Is Your Life in Focus?

(Phil 3:13-15 NKJV) 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, {14} I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. {15} 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.

Have you ever taken pictures that were out of focus? I know I have. Most cameras today are self-focusing, but even they are not fail proof, because we still have a human operator behind them!

At our daughter's birthday back in Grandview, MO, our friend brought her video recorder along so that we would have some video of the event. Well, she forgot to turn the auto- focus on and the result was a blurry picture, especially on closeups! Every time we watch that video it reminds us that we must check the focus if we want clear, crisp, clean pictures.

It is no different in life. A clear focus is a necessity for accomplishing anything. Paul knew this, and he made his focus Jesus Christ and the life which Jesus had called him to. Everything else centered, supported, and sustained that one goal. It brought the rest of his existence into focus.

But notice in verse 15 that this was not just a personal goal of Paul himself, but Paul considered it to be the goal of every Christian. If any of us are mature, we will have this goal. If we do not, God will reveal to us our need to make Christ and His will our central focus for our life. Jesus Himself said as much the same thing:

(Mat 6:33 NKJV) "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

The focus must be on Christ, and not other things, otherwise the whole picture of our life will be out of focus. Political and social issues, as important as they are, cannot be our focus. The church building and its worship services, as important as they are, cannot be our focus. Doctrine, theology, and the Bible, as needed as they are, cannot become the focus of our lives, only Christ. All these things point to or flow from Christ and once they become the focus instead of Christ, the whole picture is lost. The Biblical word for putting our focus on something other than Christ is called idolatry.

How do we keep our focus on Christ and not let it slip to other items of importance? Paul says, "...this one thing I do...." This is how Paul keeps his focus on Christ, by focusing on doing one thing and one thing only. How can Paul do that? There are so many things that demand our attention, how can he do only one thing? It is because this one thing he does provides purpose and focus for all the other activities of his life.

First he forgets what has happened in the past. Now this does not literally mean that Paul cannot recall it, nor does it mean that he does not at times look back to the past for encouragement, strength, as well as correction. But when it comes to where our focus is, the past cannot be it. Can you drive a car looking out the back window? Of course not. You have a rear view mirror to warn you of traffic coming behind you, and you check it occasionally, but it is not the focus for you know you would soon end up off the street and into some building if you did.

Churches tend to place their focus in the past even more than individuals. Once I was playing basketball with some guys in our church gym a few years ago. Now Shack I was not! I rarely played much although I would sometimes just practice shooting baskets to pass the time. At one point in the game, I ended up with the ball with a clear shot to the basket for two. So up I went and tossed the ball toward the basket. It swished right in! "Yes!" I said to myself. Some of the other guys on the team also said, "Way to go Rick," and "Great shot, Rick." I think they knew I needed all the encouragement I could get. As they said that I was standing there, thinking, "Yea, that was pretty good!" I was admiring the shot, since I get so few of them, when I realized something important. The longer I stood their basking in the good feelings of making that shot, the bigger head start I was giving the other team and the player I was suppose to be defending. If I didn't forget about the shot I just made and concentrate on getting down the other side of the court, my team would have a hard time defending the basket when they were one man short. By doing that, I would have allowed my success to be erased by the success of the other team, all due to my focusing on the past shot I made.

To put it simply, there are many churches today, even denominations, that are so focused on what has happened in the past, both bad and good, that their focus is no longer on Christ and what He has for us in the future and they have wreaked their car on the side of the road while Satan whizzes on by. But they are praising themselves and patting themselves on the back so much for their successes that they have ignored the fact that Satan is making some great shots of his own, nullifying our work because we are not there to defend against him.

Rather, Paul says that we are to be "reaching" forward and "pressing" toward the will and call of Jesus Christ on our life. Reaching indicates a stretching of ourselves toward the goal. We lean into it and allow God to stretch us so that we can grow closer to His goal for us. But with reaching comes pressing. This indicates a movement toward with all our strength. It is much like a football coach tells his players that they must keep their feet moving and pumping when they run with the ball, even if you seem to be stopped. You never know when they will loose their grip and you will be able to break free. If you are not pressing, then you will go no where.

Not only that, but we must press and reach at the same time. When I was playing tennis one day, I was so focused on reaching a ball that was just out of my reach that I lost track of just how far behind me my feet had fallen. My pressing did not keep up with my reaching, and the result was a great crash, rolling into the fence with plenty of scrapes and bruises from the fall. We must be careful to not stretch ourselves too far, but allow God to do the stretching so that it does not get too far ahead of where our pressing is and cause a crash.

The end result is that we spend our lives on this side of eternity reaching and pressing, never really coming to the place where we can say that we have attained. And as always, the focus remains on Christ and His will. By doing so, our whole lives and relationships can be brought into focus when He is in focus. Why? As Paul said:

(Col 1:15-17 NKJV) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. {16} For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. {17} And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

So, what is your focus? What do you need to do to get it focused on Christ? The correct answers to these questions and their application will turn your life around and allow the Spirit to use you as never before. May God grant you the grace to reach and press toward His goal in His Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Rick