Monday, February 25, 2008

Maintaining Focus

We had a great discussion at our last men’s breakfast. Someone presented the scenario of wanting to be a passionate follower of God, having devotions and prayer in the morning but then falling short in so many ways by the evening. It seems we are stuck in Romans 7 where Paul talks about wanting to do the right thing but not being able to get there.
We want to do well but often the day drags us down;
- or we get frustrated
- or someone rubs us the wrong way
- or temptation has its way with us
- or our prayers are ineffective
Life is just so “daily” sometimes. But why does that happen if we have been praying, and committing our day to God?

We came up with five responses.

1. Vision and Desire
2. Faith
3. Know who I am in Christ
4. Don’t lose heart
5. Walk in community

I'll look at the first one in this post.

1. Vision and Desire
We need to focus on God’s vision for us rather than a legalistic or moralistic approach to our Christian life. Ethics and morals are hard to maintain if they are only being done as a list of correct things to do – especially since morals have become so relativistic in our culture. In the workplace morals are being compromised at the very highest level. In movies, and in almost every sitcom the “conflict” is almost always about selfishness and dishonesty. Someone gets in trouble, lies about it and then needs to face the relational consequences. In the end the lie is justified and life goes on.

It is extremely tough to be honest merely for honesty’s sake (even though sometimes it is the only motivation we can muster). To act with consistently high moral standards we need a vision and a goal – something that gives us (or will give us) joy. We cannot maintain a lifestyle that is moral or obedient or ethical out of blind obligation. It must be motivated by a higher vision and desire. We need to have a reason for our behaviour. The writer of the book of Hebrews says it this way:

Hebrews 12
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The three higher motivations expressed here are:
i. witnesses.
There are people who will watch us doing good - cheering us on to do good. We are accountable. This is external motivation and is very powerful if the people cheering you on are those you respect and want to please.
ii. joy.
This is internal motivation. This is “doing it for me.” There is a joy that needs to be envisioned to carry out a difficult task. It may be the joy of accomplishment. It may be the joy of a reward. It may be the joy of knowing that what you believe was right actually worked the way is was supposed to.
iii. Jesus.
We need to focus on the author and perfecter of our faith. We need to consider Him who endured much more opposition. The goal is to follow Him and become like Him.

The apostle Paul puts it this way:

Philippians 3
10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I will continue the rest of the five points on another post.

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