We don’t want to go to bed early, but we want an early rise. We can’t rise early because we wanted a late night. We want to lose the weight, but the couch and cobbler are much more suited to fit our “needs.” There’s mold growing in the shower because it hasn’t been cleaned it weeks, but we procrastinate because we are “busy.” Fast-forward a few years when it’s time to sell or move and the re-caulking must begin because of said mold. We want to graduate at the top of our class, but our study habits include Sour Patch Kids, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Facebook. We want to marry Mr. or Mrs. Right but continually fill their seat with individuals who are total opposites of who God desires for us. We want to expand our business or move forward with our career, but fear and intimidation stop us every time. We want the fruit of a prayerful life, but constantly succumb to bouts of a life of prayerlessness…
We want a lot of things! We want much fruit to be produced from our lives–but sometimes with little effort, little discipline, little sowing, and little dedication in relation to our expectation or desire. Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Just for information’s sake, Lent is celebrated by most Catholics and some Christians. It is a time of fasting and self-denial so that believers may fully focus on Christ’s saving work and become all He desires for them to become. With this in mind, the remainder of this post is to challenge you to look at yourself, pray, and ask the Lord what He desires for you and from. Remember, any time the Lord requires something from us it is ultimately for our good and His glory!
In the beginning of Luke 9, Jesus released His twelve disciples to go into different places to serve others by driving out demons, curing diseases, healing the sick, and preaching the Kingdom of God. As they were ready to go do the work of the Kingdom, Jesus told the disciples:
“Take nothing for the journey–no staff, no bag, no bread, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them” (Luke 9:3-5 NIV).
In other words, Jesus was instructing the disciples not to labor over temporal things that would steal their focus away from Kingdom business. Obviously the disciples obeyed because Scripture goes on to say that the disciples “went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere” (v. 6).
You see that? The disciples stayed on task! They did not give their focus to fleeting things when God required their focus to be on Him, His plans, and His work. Upon first thought, attention and focus may seem like the same thing. But, I assure you they are not. Attention is notice taken of something important. Focus means to place something at the center of interest or activity; to pay particular attention to. Jesus understood that clothes, food, money, and other things were important for the journey on which He sent the disciples. However, He assured them that those things were already taken care of! The Father had already given attention to those minor details! (Take a look at Matthew 6:25-33 when you have a moment.) Instead, Jesus instructed the disciples to focus on eternal things so that they could see the fruit of the Kingdom be produced before their very eyes. What a reward!
Friends, sometimes the trick of both the enemy and our fleshly desires is to lead us to give our attention to sooooo many seemingly important, but temporal things. Eventually, when we come up for air after we realize we feel empty from the cycle of busyness that has become life. Each of us must remember that this is not our final home, there is a home in glory waiting for us–a home where our eyes will behold the heavenly treasures we’ve laid up for ourselves by grace during our earthly existence.
It is possible that when we give our focus to things that produce some level of success or satisfaction for us we are deceived into believing that we are doing what God desires. This is why prayer is important. Prayer helps us to keep our priorities in order, it helps us to keep on track with the destiny. Prayer helps us to stay on course when the storms of life arise and try to steal our focus away from the One who is our helper…in exchange for the momentary satisfaction of putting our human hands to work in an effort to “take care of things.”
So, today, take a moment to ask the Lord where your focus has been. Remember, focus places Christ at the center of it all and attention puts everything else on the periphery or the sidelines. What is temporal, fleeting, momentary, or not of significance can have your attention at some points. However, what is central, eternal, Kingdom-oriented, and Christ-oriented should have your focus! This could be an increase in prayer time, restoring your marriage, going into the missions field, going back to the local church, forgiving, being a good steward, etc. Listen carefully to God’s response and desire as you pray…and be ready and willing to obey no matter the cost.
Cheers to focusing on the cross, friends.