Don't Get Distracted

Rob Capaldi (
Series: Ephesians

David Stockton: 

He is apostolic. He has traveled the continents sharing the word of God, trying to spread God’s word and strengthen churches. He’s here to share his gift and his calling with us—his story. He’s been in Ecuador. He’s been in Canada. He’s been in the U.S. and now he’s currently living in Italy, trying to build the church there. I’m so excited to tell his stories. I told him he can’t speak in Spanish, he can’t speak in Italian. He has to speak in English. He could do any of those. He could probably speak Canadian, too, but nobody wants to hear that. What’s up, Roy? Here you go, Rob. Let ‘em have it.

Rob Capaldi:

Thank you, David, for that amazing introduction. I feel like I could just do a mic drop after that and just walk away. See, now, that’s why I wanted a handheld. You can’t mic drop an earpiece. That’s not right.

Thank you so much. I will do like Paul has done in some of the books of the Bible:

Italy brings its greetings to you.

That is definitely true for us today.

Now, for those who do not know me, which is most of you, I am a second-generation missionary. When I was six years old, my parents decided to sell everything, put some of their stuff in a container and move to Ecuador. I obviously didn’t have much say in this because I was six years old. We lived there for a while, church was growing and everything was going great. 

But a little less than three years ago, with my family—I’ve been married fourteen years now, to my beautiful wife that is with me this morning, Karina. My oldest son is Robby, he’s twelve, and Angelina, she’s going to be seven, and my last daughter, Alia, she is four years old—we decided to move as missionaries, as David said, to Italy. I’ll be telling you a little about that story as we advance.

Something interesting happened to me when we were leaving Ecuador to go to Italy. There is this really popular Bible verse that people use when they are going to go somewhere else. You’ve probably heard it before. This verse is Acts 1:8. It’s one you know: 

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere: in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

Have you heard that before? Yeah. You’ve heard that, right? So, obviously, we were using that verse when we were leaving Ecuador. “We’ve got to go to the ends of the earth. This is our Jerusalem. We’ve got to go to the ends of the earth. So that’s where we’re going. We’re going to the other side of the world to the ends of the earth.” For us that is Italy.

We get to Italy and the church that received us there, were actually on this missions topic as well. And guess what? They put that verse up and they’re talking about that. And they’re saying, “We need to have a vision to send people to the ends of the earth.” 

And I’m thinking, “Wait a minute. The ends of the … this is the ends of the earth! I just came from Jerusalem. This is the ends of the earth!”

And then it dawned on me. I just realized something. Now, I’m assuming none of you are flat earth believers. But I realized, “Oh my gosh. There is no ‘ends of the earth.’ The earth is round! So, if there is no ‘ends of the earth’—I’m coming to the ends of the earth—you’re gong to the ends of the earth and we’re crossing. Wouldn’t it just be cheaper and easier if everyone just stayed put?”

It’s funny though, because, you see, we all know when Jesus finished his ministry he left. He left the earth. And at that moment, I think that’s one of the coolest moments in the Bible, the disciples are there and they are watching Jesus leave. He’s gone on a cloud. He’s leaving and they’re just watching him. After a little while, he’s actually gone. But you know what the disciples are doing? They’re still just looking up into the sky. Then, all of a sudden, this angel appears among them and he says, “Uh, guys. What are you doing? Why are you looking up in the clouds? It’s time to pick up shop. Let’s go. It’s up to you now.”

If this angel was Italian, he would have said, “Hey, guys, salt in the salt shaker does nothing to the pasta. You’ve got to spread out that salt. You’ve got to get out there. You’ve got to go all around.”

That is God’s heart for us. No, we do not have to stay put. Yes, we have to go all around the world telling everybody about God’s love and everything that he has for us. That has to sound in every tongue, in every ethnicity, in every kind of person. It’s amazing when you hear it from different people around the world in the same place. We’ve really got to grasp that God is not just our God, here let’s say in Phoenix, but he is God of the whole world. So when we have people together speaking in Italian, in Portuguese, in Spanish, and they’re all talking about the same God. That is really power.

[A few sentences in Italian and then Spanish]

Okay, I’ll talk English. I’m sorry, David. Plus, I’m starting to sound a little like the candidates in the Presidential debates. We won’t get into politics this morning.

