SOMETIMES I LOSE MY FOCUS

A true story …

The Maestro was born in the northern city of Modena. His mother was a cigar factory worker, his father was a baker and amateur tenor. It was the amateur tenor part that most touched young Luciano Pavarotti. He loved hearing his dad sing, and he spent hours listening to the family’s collection of recordings of great tenors. Father and son sang along with the records at full volume. Mr. Pavarotti wouldn’t sing in public due to stage fright, but he did sing in the church choir. At age nine, Luciano joined him. The boy loved to sing — and people loved hearing him.

“Your voice touches me whenever you sing,” his mother said.

But the question of a career was vexing. In those days just after World War II, a musical career was risky. His mother suggested Luciano become an athletic instructor, while his father encouraged him to continue developing his voice. “But you will have to study very hard, Luciano,” he said. “Practice harder, and then maybe.”

Luciano continued his musical studies and also enrolled in a teacher’s college. After graduation, he asked his father, “Shall I be a teacher or a singer?”

The older man wisely avoided giving a direct answer. Instead he spoke words his son never forgot: “Luciano, if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.”

Luciano chose singing. It took seven years of hard study and intense practice before he made his first professional appearance, and it took another seven before he reached the Metropolitan Opera.

But Pavarotti lived with a single focus. Ultimately, he became one of the most famous operatic singers in the world — the King of High Cs, and a crossover performer who won the admiration of millions who had never set foot in an opera house. His final performance was viewed by the entire world as he sang “Nessun Dorma” at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.

“I was blessed wth a good voice by God,” Pavarotti said. “I think it pleased Him that I decided to devote myself to it. And now I think whether it’s laying bricks, driving a straight nail, writing a book, whatever we choose we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that’s the key. Choose one chair.”

Like Pavarotti, you have been blessed by God. You’ve been blessed with talents, resources, and a dream for the next phase of your life. Once you’ve prayed about that dream and set the right priorities to achieve it, your next step is to focus your life on that one main thing. Choose one chair and commit to it giving it your complete focus. 

The moral of the story: “Choose one thing and stay focused”

The Christian moral of the story: “Choose God’s purpose for your life and stay focused”

I have done this in my life… I have chosen ‘one chair’

Discovered God’s purpose and plan for my life and then became focused on it

However, there have been times, I must admit, where I have been distracted

      • Times when I felt like I was bring destroyed
      • Times when I was discouraged
      • Disappointed
      • And even felt defeated

But here is what I have learned:

When these things start happening it’s because I have lost my focus

When I start feeling those emotions, I have to shut down and get away some place with my Bible, my notebook, and my journal

I have to back away from all the pressure and say: 

“Lord, I’m starting to feel things I shouldn’t feel if I stay focused. Now help me to get focused once again!”

Help me to get back to ‘one chair’

Do you ever do that?

“Lord, help me to focus on Your will for my life so I wont’t be distracted, destroyed, discouraged, disappointed, or defeated.”

When I do that, I have victory in my soul, and so will you!

It is my wish for you that you will know God in such a way that you’re absolutely certain what His purpose is for your life

In the Bible, the apostle Paul had that kind of focus

He said he was straining forward, pressing on to reach a heavenly treasure

He wrote to his friends in the city of Philippi saying:

Philippians 3:12-14 “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul was writing to a church for whom he had literally shed his blood

When he began preaching in the city of Philippi as recorded in Acts 16, he attracted both converts and critics

The critics seized him, stripped him, and whipped him until the blood ran down his back

He and his fellow sufferer, Silas, were cast into prison

But the church was worth the beating, becoming endeared to Paul and sending him financial help again and again

The church prayed for him as he travelled throughout the Roman Empire

It was to these beloved people that Paul openly expressed the deepest longing of his heart and revealed his personal mission statement —- the focus of his life

So, I want to unpack Paul’s words

I want to show you four powerful principles that will sharpen your focus and guide you forward helping you to maintain the correct focus in your personal life

1> FOCUS ON GOD’S PURPOSE

Bob Weighton celebrated his 112th birthday during the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, which meant he wasn’t able to have a party or be with friends. That’s a shame, because on that day Bob became the oldest living man on earth. The Guinness World Records organization sent him a certificate, and newspapers hailed him in heroic terms. Friends sang “Happy Birthday” from a distance while Weighton, a former missionary school teacher, listened on his balcony.

“I can’t say I am pleased to hear that the previous holder has died, but I am very pleased that I’ve been able to live so long and make so many friends,” he said.

When asked about the virus, he said, “It’s bizarre. I’ve never experienced anything like coronavirus before. I’m a bit frustrated, but then again I’ve been in situations where you just had to accept what was happening.”

Then he summed up the wisdom of a 112-year-old: “There is nothing we can do about it so you might as well do what you can. Never mind about the things that you can’t.”

That’s the key. Focus on what you can do. There’s plenty you can’t do, but there’s one thing we can all do: we can follow God’s deep desire for us to grow into the image of Jesus Christ. Paul said, “I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). 

Stay positive and reach for God’s plan and purpose for your life … press onwards and upwards. 

