With the New Year often comes new hopes, new plans, and new direction. I don’t know if it’s just me, but oftentimes new plans get derailed and new hopes tend to fade into discouragement or the daily grind pretty quickly. What I’ve come to learn is that we lack real focus…and that doesn’t mean what you most likely think it does.
Hopefully our hopes and plans are inspired by God. It is so common these days for churches to follow secular business trends and develop plans to grow their church–plans that don’t really need God in order to produce some results–rather than seeking God, his leadership, and following his revelation. We should be seeking God and His revelation. The revelation inspires a vision for ministry and as we commit to God to follow that vision, he gives a command. We need to remember that a command is not a promise. Commands can sometimes come with a promise, but they don’t always. God may command you or lead you in a certain direction, but there is no promise that obedience will be easy, desirable, or without resistance. You may not get the results you expect, in the time you expect; you likely will encounter spiritual warfare, or resistance from your own congregation…or family. We need to remain obedient nonetheless.
Keeping focus does not mean we have all the details and outcomes clearly in view. In marksmanship training they teach you that while aiming in, you should see a clear front sight post and a fuzzy bull’s-eye. Not everything is clear or clearly seen, but that’s how you hit your target. Focus is not clarity. I think we struggle with discouragement because we assume too much, set our expectations as goals, and when those expectations aren’t met we shrink back or change direction. Focus is about devotion and intensity. It has less to do with seeing the end clearly, and much more to do with being obedient in what you do see and what you have heard. It is about clearing away distractions and delegating tasks to others that will pull you from the race set out before you. When we wander off the path, we trespass. Father, forgive us our trespasses.
Often, when I have wrestled myself into a trespass, I seek God and ask to hear a word from him. His answer is usually the same: What have you been doing with the word I already gave you. Typically, I have to confess that I have strayed and have not been obedient. I can justify my disobedience in numerous ways–the enemy will always be sure to keep excuses and justifications for sin handy. What we need to do is to confess, repent, and return to the things we did when we first heard from God. Where did we depart from the path of obedience? What method, program, or trend did we value more than God’s command? What expectation did we set up as an idol and insist God meet? When did the voices and responses of other people become more important to us than the approval of our Lord? All this clutter fractures our focus and leads us into disobedience and fruitlessness.
Let this New Year be a year of relentless obedience. From the good soil in Jesus’ parable, some produced one hundred times what was sown, some sixty, and some thirty. Lack of focus–lack of devotion, commitment, intensity, and zeal–will produce nothing. Whether we are appointed to produce one hundred, or thirty, we need to be fully committed to obedience, not results. Then we will see the kingdom come in our families, our churches, and our communities, when it comes to fruition in our own hearts first.