Are You Focused?

How to be successful through any event in life

Proverbs 4.20–27

By Don Ruhl

General Sherman wanted the Civil War to end quickly. Therefore, he used the “scorched Earth” policy, destroying the supplies and infrastructure of the South effectively as he headed for his goal. Nothing deterred him as he focused on breaking the morale of the enemy. The march of Sherman to the sea is famous in military history.

Years ago a horseshoe champion was so good that they would not let him compete, because no one else could win. He credited his easy victories to his awesome powers of concentration.

Jesus also so marched, bringing Him success in the greatest challenge anyone has ever faced.

Luke 9 shows that Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem, and some people did not like it, because they saw a determination that meant they could not distract Him for their own purposes, “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem” (Luke 9.51–53).

Nothing, regardless of what it was, deterred Him from that mission. He arrived in Jerusalem at the time He and His Father planned. Moreover, He died at the moment they had planned. Nothing, literally nothing, could distract Jesus from His goal.

Now, remember He is our Teacher and Master, because we learn from Him how to live. We call ourselves Christians because we want to live as He did. Therefore we have to focus on our goal.

Are You Focused? 

Proverbs 4 shows the determination we need to meet our goal,

 

My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.
Put away from you a deceitful mouth,
And put perverse lips far from you.
Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil.
(Pro 4.20–27)

There is something about the Book of Proverbs, as Solomon said in the first five lines, that we must hear. He explained in verse 22 that his teachings give us life, for both soul and body.

What are the issues of your life? Whatever they are, Solomon said in verse 23 that they spring from your heart. Therefore, do whatever you can to keep your heart, because you determine the nature of your life by what you let your heart do. That means we have to get away from anyone with devious lips (v. 24). In verses 25–27, he urged us to focus. Do not let something distract you, but consider the path of your feet. Are you on track?

In Luke 8, Jesus gave the Parable of the Sower, “And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed…some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it…Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God…Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity’” (Luke 8.4–15).

The cares of this life choke out the effectiveness of the word within you. Do what you have to do, but do not let anything distract you from your goal.

Luke 10 shows two sisters demonstrating the truth of the Parable of the Sower, “Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10.38–42).

Jesus revealed why Mary sat at His feet, and why Martha did not, revealing the key to focusing on the right things in life. Mary chose what could not be taken away from her. Examine your life and see whether you focus on the temporal or the eternal.

Jesus again urged us in Luke 21 to keep from being distracted, “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21.34–36).

Jesus knows that we have to give attention to some things in this life, but we cannot let them weigh us down. Remember that He said at another time, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt 6.33).

Sever All Distractions 

“Sometimes you have to kill the thing you love” (Jay Tolson, “Into the Zone,” U. S. News & World Report, July 3, 2000, page 23). In Luke 14, Jesus addressed this, showing the seriousness of following Him, “Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple’” (Luke 14.25–27).

Even the most precious things in life cannot detour us from our goal. In 2000 U. S. News & World Report, said of Tiger Woods’s mother, “‘Kill them,’ Kultida Woods used to say when her young son went off to face the competition…He killed ‘em, every one, with almost transcendent calm, posting the biggest margin of victory in the history of golf’s four ‘major’ annual tournaments.”

Contrast the attitude of another golfer in U. S. News & World Report, “‘He’s so focused every time,’ said an amazed Ernie Els, who tied for a distant second place. ‘That hunger for winning a major championship, it’s like 110 percent. To be honest with you, I don’t feel like that every week when I’m playing. He’s just different. I’m not sure there’s a lot of players out here like that.’”

Although we are not playing a game, in First Corinthians 9, Paul used the intensity of either a professional athlete, or at least an Olympic athlete, to demonstrate that as a preacher and a Christian, we have to exercise self-discipline in all things that we not be distracted, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1Co 9.24–27).

Second Nature 

When athletes and others have such concentration, they do things naturally, without having to think of each step that they are taking. That is the way it should be with our Christianity. We think, but we have thought in a focused way so that when situations arise, we know what to do and what to say…automatically.

Think of how you move your hand. Do you think of all the muscle movements and so on? No, you just do it.

If you meditate in the Scriptures daily, you will know what to do and what to say in life situations, “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable…” (Pro 10.32). “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer…” (Pro 15.28).

If you meditate in the Scriptures daily, you will be a praying person, then watch what you can achieve through prayer, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phi 1.9–11).

Have your body and mind in sync. That is what Paul meant in First Corinthians 9, because your body houses your mind, heart, spirit, and soul.

Pray with faith. Living by faith and giving God your burdens releases you to be peaceful (this is better than Zen), “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil 4.6, 7). We have to remind ourselves that it is not all about us, nor is it all our effort. Therefore, refresh yourself through prayer, for it will remind you that Someone greater than you watches over all that you do.

Have no doubts, because doubts distract. Mark 11 shows the thinking of a disciple of Christ, “For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says” (Mark 11.23). If you think you might fail, you will. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. God does not want to work with people who operate that way. He wants people who believe He can do things through them.

See your life as a journey. You have someplace to go. Will you be deterred from it? In First Kings 13 the Bible tells us about a young prophet whom the Lord sent against King Jeroboam. Part of the instructions included returning home a different way. After the prophet healed Jeroboam of a stretched–out withered hand, the king was grateful for the healing, and invited the young prophet home. However, listen to what the young prophet said, “Then the king said to the man of God, ‘Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.’ But the man of God said to the king, ‘If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place. For so it was commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, “You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came”’” (1Ki 13.7–9).

The prophet did as commanded until he met an old prophet who persuaded the younger man to go home with him. Later, the Lord sent a lion against the young prophet that killed him. Even well-meaning people can distract you from your goal.

Focus on the goal and you can endure hard hits. Remember Job. Proverbs 24 shows that you will fall, but you will know how to get up, “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity” (Pro 24.16).

Have a Christ-centered life, not a problem-centered life.

Think where you want to go, not where you have been. “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind” (Phi 3.12–16).

There are three people you need in your life to make you focused. I do not know who originated this, but someone said we all need:

  1. A Paul who has been through it.
  2. A Barnabas who loves you but is not impressed by you.
  3. A Timothy whose life you are molding from what you have learned.
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