The point is, Jesus’ Body, he left, right? But his Body is still here. The Church, we are the living, breathing Body of Christ, amen? And Jesus still is serving everyone. He wants to do that through us. And now it is up to us to go all around the world. I am a witness, as David said. I’ve been around. Thank God. That is such a blessing. I’ve been to Spain. I’ve been to Switzerland. I’ve been to Italy. I’ve been to Canada. I’ve been all around. And you know what? God is everywhere! 

Don’t believe the news. Don’t believe whatever you hear about Christianity. Let me tell you something. And I can tell you because I’ve been there. God is doing things all around the world. 

If you could leave here this morning with just one thing, please let it be this: Do not get distracted. Do not get distracted from Christ’s love. Bear in mind, English is my first language, but it is actually the language that I use the least. It is a little rusty. So if I say anything stupid, please do not get distracted. 

I would like to bring our attention to Ephesians now. Ephesians 3. Paul, in Ephesians, is giving us this amazing vision of what the church looks like in the future. He’s teaching the Church how it needs to act, and also the individual, how it needs to act in this broken world. But in Ephesians are also these amazing golden nuggets that Paul does. And he does something amazing. He pauses for a second from his teachings, and he says he gets on his knees and he prays for the church in Ephesians. This is what he says in Ephesians 3:14. I’m reading from the New Living Translation. Listen to this. You might be able to receive this as a prayer, because this was Paul’s prayer for the Church, and we are part of this.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 

Let me repeat that:

Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 

18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Amen. What makes us complete? What makes us complete in him? It’s experiencing God’s love. And may we never, ever get distracted from that one thing: God’s love through Christ. Christ’s love in us. That’s what makes our roots grow deep and keeps us strong.

Before I got married, when we were about to get married, we went with my mother and father in-law to do some errands. Karina and I were in the back seat. My future mother in-law was driving, my father in-law was in the passenger seat. We were downtown and there was a lot of traffic. We were running some errands. So he jumps out to run some errands and my mother in-law was going to drive around the block to pick him up after he could do something quick.

So we’re in the back and she’s driving. Then, all of a sudden, as she was driving, somebody screams out, “Hey, be careful! Fire! Fire!” Like underneath the car. So she stops the car and jumps out. I also jump out because, you know, I have to show that I’m a responsible person, right? I hope that’s what she thought and that I wasn’t jumping out to save my life. So I jump out and I’m looking under the car and I don’t see anything. I’m like, “There’s nothing here.”

Then this guy comes around and taps me on the shoulder and says, “No, no. It’s in the back. Come and see!” And he touches my shoulder, he pushes me down a little and he says, “Look, look, look!”

So I’m looking at the exhaust pipe. I’m looking around. I don’t see anything. My mother in-law and I were both in the back of the car just looking like that and the guy says, “No, No. Look down. See? See? See?”

And after we’re looking a while, this girl comes up to us and says, “Hey, guys.” And I’m still looking, you know. “They just stole your purse.”

And I’m thinking, “What an idiot!” And so I get up and I’m like, “This can’t be. They just stole my future mother in-law’s purse. I’ve got to do something!”

So I start running. Right? I’m running and running and running. And then, as I’m running, I’m thinking, “What an idiot! Who are you running after? I don’t know what this person looks like. I don’t know where they went. I don’t even know what the purse looks like. I didn’t pay attention.”

And so I stopped and I turned around. I’m bummed out and walking back. And as I’m walking back, because I ran about a block and this is the longest block to walk back. As I’m walking back, I’m thinking to myself, “Wait a second. I saw the thief. I didn’t just see the thief, at least one of them, he touched me! The guy that was tapping on my shoulder, showing me where to look, pushing me down, he wasn’t trying to help me. He was distracting me. He was distracting me, making me look down so that I wouldn’t realize what was actually going on. That guy was in on it. That guy was the thief.”

That sometimes happens to us. We get distracted from what is really going on. We get distracted from what God really wants for our lives and for what God really wants for your life. Let’s not get distracted. You know what? Sometimes we think those distractions are going to be bad things, evil things. No, no, no. This guy was trying to help me, right? That’s why I was listening to him. He was trying to help me. Right? That’s why I was listening to him, because he was trying to help me. But it wasn’t true. So sometimes it can be apparently good things in our lives, but if they distract us from the love Christ has for us, then it’s not necessarily a good thing.

