Joy McCabe, in Portapique, N.S., the site of Canada’s deadliest mass shooting, although it took a year after the killings before she was able to see colour again.

There is always a thread of faith in every story, journey and experience. It is never loud, but like God showed Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11–12, He is always in the still, small voice. As we see in Daniel, God reveals Himself not in the bombastic approaches of the kings of the earth, but instead in the assurance He is King of the present.

maggie john
Maggie John is host of the radio show Toronto This Weekend and has worked as a TV host and producer, most recently at Context Beyond the Headlines. She’s also founder and executive director of The Baby Depot, a charity in Hamilton, Ont., that each year clothes 250 babies with a year’s worth of free clothing. Photo of Bible by Joel Muniz.

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