Ultra-Christianity: Part 8 - Focus
Distance running and endurance training takes tremendous focus. While training over the months, I found myself increasing focusing on the end result; finishing the race. Everything I was doing while training was for one thing; crossing the finish line. Every step I took brought me closer and closer to that finish line. During the race, between prayer times I mentioned in previous blogs and stopping at aid stations for nourishment, I was focused on finishing. In fact, “not finishing” was not even an option for me.I knew that once I started the race at 5am that morning, I was going to cross that line 50 miles away. It’s like I had tunnel vision, keenly focusing on the finish line. This was another lesson I learned during training and during the race, that in our Christian walk, we should have such a focus on the cross and what God has put in front of us to do. Such a focus on Him, that other things seem not to be as important as we once thought.
“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Phil. 3:14
Focus on Christ above all (Phil. 3:7,8) and find the righteousness in Christ and the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:9-11). If you happen to lose this focus, you start wondering around, not sure what to do, not sure what is the right thing, not sure of the will of God for you, etc. Our focus may become blurred and we may start turning to other things to help us find some type of focus. However, those other things will not last long in your sight. Further along in the book of Philippians, Paul helps us and reminds us how to gain some focus.
"Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things." – Phil. 4:8
The Bible has a lot to say about seeking God and focusing on Him and Him alone. His Grace is sufficient for our life. It is worthy of our utmost attention. One of my favorite Psalms regarding seeking God is found in Psalm 27:
“When You said, "Seek My face," My heart said to You, "Your face, LORD, I will seek." - Psalms 27:8
In this Psalm, the psalmist highest purpose was to seek the presence of God. Here the psalmist desires to always be near to God’s presence. That takes incredible focus and effort. A focus that is not short lived, but rather a focus of a lifetime, steadfast, a focus that is needed even in times of waiting or when you may be distracted or pulled away.
“One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life…” – Psalm 27:4
“Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say on the Lord.” – Psalm 27:14
The psalmist will focus on seeking the Lord’s face, will seek to dwell in the house of the Lord, and will not waiver, and will continue focusing on Him even if he may seem weak. He has made it a priority in his life.
On the subject of seeking, the Lord Jesus Himself said:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” – Matt. 6:33
Talk about putting things into perspective. He clearly tells us what to focus on. Often we lose focus because we do not know what to put first in our lives. We need to always remember to put the first things first and focus on what is important. Jesus has a extraordinary way to make things clear and understandable. Sometimes I feel it is our own doing when we fall into the trap of misunderstanding, confusion, and uncertainty. We seem to flounder around sometimes looking for the truth. Sometimes we spend a lifetime looking for the truth when it is right there in front of us. There was a Scottish scientist around the turn of the century, speaking to a group of college students, who once said:
“Gentlemen, I beseech you to seek the kingdom of God first, or not at all. I promise you a miserable time if you seek it second.” - Henry Drummond
This sounds like a person with experience, who may have wasted a good part of his life seeking other things or observed others wasting their lives seeking things other than the kingdom of God. It sounds like a person who came to know what was most important in life. Another example of a person with understanding and focus was Jim Eliott. He was a missionary who lost his life while trying to reach the Waodoni Indians of Ecuador. He once said:
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." – Jim Eliott
I first heard this quote while listening to a message on wisdom, but when I thought about it for a while, I also saw someone who also had focus when applying that wisdom. It’s one thing to just know something wise, but it is another thing to apply it and see it to its completion. Here he focused on the eternal, setting his mind on the things above. He was willing to do whatever it takes to reach the unreached people groups of the world. Once he started, there was no turning back, he was pressing on to the finish line. Several years prior to his death, he recorded in his journal that he believe the missions work that he was doing was more important than his own life. He seemed to understand the following:
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory”. – Col. 3:1-4
Jesus had the ultimate focus, a focus like no other. Jesus knew His purpose and everything He did on this earth was to fulfill that purpose. The Scriptures are full of examples of Jesus’ purpose, from Genesis to Revelation. Here in the Gospel of John are just a few statements. I recommend reading and meditating on all the words of Jesus in the Book of John to gain a better appreciation of His purpose.
“I have come that they may have life and may have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believe in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” – John 11:25
“…for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” – John 16:27-28
“And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, and the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” – John 17:26
All of these and more declare His purpose. The culmination of His ministry while on earth was His death, burial, and resurrection! His focus helps us focus.
In those times when we do find ourselves wondering and not being able to focus, we can offer a simple prayer: “Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You and what is important and everlasting. Help me not be distracted by various circumstances, but be focused on what You want in my life. Help my heart respond to You and seek Your face.” Ultra-Christianity requires a passionate focus; the magnificent object of that focus is our beautiful Lord!
"I will focus on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works." - Psa. 119:5
Questions on Focus:
1) What does the word “focus” mean to you?
2) What area of your life are you focusing on the most right now?
3) What experiences have you had when you make Christ the center of your focus?
4) What experiences have you had when Christ is not the center of your focus?
5) What distracts you the most?
6) Make a list of 5-6 important things you need to focus on.
7) What are you doing to increase your focus on these areas?