Vol. 4, No. 12
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People today are too scattered. They are too busy. Most people are trying to manage several different things at the same time. Our society has become so fast with so many things needing our attention that we often loose sight of the really important things. Even children suffer from our scatter-brained way of living. How many of us were ever diagnosed with things like "Attention Deficit Disorder"? Or how many of our childhood friends do we ever remember being put on medications designed to modify behavior, like so many children are today? These are not new "disorders" that have just popped up out of nowhere in the past 20 years or so. They are the result of a lack of focus. Children are not taught how to focus but are allowed to do whatever the young mind comes up with. It's normal for a child's mind to turn from one thing to the next very rapidly; he's learning everything for the first time. So what do we expect when we don't train that active young mind to focus its attention on a given point? Chaotic, unfocused thinking!
The society in which we live is very proficient in causing us to shift our focus from what is truly important to things that are purely temporal in nature. However, we know, as Christians, that we are not to focus on the material but on the spiritual (1 Peter 2:11-12). What are we to do about such divided attention and misplaced priorities? The Bible says, "focus, focus, focus." It does this by the use the several words and phrases that emphasize the importance of focusing on God and his Word. Let us notice some of these biblical terms that would teach us the necessity of focus.
Meditate (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 4:4; 63:6; 77:6, 12; 119:15, 27, 48, 78, 148; 143:5; 145:5; Malachi 3:16; Philippians 4:8; 1 Timothy 4:15). To meditate means to focus the mind on a given point, to ponder a subject, to let it be your only contemplation. If you've ever watched a chess match between champion chess players, it was probably not the most exciting thing you've ever seen but you witnessed two individuals that were so intently focused on what was before them that they were totally oblivious of everything else around them. Their entire attention is on the board -- that's a good example of meditation. When we examine these Bible passages that use this word "meditate," we see that our attention, our focus, is to be upon God's Word. We are to be focusing on God's Word from the time we wake up to the time we close our eyes in sleep. In Psalm 119:148, among others, the Psalmist even pictures himself as being deprived of sleep because he places such focus on God's words. He would prefer to stay awake and meditate on God's Word than to drift off to sleep. We, as Christians, have this exhortation from God (Philippians 4:8). Let us therefore be focused on God's Word rather than being continually distracted from it by every care the world places on us.
Diligent (2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 4:11; 2 Peter 3:14). Diligence means to give focused attention to the task at hand, to work hard at something. A diligent student is one who gives focused attention and hard work toward his studies. He is not distracted from his studies. The New Testament word means, "to exert oneself, to endeavor, to give diligence" (Thayer's). It's the same word used in Ephesians 4:3, "...endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit..." (also 2 Peter 1:10). For a good example of diligence, think about the athlete. He gets up early in the morning and begins his exercise; he eats only those things that will help him to excel in his sport; he cares for his body and works hard to prepare it for the event before him. He is diligent! It's not surprising, then, to see the Christian likened to an athlete in this regard (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Just like an athlete who gives himself to diligent training, focusing on the goal, we must give ourselves to diligent training in God's Word so that we can reach the goal of our race (Hebrews 12:1-2). Also, when we think about diligence in the workplace, we think of those who give their best effort, those who always strive to give 100% in whatever they do. Such a person will never have opportunity to be ashamed at having his work exposed for being substandard. This is the idea of 2 Timothy 2:15, giving all diligence to serving God and using his Word correctly, the man of God will never have opportunity to be ashamed, not only in the site of God but in the site of man. What could bring greater shame on a person then being asked to give the reason for the beliefs he holds to and not having one. Or, the shame of being exposed for mishandling the Word of God! One thing is certain; a person will mishandle the Word of God if diligent effort, focused attention, is not given to handle it rightly.
Abide (John 15:1-10; 1 John 2:24, 27-28; 2 John 1:9). This word "abide" means "...not to depart...to continue to be present...to be held, kept continually..." (Thayer's). When we are told to abide in Christ, in the doctrine of Christ, the meaning is to not let the doctrine of Christ depart from us, to keep it continually present within us. It takes focus to abide continually in the doctrine of Christ. If we are distracted from our purpose, then we no longer abide in that purpose or it in us. The same thing is true of Christ and his Word. This idea of abiding is well illustrated by Paul when he says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly..." The Word of Christ is to dwell, or abide, in us richly, that is with great abundance, continually. How can that possibly be the case if we are continually distracted from the Word of God? It cannot! The only way we are able to abide in the doctrine of Christ is if we place a great degree of focus upon it. The very sobering thought here should be that if we are distracted from the doctrine of Christ, do not abide in it, then Christ will not abide in us. Therefore, who could argue that it does not deserve our most enraptured focus?
One Thing (Luke 10:42; John 9:25; Philippians 3:13; Mark 10:21). These "one thing" statements show us that we are to be focused and what we are to be focused on. They show focus in several areas in particular: 1) Focus in Acquisition (Luke 10:42; Mark 10:21); 2) Focus in Action (Philippians 3:13, 14); and, 3) Focus in Acknowledgment (John 9:25). Jesus said that Mary was focusing on that "one thing" that was needed, to hear and obey his Word. He shows again the awful consequences for not focusing on the acquisition of his Word when he tells the rich young ruler, "one thing you lack." It is indeed a sobering thought to realize that just one thing lacked can cause us to go away sorrowful on the Day of Judgment. We need to focus on the one needful thing, make it our focus in acquisition, lest we be found lacking one thing. Paul refers to focus in action when he says, "one thing I do." He was not willing to let things that he had left behind hold him back in his onward march toward the goal that is in Christ. His focus was straight ahead. Jesus said those who have put their hand to the plow and then look back are not fit for the kingdom (Luke 9:62). We need to make sure that we are pressing on, focusing on Christ and being found faithful in him. We also must have focus in our acknowledgment. When the blind man was questioned about the one who had healed his sight, he was able to say, "one thing I know." He knew that the one who healed him was from God (cf. John 9:33). Every indication is that he knew exactly what would happen if he proclaimed that Jesus was from God (cf. John 9:22) and yet he was focused in his acknowledgment. Paul said that he was not ashamed to suffer for the Gospel because he knew him in whom he believed (2 Timothy 1:12). The only way we will be able to have such focus in our acknowledgment is by having an unwavering faith that Jesus is who he said he was, the Son of God -- the Christ.
There are many more biblical principles that we could discuss on this point of being focused. This very well may be the greatest need of the church in our age, greater focus on the part of Christians to being Christians. We often say that we have a great need for more faithful elders, for more faithful preachers, for more faithful teachers, etc. But, if we were more focused on the task at hand, being Christians, then all of these things would just fall into place. We have lost our focus and we must get it back!