How many of us have ever gotten lost? Sometimes we forget to look at a map and other times we get distracted by the things going on in our days and life. There is a story from Greek mythology where a beautiful woman named Atalanta who was the prized beauty of her day. Everyone wanted to marry her but there was one stipulation. You had to beat her in a race and if you lost, you lost your life. She was extremely fast and all her suitors lost their lives. A man named Hippomemes came along and with the help of some golden apples, managed to distract her enough to win the race and claim her as his bride.
As Christians, there are many different things that can cause us to lose focus. The first is materialism. The hard part is that it is a moving target. Even the rich would have a hard time answering if they had “enough.” The quest for wealth can lure us away from time with God and each other. This can lead to serve wealth and using people to get what we want.
Another temptation is the false belief that we know better than God. When we do this, we make choices to find our happiness apart from God and His purposes. But Scripture tells us that apart from God we will never discover or experience true joy and peace because He alone is the Source of these gifts.
Another struggle is we sometimes get complacent. Our lives lack passion and our obedience declines. It is a reminder of what Malachi was dealing with when he said they suffered from spiritual sloth and indifference. If we fail to hone a sense of divine calling in this world we can slip into spiritual lethargy, boredom, despondency and burnout.
Another is something we have talked about already. If we seek the approval of men over God, our focus then is off. Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” If we are more concerned with the opinions of people rather than God, it will be impossible to centre our lives on Christ. The fact is, our audience will often shape our message. Jesus said in John 5:44, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” We can be freed from the burden of pride and pretense only when we become child-like again and accept ourselves for who God says we are in Christ.
It all comes back to trust in the infinite and personal God who created us, redeemed us, cares for us and gives a purpose, a future and a hope. One of the underlying questions in Scripture is whether we will pursue our own plans or God’s plans; whether we will try and control our lives or trust God. Trusting God is active, not passive. It means we do all with diligence and excellence for Him rather than others and then we leave the results in His hands. Letting go of ownership of our lives will lead to walking by faith and not by sight.
If you’ve ever shot a gun, you know how important sight is. If it had a scope, it made it easier to hit the target, but even using one was not a guarantee of success. When I had vertigo, I struggled with focusing on things. One eye could focus. The other could focus, but together, everything melded together. That is why driving and reading were not possible.
In the Christian life, having the right perspective is so important. Too often we look at circumstances from our perspective and because we can’t see things from God’s eternal perspective, our judgements are usually skewed.
There is a story about three men lost on a deserted island. They find a bottle and inside they find a genie who is willing to grant them each one wish. The first one says, “I want to be off this island and back with my friends.” He disappears and the bottle falls in the sand. The second man picks up the bottle and makes the same wish. He too disappears. The last man, not known for his intellect says, “I’m lonely – I want my friends back.”
I think for many of us, if we fail to see life from God’s side, our perspective will be distorted and we will miss the point of our earthly existence. Only when we see things from a spiritual perspective and centre our lives around Christ, only then will our perspective be clear. Dallas Willard puts it this way in The Divine Conspiracy, “To become a disciple of Jesus is to accept now that inversion of human distinctions that will sooner or later be forced upon everyone by the irresistible reality of His kingdom.” Whatever we hold back from God will become a block to seeing things clearly.
The way of discipleship and sanctification isn’t based on a list of things we don’t do. That is the way of control, measurement, comparison, criticism and arrogance. Instead, God’s way is a single-minded pursuit of the Holy. This leads to us being set apart for His service and to fulfil His purposes in every aspect of our lives.
As Paul states and his life exemplified, “I am not my own…” Pursing God leads to a transformed life. Transformation came with a deeper knowledge of Jesus. Philippians 3:10 says, “That I might know Him and the power of is resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” To be is to know. That is our highest pursuit.
So what is your purpose in this world? Whose approval are you seeking? Whose life are you modeling? Hebrews 12:1b-2a says, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Many of us are encouraged to set goals and have a vision for our lives. But how many of us can narrow it down to just one thing? When you think about people who had focus in life, the apostle Paul would have to be on the list. Jesus was His focus. He wanted to know Him. He wanted to suffer like Him. He wanted to be with Him… it was all about Him! As he said in Philippians 1:21, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” The apostle John also had this singular vision. In his book, Revelation, chapter 1 gives us an image which was the focus of His life… Jesus Christ.
It is a life-long pursuit. Paul says in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” He knew the course and was willing to stick to it. And he did it through the power of the Holy Spirit, not in the power of flesh. Our hearts should be the same.
As mentioned in previous posts, we tend to compartmentalize our lives with just about everything. It is like a Hungry Man dinner where each part is separated. Church, family, school, our jobs, everything has its place.
But for Christians, having God at the centre of our lives changes everything. Christians speak often about lordship, and friendship in our relationship with God. We sort of live our lives using God as our “filter” in making decisions similar to the WWJD model of 20 years ago. The Mennonites took a different approach. Instead of using Jesus as the filter, they regarded Him as the Source of their lives. Like the hub on a wheel, everything came from it. Each spoke; work, family, friends, etc. found their value from having Jesus as the Source. This made the secular automatically sacred because at its source was Jesus Himself. If we keep Jesus as a component, we regulate Him to being an ingredient in life rather than life itself. God is a jealous God. With Him, it is all or nothing. By making Him our centre, we allow who we are, what we do, why we do things, where we go, and how we act to come through Him.
Paul quoted Roman philosophy when he said, “in him we live and move and have our being.” That quote in many ways is an ultimate truth for those who have committed their lives to following Christ. May that be true for us too.