This reminded me of something in Matthew 13. I’m just going to mention it, you don’t have to go there. There’s a parable that Jesus was teaching. You’ve definitely heard it before. The parable about the farmer planting seeds. The farmer casts out all these seeds everywhere. All these seeds fall on all these different types of soil. 

That’s a teaching in itself. That really shows us the Father’s heart. He’s going to throw seed everywhere. That sounds like a terrible farmer, actually. A good farmer would just throw seed where it’s going to grow. This farmer just throws it everywhere. It doesn’t matter if it lands on stone, if it lands on wherever it lands. But that’s God’s heart. He gives everyone an opportunity. And you might think, “Man, I’m not really good soil. But you know what? He’s throwing seeds at you because he wants you to grow.”

So these seeds fall on different kinds of soil. The first soil wasn’t soil at all. It was just stone. The sun came out and the seed didn’t have anywhere to grow. It burns right up. The second one has a little bit of soil. It starts to grow, but can’t put its roots anywhere. Dries right up, as well.

And then there’s the third soil. This is the one I want to talk about. This third soil terrifies me. At the same time that I’ve traveled everywhere, I’ve seen this third soil around the world, as well, and it terrifies me. There’s a reason why it terrifies me. I’m going to read directly from Matthew 13:22 (NLT): 

22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.

Why does this terrify me so much? Because this seed that grows, it doesn’t die. No. The soil is good. It starts growing, but it does not die. It grows among thorns and the thorns let it grow, but it kind of grows bad. It’s not growing properly, so no fruit is produced. You may think, “Thorns, those are like bad people in my life. That’s what those thorns must represent.”

But that’s not the truth. Thorns are just distractions. Thorns are things you worry about. Or thorns are things you really want, like wealth and riches or to be prosperous or whatever. Just distractions. 

You know what happens when you have too many distractions in your life? You forget about the essential thing, which is Christ’s love for you and being in that love. When we lose that, our roots cannot grow deep to where they should be, and we will not produce fruit. We do not want that in our lives. We want to be good soil without these distractions.

What happens then? We can produce thirty, sixty, a hundred times that. It doesn’t matter if you’re thirty, sixty or a hundred. The important thing is that everything that is growing and is healthy will keep on growing and will produce fruit.

I thought I wasn’t a person that would get distracted from these kind of things. In 2016, my life was actually going pretty well. It was going really well, actually. I was super happy with my life. I had my own business. It took a long time to get that thing running, like years. But it was finally up and running. My family was growing. I had a beautiful family. The church—I was ordained pastor a few years prior. The ministry was growing. My ministry was growing. Man, I was loving it. It was going great.

So we decided to purchase a piece of property. So we bought this piece of property and we paid it off. It’s easy to buy things. It’s the paying off part that’s hard to do. So we paid off the property. So we decided to build. Oh yeah. This is like our all-time dream. We’re going to build our own house. That’s like a thing in Ecuador to buy land and build your home. That was our vision. That’s what we want to do. We were living temporarily—which was actually like ten years—in my father in-law’s house. They did not live there, so that was a good thing. That’s when a blessing starts to become a curse, right? When you’re overdoing it. So we were building our own house. This was going to be amazing.

So we start this amazing project. We were on Pinterest, checking out what the rooms were going to be like. We were putting this project together to give to the architect. So the week we had to do all that, it was a Monday morning, I was having breakfast with my wife. We were going over the last details so I could hand this over to the architect. And as we’re going over the details, having breakfast, talking, this idea just flashes through my mind. It gives me goosebumps. The idea was, “Is this the will of God?”

I’m thinking, “Well, come on. I mean, it’s the logical thing to do. We’re advancing in life. We’re supposed to be doing this.” And I’m thinking, and I ask my wife, “Honey, did we pray about this? Because this is a long term project.”

And she’s like, “No, I don’t think we have.”

I’m like, “Man, I don’t feel good right now. Let’s just pray about this.”

So I say a real simple prayer. I say, “Lord, I’m really sorry we haven’t put this into your plans first, but if this is what you want us to do, bless this. If it’s not, just let us know so we can do something else. Just let us know kind of soon, okay? Amen.”
It was as simple as that. Five minutes later—I am not joking—five minutes later I receive a phone call. It was my dad on the phone. And he says, “Son, I was just praying and meditating right now and this thought came to my mind. I’m just going to land it on you. Do whatever you think—but this might be a great time for you to go somewhere else as a missionary.”

