Issue: 3rd quarter 2016

Where is Your Focus?

When I was a child, my Dad had a very nice camera and his own darkroom, so I cannot remember a time when a camera was not a part of my life. There were some very important lessons that I learned from the single lens reflex film cameras my Dad owned, including: choose your subject carefully; focus; and if you miss the shot, there may not be a second chance. As my life has played out, I can see that those great lessons also apply to life and walking with God.

The Great Subject: God

Between our sin nature and the effort it takes to survive here on earth, we have to constantly battle a “me first” attitude—but battle it we must, if we are to really love and obey God. Paul complained to the Philippian believers that he did not have the necessary support to send to them because the other church leaders were “all seeking their own interests, not the things of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 2:21 REV). If we aren’t careful, this can also happen to us.

Jesus taught us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Similar to photography, in which we have to select a subject to shoot, the “general subject” of our lives should be God’s kingdom and what pleases Him.

Matthew 6:33 (REV)
But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

The context of Matthew 6:33 is that, instead of being anxious about food and clothing, we are to put two things at the very top of our priority list: seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Although most people have a general idea of what it means to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, it helps if we have a clearer understanding of these concepts. They are really two sides of the same coin.

The “Kingdom of God” is the kingdom that Jesus will set up on earth after he comes from heaven, fights the Battle of Armageddon, and conquers the earth. It is the future kingdom that Jesus prayed about when he prayed, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matt. 6:10; Luke 11:12).[1] Since the Kingdom of God is still future, seeking it means fulfilling the requirements in order to gain everlasting life, which today in the Age of Grace is simple: accept Jesus as your Lord and believe God raised him from the dead. Seeking God’s righteousness means searching out and doing those things that God says are “right,” which will result in being blessed here on earth, blessing others, and receiving great rewards in the Kingdom.

More clarity on the subject

For every Christian, what it means to do what is right in God’s sight has two different but vital elements. One is to do those things that are right for every Christian, such as loving others, praying, giving to those in need, fellowshipping with other Christians, sharing your Faith with others, etc. These things are simple, but not easy. We all have a sin nature, so we struggle when it comes to doing God’s will (Gal. 5:17).

The other element involves fulfilling our own personal calling and mission in the sight of God. Every Christian is unique in God’s sight, and each one of us has a personal calling from God. That does not mean that there is always one “best” thing to do and if we are not doing that then we are not “right” in the sight of God, but it does mean that in general there are some things we should be spending our efforts on and other things we should not waste our time on. Romans says to test things out, and as we do that we will eventually be able to discern the will of God.

Romans 12:2 (REV)
And do not be conformed to the pattern of this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you can test and approve what the will of God is—the thing that is good and pleasing and perfect.

Very few people know how they “fit into” the Body of Christ until they have tried doing different things. That can mean coming out of one’s comfort zone and trying out different ways of serving God. Also, the specifics of serving God are constantly changing as we go through life. There are family obligations, job requirements, age or health limitations, and other factors that are always changing. Nevertheless, the broad subject matter of Jesus’ teaching to seek God and His righteousness first means that the subject of our seeking has to be God and others, not ourselves.

Personal focus

Most of us have many things we can do for God which are a blessing to Him, others, and ourselves. One of the great keys to making a powerful impact in life is to have a clear focus on what we want to do and are able to do for God. There are some traps we must all watch out for in our journey to finding what to do for God.

One trap is not making a decision about what to do. Actually, not making a decision is making a decision. Days and weeks can come and go without our plugging into the Body of Christ and the work of God. Many people think, “But I’m not sure what to do.” That’s easy to fix: start doing something and if it does not work out, do something else. That’s part of the point of Romans 12:2; we “test and approve” the will of God for our lives. But we must test (or try) and then approve.

Another trap that keeps us from finding and doing the will of God is becoming involved in so many things that we are scattered and diluted in our efforts. For most of us there are dozens, even hundreds of things we could do that would bless God and others. Take volunteering for example. There are huge numbers of organizations in almost every community that need volunteers. If we try to get involved in too many different things, we can become frenzied and ineffective.

Will Durant, the eminent historian and author of the book series, The Story of Civilization, wrote about the Apostle Paul: “he was powerful in action because he was narrow in thought.”[2] Paul got a tremendous amount of work done for God, and it was because he was clearly focused on what to do and didn’t spread himself too thin in his efforts. In seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, the first things to focus on are the “for every Christian” things such as prayer, fellowship, Bible reading, and giving; then we add to that the things that God has called us to in our personal ministry.

Still another trap is supporting someone else’s function instead of developing our own work for the Lord. This can come from simply not focusing enough on what we should be doing, not being bold in making decisions, or feeling obligated (or getting sort of “guilt-tripped”) into supporting someone’s else’s efforts. Many people in the Body of Christ are very good salespeople in getting others to support their vision. While that can be a good thing, it does not always offer the best support for those people who ought to be launching out in their own endeavors for God.

For example, if a person has a developing teaching ministry but little experience, it may not be the best thing to go to a big church every Sunday and listen to someone else teach; it might be much better for them to go to a smaller church or home church and be able to share the teaching spot and develop their own ministry. And that applies to every other way of serving in the Body; God never intended for a huge percentage of the Body of Christ to be spectators. The Bible is quite clear that every Christian is a unique part of the Body of Christ and has a way that they can effectively serve God; we just have to be bold enough to make decisions and pray for God to lead us in our efforts for Him.

Missed shots

Another valuable lesson from photography is that things are always moving and changing, and if we are not decisive and prepared to move, opportunities are lost. A wonderful believer, Annabel Smith, used to say, “Life is so daily,” and it truly is. There are so many things we have to do over and over, day after day—such as cooking, cleaning, washing, working, and handling problems—that it can seem that we have “all the time in the world” to get around to doing the things of God; so, if we don’t get to them today, “there is always tomorrow.” Thus, we might be tempted to think that if we haven’t prayed or read the Bible this week, well, perhaps there will be time next week.

Although it certainly does not seem like the world falls apart when we don’t get to the things of God, we should not be tricked into thinking that faithfulness and consistency are not important. If we are not spending time praying, reading the Bible, and sharing our lives with other Christians, how are we spending it? Are we seeking, first of all, the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, or are we being distracted by things in the world?

The way to build depth in our Christian walk is by being consistent with it. Professionals can attest to this. Ask a concert pianist how many days they feel comfortable going without playing a piano, or a pro-golfer how long they can go without playing golf before it affects their game; the answer will likely be, “Not very long.” Being consistent with the things of God builds a depth and confidence that is hard to ignore.

It might help us to think of each day of our life as a picture, a photograph, and a new one is taken every day. But what will the subject of the picture be? What will be in it? Our goal should be that if someone looks at our day as if it is a photo, they will see God and Jesus in the center of it, along with various activities that show we put God first, along with the other activities that are simply a blessing to us.

A good photo album takes years to complete as it follows family and friends through good times and bad, change and more change. God has a kind of photo album too—it’s called “a scroll of remembrance.” It’s a scroll in which angel scribes write about the people who honor God (Mal. 3:16). On Judgment Day, God’s album will be pulled out for all to see, and there will be great joy in heaven as the righteous acts of the believers are displayed and remembered. God’s focus is often on that joyous future. Is our focus on Him?

Endnotes:

[1] For more on the Kingdom of God, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth,” in the commentary of the Revised English Version: www.revisedenglishversion.com.

[2] Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol., 3, “Caesar and Christ,” (Simon and Shuster, NY, 1944), p. 580

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John W. Schoenheit

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