I love his comment … “The secret to long life is to avoid dying.”

As Paul said – press forward into God’s ultimate purpose for you

He has an individual plan for your life and mine

But first consider God’s ultimate purpose for your life — that you may become more and more like His Son, Jesus Christ

Romans 8:29 (MSG)  “God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.”

This ultimate purpose – to be conformed to the image of Jesus – should be our primary purpose

This should always be our main focus … to be like Jesus (conformed to His image)

          • To talk like Jesus
          • To relate to people as He did
          • To love like He loved
          • The accept and forgive as He does still today

Pastor Rick Warren wrote,

“Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won’t be complete here on earth. It will only be finished when you get to Heaven or when Jesus returns.”

When God looks at you and evaluates you, He wants you to become more and more like Jesus

To follow Him more closely

To emulate His life so that Christ is seen in you more and more

That only happens when you maintain your focus on Him – FOCUS ON GOD’S PURPOSE

2> FOCUS ON GOD’S PERSPECTIVE

Philippians 3:12-14 “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Next, Paul talks about seeing life through God’s eyes

He briefly spoke about his past and said it wasn’t worth focusing on:

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind” (Philippians 3:13)

In 1954, Roger Bannister was a medical student who enjoyed running.

He entered a race in Oxford on May 6 of that year and made history, becoming the first athlete to run a mile in less than four minutes

Bannister’s time was 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds

Half a globe away, Bannister’s rival, John Landy of Australia, took notice.

A month later, Landy beat Bannister’s record by about a second

The media turned their spotlights on the two runners, and thousands of people watched later that summer when they lined up at the British Empire Games in Vancouver, Canada. It was called the “Mile of the Century.” The racers shot from the starting blocks and Landy took the lead, which he maintained. The roar of the crowd was deafening. With only ninety yards to go, Landy made a fatal mistake. He glanced behind him. At that exact moment, Bannister streaked by him and won the race by less than a second

The race became known as the Miracle Mile, and a Vancouver sculptor created a bronze statue of the two men at the moment when Landy glanced back.

Landy later said, “Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back. I am probably the only one ever turned into bronze looking back.”

The apostle Paul would have loved that story because that’s what he was talking about in the letter to the Philippians, chapter 3.

He spoke of “forgetting” the things that are behind us, using the word forget in the sense of minimizing the negative impact of our past.

Stop allowing things from the past to control you in the present

Stop allowing the things from the past to hinder you in reaching your future

Paul shook things off

He didn’t let them cling to him like anchors pulling him down

Paul focused on God’s perspective – which is always forward and future

Two ways we need to apply this truth … Tow ways to focus on God’s Perspective

2A> FORGET YOUR PAST SUCCESSES

God’s perspective – always forward

Here was the great apostle who accomplished more in his lifetime than most of us could accomplish in ten lifetimes

He said, if effect, “I have not yet arrived”

That amazes me, because I have spent my lifetime studying Paul’s life and writing, and his influence for Jesus is breathtaking

One of my favourite authors, N.T. Wright wrote about the impact of the apostle’s letters…

“Paul’s letters, in a standard modern translation, occupy fewer than eighty pages … It is safe to say that these letters, page of page, have generated more comment, more sermons, and more seminars, more monograms and dissertations than any other writings from the ancient world … It is as though eight or ten small painting by an obscure artist were to become more sought after, more studied and copied, more highly valued than all the Rembrandts and Titians and all the Monets and Van Goghs in the world.”

Paul’s epistles comprise only part of his ministry.

He also founded most of the churches in Asia Minor 

He was an intellectual giant

Some consider him the greatest man who ever lived, apart from Jesus Christ

Yet here he was in the twilight of his life, refusing to look back and saying, “I’m not there yet. I have not apprehended the spiritual quality of life I want for myself. I’ve not yet been perfected. I’m going to continue to strive for that which God has called me.”

God’s perspective – always forward

Forget your past successes

One writer observed: 

 

“Paul did not keep turning over in his mind the good old days of active service before he was imprisoned; he did not constantly remind himself of all of his achievements nor continually recount those special high points of his intimate relationship with Christ … he is not distracted by all the trophies of the past.”

2B> FORGET YOUR PAST MISTAKES

To focus on God’s perspective (#2) we need to forget your past mistakes

You need to make up your mind to forget those things that haunt you

Ruth Bell Graham once said, “Every cat knows some things need to be buried.”

It is a decision you make to no long remember the past mistakes

You learn a lesson or two from each mistake… Remember the lesson and forget the mistake

What should you choose to forget?

Guilt is remembering a sin that’s already been buried by the blood of Christ

Bitterness is remembering offences that should be buried by grace

Discouragement is letting the last setback become a roadblock

Your brain wants to relive events over and over

If you let it, it will haunt you with failures

Shame you with mistakes you have made

Keep you awake with stress

Lull you to sleep with nostalgia

You can override your brain by giving the past to God and then “forgetting” the things that would pull you back and pull your down

If you have Jesus as Lord and Saviour, there’s absolutely no reason to obsess over past failures

The blood of Jesus frees you from beating yourself up with regrets

When you become a follower of Christ, you enter into a new life in Him

Your past is put behind you once and for all

Satan loves to remind you of your history with all its failures

But that’s when you say with Jesus. “Get behind me, Satan!”

