Have you ever had trouble focusing on the task at hand? Some people struggle with the ability to focus more than other people, but I believe nearly everyone knows what it’s like to have a wandering mind. I know that’s true for me – sometimes, I have the hardest time getting started on my day!
We are in the middle of our “Focus 40” experience, the Church of God initiative that is uniting hundreds of congregations in a quest for deepening our relationships with God and for hearing his voice in our lives anew. The “40” part is easy to understand: these are the forty days leading up to Easter Sunday, which will be here before you know it. I think it’s more difficult for us to understand – and to practice – the concept of “focusing.”
What does it mean to focus? When you are at work, you have to focus on your job; you have to put aside all other distractions and complete the tasks you have been given. When a friend is sharing a personal struggle, a great joy, or a prayer request, you ought to place all your attention on your friend. When your family is going through a difficult time, there comes a point at which you need to focus on solving the problem in a healthy, God-honoring manner. Why are these things so hard to do sometimes?
When it comes to leisure activities, we have no trouble focusing. We watch intently the last few minutes of the TV show or movie. We’re on the edge of our seats for the last few minutes of the basketball game, the last inning of the baseball game, or the last several laps of the big race. Whatever our “fun” activities are, we often pour our entire attention into them. So why is it harder to focus completely on more important things – our jobs, our families, even our own relationships with God?
This is one reason why we are engaging as a church in this “Focus 40” season. Two spiritual disciplines, prayer and fasting, are being emphasized as practices to help us learn how to focus on the Lord. None of us are “naturals” at focusing on things of importance all the time; we each have to learn how to give our attention to the Lord on a regular basis. Several of you have committed to praying regularly or to fasting once (or more) per week during “Focus 40”; please know that I am praying regularly for you as you practice these disciplines.
Focusing on spiritual things is important to the Lord, so it should be important to us as well. Take to heart how this New Testament passage encourages us to take spiritual growth seriously:
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:23-25 NIV)