Be careful what you pray for, especially when you ask God to grow something in you. Recently I had a talk with the Lord about where I am in life and my ability to be self-disciplined. As I asked for more, the word that came back to me was ‘focus’. I remember hearing once that whatever you spend your time focusing on will determine the quality of your life. It seems that this is a quality of the mind that is important to develop. A new “renewing of the mind” (Rom 12:2) that God is calling me to.
Focus on what? I know this one I thought: “Seek first the kingdom of God…” (Matt 6:33), stay focused on Him! But it is not just about keeping my eyes on Jesus, I have realized, it is also a discipline of the mind and action in light of the kingdom of God.
Focus goes beyond what you are doing, to who you are being. It is about your purpose in life as opposed to what you are keeping yourself busy with. People that are focused on their purpose always have their eternal life goals in mind and don’t get flustered by short term challenges or activities.
For me, a prime example of one who lives with this focus is Nehemiah. At the end of the book of Nehemiah, he has long since rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and returned to Babylon, but continues to bring about reforms in Israel along with Ezra. Not everything goes smoothly as the people neglect the Lord’s worship, are disobedient and disloyal. But what is telling in chapter thirteen, Nehemiah prays 3 times: “Remember me in this, O my Lord…” (verse 14;22 and 31).
He prays that God would remember his heart and obedience rather than the behavior of the people which he cannot control. Nehemiah’s life is focused on his life time job description from the Lord and his success is tied up in obedience to what God has told him to do, not in his performance or the performance of the people he is ministering to. In Nehemiah’s life, focus was a lifelong commitment to God’s calling on his life.
At the same time, super focused people, my quick research says: don’t gossip, multitask, procrastinate, allow distractions to derail them or make silly excuses not to work. They don’t seek validation or go out of their way to please people and definitely don’t compare themselves to others. Super focused people don’t dwell on the past, don’t act on impulse, don’t have unrealistic expectations. They don’t say yes to everything, don’t get involved in matters that don’t concern them and they don’t quit.
Just that list presents a few bad habits that need to be addressed in becoming more focused. Focus is obviously much more than I first anticipated.
Distraction is caused by: the lack of ability to pay attention; lack of interest in the object of attention; or the great intensity, novelty or attractiveness of something other than the object of attention. Both external and internal distractions (things happening outside / inside of us) contribute to the interference of focus. The real exercise of focus it seems, is to eliminate that which is distracting you.
Here, after a bit of meditation, are ten thoughts I have had on maintaining your focus:
- Focus – a person that is focused does it TODAY. Don’t lose sight of your goals. Have them where you regularly see them.
- Don’t let your emotions distract you or lead you off another way. What you feel is not necessarily the truth – base your decisions on truth that has been revealed to you and not how you feel.
- Focus your mind and thoughts. Good is not necessarily the best for you.
- Don’t lose focus to temptation of comfort, convenience or speed.
- Don’t lose focus because of disappointment or criticism – stay focused on where you want to go.
- Don’t focus on what you do not have, focus on what is in your hand.
- Don’t “naval gaze” – which is to focus only on your issues, your hurts, your lacks etc. Own it (your stuff) and lift your eyes.
- Focus on your destiny, the “why” behind what you are doing, your purpose.
- If you become pre-occupied with what you need, you may miss out on what you have done already. Celebrate progress.
- Focus on what you are going to do, not on what you are going through!
What I have realized is that focus is a decision of the mind and the heart. It is an important ability.
It is often a decision to go in a certain direction, or a different direction to where you were going before. This decision often builds momentum into your life. To neutralize you and your life, the enemy will often attack your focus before he attacks your faith. I understand why Paul exhorted us to…
“…strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (Heb 12:2-3 NLT)
Your focus determines your reality, your quality of life.
Lord help me to recognize the lack of focus in my mind and in my life. I know I am easily distracted both by what is going on outside of me, as well as by what is going on inside of me. I have realized that this lack of focus is really a display of an undisciplined mind which translates into undisciplined action or attitude in my life. Help me to focus on you Lord, on your life calling for my life. Help me to be more like Nehemiah who was focused on your direction for his life and what You had called him to do. Help me to throw off these things that are distracting me and to embrace a focused lifestyle.