Remember: 

Paul had a wicked past

He cruelly persecuted Christians and attacked the church

He helped condemn Stephen — the first Christian to be martyred for the cause of Christ

After Paul’s dramatic conversion on the Damascus Road, many believers were still afraid of him

What if Paul had continued to live in that past?

What if he kept flogging himself for what he’d done?

He would have lost his influence

Instead, he acknowledged his past but was full of gratitude to God for the grace of total forgiveness. 

Don’t let the past destroy or even hinder your future

The past lends perspective for the future

BUT, if you linger there too long, your recollections will obliterate your dreams and hinder you from going forward

God’s perspective – always forward

Forget your past successes

Forget your past mistakes

Philippians 3:12-14 “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

1> Focus on God’s Purpose for your life

2> Focus on God’s Perspective

Forget your past successes

Forget your past mistakes

3> FOCUS ON GOD’S PLAN

Notice that Paul becomes more specific — moving from our perspective to God’s plans

“Reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13)

God’s purpose (#1) for all of us is the same — to become more like Jesus

BUT, His plans for each one of us are unique

He has a distinct blueprint for the life of every individual on earth and throughout history

His plan for you is tailor-made for you and you alone

It’s perfect for the way He made you and the life experiences that you’ve had

Everything has prepared you for His next step in your life

BUT, you have to follow Him into unknown territory — in the future

And, it is definitely a walk of faith

And, we need to learn to trust God’s guiding hand

Psalm 37:23 “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.”

We are not good in ourselves, but we are good in Christ

And, in Christ, God not only orders your steps and your stops

He delights in the way He guides you forward

If He delights in His plans for you, shouldn’t you delight in them too?

4> FOCUS ON GOD’S PRIZE

Finally, to live a focused life, fix your attention on heaven and the rewards that awaits you there

Paul wrote:

“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”    

(Philippians 3:14)

For Paul, the goal and the prize were one and the same

Though not defined in this verse, there is a clear reference to the many promises given to those who are victorious in Christ

Including a word of commendation from the Lord Jesus: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21)

It embraces “the crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8)

It looks forward to “the crown of glory that does not fade away (1 Peter 5:4)

Whatever else, this prize and goal Paul talks about will be “more than eye has seen or ear has heard or man has ever contemplated” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Remember, Paul was using the metaphor of an Olympic race

In the ancient Olympics, if a runner won his race, he was summoned from the stadium floor to the judge’s box where a wreath of laurel was placed on his head

He received financial rewards and some great fringe benefits

His food was provided for the rest of his life

He had lifelong tickets on the front row of the Athenian theatre

But all those runners have been dead for centuries

Their prizes came to an end

Their glory evaporated

The food lost its savour

The Athenian theatre is now in ruins

It was all temporary

The prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus is eternal

According to the apostle Peter, you have “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:4).

Keeping your focus on God’s prize and goal for you is your motivation to keep going … and win the race

 

1> Focus on God’s Purpose for your life

2> Focus on God’s Perspective

Forget your past successes

Forget your past mistakes

3> Focus on God’s Plan

4> Focus on God’s prize

Let’s wrap up our look at Philippians 3:12-14

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

So, these are the four main things we are to focus on as we move forward in our journey with Jesus and live life to the fullest

But there is one final thing that draws all this together as you seek to move forward towards God’s plan for the next season of your life

You must find PASSION and you do this by giving your life to one thing

You must choose one chair

An old Russian proverb states, “If you chase two rabbits, you’ll not catch either one.”

You must never lose focus … and if you are passionate about one thing – God’s unique plan for your life – then you will run to win 

You see this kind of passion and resulting focus in the Bible

The writers of the Bible knew something about focusing on one thing … choosing one chair – chasing one rabbit

Their lives were defined by one thing

David said, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4)

Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up your cross, and follow Me” (Mark 10:21).

Jesus told the distracted homemaker, Martha, “On thing is needed, and Mary has chosen the good part” (Luke 10:42

The man healed by Jesus said, “One thing I know: that I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25

And the apostle Paul said, “I focus on this one thing” (Philippians 3:13 NLT)

The phrase “one thing” implies consecration

A word meaning to dedicate yourself and your every day to the wonderful will of God

At the core of Paul’s life was one motivating principle: he focused on Christ

He concentrated on his walk with Jesus

He said, in effect, “Lord, Your will be done – today and every remaining day I have on this earth. Not my will, but Yours be done!” 

So the key: The secret of a focused life is staying committed to your passion … to you one thing 

I don’t know the details of God’s plan for your life, but I do know this:

As you focus on His purpose, His perspective, His plan and His prize – He will guide you on the journey forward as you grab hold of life and live it with passion

Commit yourself to following the Lord with passion and to the best of your ability

And soon you will enjoy the adventure of discovering and living for your one thing — step by step and day by day!