“Thanks, Dad. I appreciate it.”

So I hang up and I look at my wife. She’s like, “What’s going on?”

And I’m like, “How about instead of building our dream house, we sell everything and go somewhere else as missionaries?”

See, I warned her before we got married that I was going to do that someday. So she had to say, “Yes.” But she was surprised because she thought it was after we’d retire, or something like that. 

That is exactly what we did. We sold everything. We took six months to really get the confirmation. It wasn’t just from that phone call. So don’t go do anything crazy if you receive one phone call. It took us six months to decide where we were going and all that, and then six months to sell everything and prepare everything. So exactly that same date that we received that phone call and prayed about it, we arrived in Italy one year later.

You know, the thing is that I realize in my life that sometimes we just go into autopilot, you know? It was obvious. I was supposed to advance in life. I was supposed to build a house. That’s true. They are all good things. But they are also distractions. You never know what the Lord wants to put in your path. You’ve got to just give it a second and let him talk to you. Maybe the life he has for you is slightly different than the one you are imagining for yourself.

You might be saying, “Rob, I hear you, but come on. Where do I start this kind of a life that just really trusts in God, that really loves Christ, that understands…? I just don’t know where to start so I just keep going back into autopilot.” If you don’t know what to do, don’t let that distract you from Christ’s love, either. 

When we went to Italy, we actually didn’t know what we were supposed to do. We had no idea. I knew I was supposed to leave and that was about it. It was not like I had this five year plan of where am I going to be in five years? We didn’t not know what we were going to do. But the Lord put this verse in my heart that really got me through hard times. Genesis 12:1

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.

All right. That sounds pretty basic, right? But wait a minute. Listen to that verse. There’s something kind of secret there. This is when you realize Abraham truly was the father of the faith. He had to leave his father’s home to a land that God was going to show him. So, he actually had to leave to somewhere and he did not know where he was supposed to go. You know what that is? Those are steps of faith?

In your life, take steps of faith. They don’t have to start with huge steps of faith. Take small steps of faith. But start putting your faith in action. Because when you need to put your faith in action, you start churching Christ’s love for your life. When your faith is not in action, you don’t really need God’s love. You can do church life. You can do Christian life without Christ’s love. That’s the crazy thing. But you know what that is? That’s a plant growing with thorns around him. That isn’t producing fruit. You’re doing the thing. You’re living the life, but it’s not to its fullest. God does not want that life for you. He wants you to grow to that full plant, tree, whatever, that has tons of fruit. And we need Christ to do that.

You can start with small things, basic things. Ephesians tells us all about it. Start with your own life. Start living good. Get your act together. Start being a testimony for different people, just by the way you live. You don’t have to be a mega evangelist to do that. Just get your act together. Start with that. It takes faith. And it takes love in Christ to really be able to do that. Or serve in any way possible. There’s always something to do at church. Believe me, there’s always something to do in God’s kingdom. It doesn’t matter if it’s sweeping the floor. One door opens the next. You’ve got to start somewhere. Sometimes we only want to start if it’s something big. No, no, no. Start with something small. One thing will lead to the next.  

This wise person told me something that really helped me throughout my life. He said, “If you only want to go in one direction, follow your vision. That’s it. There’s only one direction for your vision. But if you’re willing to serve someone else’s vision, the whole world will open up to you.”

That’s a profound statement. But you know what? That is true. Sometimes in periods, seasons of our lives, we need to be open to follow someone else’s vision. But one door will open up to the next and the Lord will use us. 

Support God’s kingdom. Support a missionary, how about that? I can give you a few names, if you want. At the end of the service, my email and website will be there. Snap a picture, send me an email, say I want to be on your newsletter. We’ll be happy to do that. That’s not the purpose why I’m here. I want to talk about Christ’s love and don’t get distracted from that.

Don’t get distracted even when you’re in a desert. That’s going to come around one time or another. The Israelites were really surprised when that desert came around. They thought, “Promised Land,” but there was a dessert first. Things are going to happen in your life, but don’t let that distract you from Christ’s life. 

Our time in Italy was rough at the beginning. I have never been at the hospital so many times. It wasn’t even for myself. It was for my children, for all these different things, so many things I can’t get into it. But it’s amazing how many problems you can get into when you’re loving Christ. It’s a strange thing. But you know what? He warned us about it. And in that desert, that’s not the time to complain, That’s the time to trust in God.

I woke up the other day with something in my heart that I just wanted to say: You are not your desert. Do not make that your identity. The identity of the Israelites was the “People of  God.” It was not “Desert People.” And that’s the same for us. You are not your financial problems. You are not your confusions. You are not your troubles and your problems. That is not you. You are God’s son and daughter. That is your identity. Always go back to that identity. Because we are not our deserts.

Don’t get distracted from Christ’s love even when the Promised Land, that life that God has for you, looks a little bit different from what you imagined it to be. Those Israelites were surprised when they saw the Promised Land. You know why? Because they thought it was going to be flowing with milk and honey. And that’s true. It was. But there was also another surprise there. A little problem. Spies came back and they said, “Guess what? In this Promised Land, there’s giants!” 

There are going to be giants in our Promised Land. It might look a little bit different. When we went to Italy, oh man, I thought this red rug was going to come out from the airplane when we walked down and everybody would coming running up, “Tell me about Jesus!” And when we got there, it was like, “What are you doing here?”

It looks a little different sometimes than what we imagine. And that’s okay. 

Christ’s love. We should never get distracted from it. And that’s one of the reasons we do communion. And we and start passing that through. The reason we do communion is to remember the most important things in our lives. That is Christ’s sacrifice for us. Remember the love that he has because it is that love, Christ’s love for us, that is what is going to make our roots grow deep and keep us strong. That’s what it is. 

As we pass out the elements, just let God start to talk to your heart for a second. What thorns do you have in your life? What thorns do you need to remove? What distractions do you need to remove? Are you on autopilot, my friend? I think God has a more adventurous life for you than just to worry about bills at the end of the month. Those are all part of our life. That’s okay. But I believe God has so much more for each and every one of us. 

As we pass the bread and wine, we remember about what Christ has done for us. I want to say one last thing about these distractions. Don’t get distracted from Christ’s love, even when you mess up. You know, sometimes a relationship with God seems like this mountain. It’s a huge mountain. We’re building up, climbing up this mountain and, sometimes we feel great. “I’m on top of the mountain. This is awesome!” And then we mess up. 

And we go and do it again. It takes us a while. We’re like, “Great! I’m back in this relationship. Yes!” And then we mess up. 

And then next time, we kind of look at the mountain and say, “Meh. Maybe in a few years.”

Can I tell you something? That mountain doesn’t exist. Ephesians 3:12:

12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

You know, God’s mercy is new every day. You’ve heard about that? You know what that means in our lives? It’s like when we mess up and we say, “God, I’m sorry I messed up.” And then the next day we mess up again. And we go back and say, “God, I’m sorry I messed up again.” And God says, “Again? What do you mean again?”

You see, God’s mercy is new every day. It’s like the first time every time. That’s too big of a love to comprehend. That’s what Paul’s trying to explain. It’s just too big of a love to comprehend. And you are righteous people. You know what righteous people do? Proverbs 24:16:

The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.

If you’ve fell, you’ve messed up in your life in any way, get back up. The ground is not a  place for you. It’s also just a distraction. It’s the thief trying to get you to look at the ground instead of looking up to see what’s really happening. And you know what’s always happening? Christ’s love for you. And that is why we get back up.

And speaking about getting back up, let us all stand, please. 

Father, we want to remember right now, Lord, all the goodness that you have for us. Most importantly, the love that you have for us, Father. 

For I pass onto you what I have received from the Lord himself, on the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” I thank you, Father. I thank you, Jesus, for your body. You were the last sacrifice. Thank you for that love that you’ve had for us. In the name of Jesus. Let us eat the bread.

In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is a new covenant between God and his people, in agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as oft as you drink it. For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.

We thank you, Lord, for this new covenant. A better covenant, m Father. Not by law, but by your grace, filled with your  love. May we remember this every time we drink this cup. That it is your love that we seek. It is your love that keeps us strong, and may we remember that in the darkest times of our life, and also in the happiest, Lord. May we never be distracted and always come back to your feet, Father, and receive that love. Let’s drink the wine.

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Scripture is taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.