Thursday, November 10, 2016

Focusing on What's Important - Can You Do It?

Focusing – Can you do it?
Barbara Henderson

November 11, is Veteran’s Day.  It is a day that we should spend being thankful to God and for those He used to raise up and preserve this nation.  To those who served I would like to say thank you.  If you have been reading my articles long you know that I have written several articles about my husband’s uncle Gerald who was killed while carrying wounded to safety on D-Day. He has a box full of medals that he was awarded for what he did that day as well as for other things he did during the war.  He was with the Big Red One from the start of the war, so he had plenty of time to earn medals, but lots of other people didn’t earn medals.  I’m sure they did their jobs well, and I am thankful for their service.  But I still wonder what makes some people different?  I actually thought, ‘Are they crazy or what?  Don’t they know they could get shot if they run out in front of everyone for some reason or another?’ I knew that wasn’t the reason they behaved heroically.  There had to be something more to it than just an impulse.

I spent some time looking up some of Gerald’s fellow soldiers.  I personally talked to and corresponded with two of them for some time.  Another relative talked to at least one more. My father in law talked to many of them, but he is living in heaven now, so I can’t ask him. I wanted to know what made Gerald and others like him do the heroic things they did.  What made him different?

This is what I came up with.  He focused on the immediate task at hand.  He ignored everything around him and just did what needed to be done in that moment.  I guess you could say he was ‘in the zone’.  One soldier who saw him that day said he didn’t even appear concerned.  He was just doing whatever needed to be done at that moment.  He was focused on getting the big job done one little job at a time.

Then I began to consider how this applies to the everyday lives of Christians.  We are truly living in a world of distractions.  Important things are set aside in order to do what is next on the list. 

Hebrews 12:1 says,
     ‘Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,’.

A lot of what we do is just tending to a weight or a heavy and unnecessary burden.  We need to set these weights aside.  We have more important things to do.  We need to get a mental picture of the big picture.  In Gerald’s case the big picture would have been to win the war.  On D-Day the big picture would have been to take out guns on the cliffs and launch the liberation of Europe.  The smaller picture would have been to focus on getting his men and equipment on to the beach.  Next focus would have been to help other trucks and equipment stuck in the water to get to the beach.  Next small task was to get the wounded to safety.  And that last task was what cost him his life. 

Christians need to get a clear mental picture of the big picture.  That should be to live like the Christian you claim to be.  But, just like Gerald, you should have other mental pictures that are very important.  For me a lot of my ‘big picture’, other than being a faithful Christian, was a little blurry until I got married.  I was just 18, but I knew that my goal was to stay married.  With that in mind, I married a man who was raised Baptist just like me.  He went to church with me from the second week that I knew him.  We had common interests, and he liked my family immediately.  Besides, he had a ski boat and a motor cycle.  What more could I ask for?

Then we had kids – two of them.  My goal then became to raise them up to love God and keep the commandments.  That was my focus.  Because of that Jerry and I joined an Independent Baptist church.  I was the one pushing that because I knew it was right.  Jerry got on board pretty quickly because he is the Christian man he claims to be, but it did cause some problems with some family who called the church ‘off the wall Baptist’.  My goal was raising two kids to love God and keep the commandments.  I know the choice to become Christians was ultimately theirs, but I was going to do my part to give them the knowledge and understanding to make the right choice.

I put my kids in Christian school because I knew what was best for them.  Once again there was some family discord about that.  I cared, but not enough to change my focus from doing what was best for my kids.  When I switched them to homeschool there were some really bad moments with family, but once again my focus was on doing what was right for my kids.  My big picture had not changed.  I was going to raise Christian kids or die trying.

You definitely need some long term goals.  You need to be focused on those goals continually.  But, to accomplish the long term goals, you need to take the tasks of each day and focus on getting them done one task at a time.  That is where the heroes are made.  They are people who get a big job done by focusing on getting the little jobs done. 

In the day to day routine of homeschooling two kids there was a lot of little things that had to be done.  Focusing on one thing was difficult because there were two kids wanting help at the same time, there was a family business, and there were all the chores that go with keeping a house and raising a family.  If I could go back and do it again I would set better rules about not interrupting and waiting your turn.  But I don’t regret doing it.  By the wonderful grace of God my kids are practicing Christians married to practicing Christians and raising grandkids as Christians.

Now I have the same big picture, but daily focus has obviously changed.  I have some things that I do everyday, but a lot depends on what I am physically able to do and what is happening on a particular day.  The main focus is on my thoughts.  In my battle with cancer there are some terrible thoughts that try to plague me daily. I do my best to keep my focus on the promises and blessings of God. 

In truth, there are always terrible battles raging around us.  There is always a spiritual battle going on for the souls of the lost and for the thoughts of the saved.  I think there is more than one book titled, ‘The Battle for the Mind’ or some similar title.  I think that is where the start of every battle lies – in the mind.  To focus what you actually do you have to be able to focus what your mind thinks.  Once your mind focuses on an immediate task your hands will follow along and do what needs to be done.  Fill your mind with the teachings and songs of Jesus Christ.  This is where your strength will be found.  When the devil attacks you, or your own personal sin nature attacks you, you can answer them with truths from the Bible or hymns that tell Bible truths.  Is this easy?  No.  Is it possible?  Yes.  Focusing on thinking right thoughts is possibly the most important thing you can do.  By the way, don’t confuse this with ‘thinking good thoughts’.  Some of the Bible truths are difficult to accept.  For instance, it is true that those who reject Jesus Christ will spend eternity in hell.  That can hardly be considered a ‘good thought’, but it is true. 

From your vantage point of focusing on Christ set aside all the distractions of the day and the moment and focus on getting the next task done. This very often requires setting aside your emotions.  I am sure Gerald had to set aside his natural instinct to be afraid on D-Day.  You will probably never face a battle like the one fought on the beaches of Normandy, but you will face a lot of spiritual battles.  The big picture should always be focusing on pleasing God in all that you do.  The little picture is just to get the next job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Please keep in mind that there are many many heroes who haven’t done anything that is really noteworthy to the world or to those around them.  The Lord knows what you do every day.  He knows your thoughts.  He knows your fears.  He knows how often you cast all your cares of Him.  Really, worldly medals and trophies are not going to heaven with you.  If your heart is right with God then you are doing right.  That is where true treasure lies.

By the way, I saw a TV special about D-Day many years ago.  They interviewed soldiers who had landed on the beach at Normandy and lived to tell the tale of what happened that day.  One soldier had a terrible confession to make.  He made it to the beach.  He was terrified, so he crawled under dead bodies and stayed there until dark.  Then he rejoined his unit.  He had lived with the guilt of what he had done all his life.  I have no real criticism for that man because none of us knows what we would have done on that day.  But there is a spiritual battle raging in real life every day.  Our options are to join in the battle to do the will of God, of hide among the bodies of the spiritually dead until the battle is over. 

The real question is, ‘What are you doing?  Are you hiding among the spiritually dead, or are you living in obedience to God’s instructions?’ 

Have you heard the C. T. Studd quote that says,
‘Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell;
I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.’

He was a man born to a wealthy family. He could have spent his life within the sound of church or chapel bells.  In truth he might have lived a moral life and truly loved the Lord while living a peaceful life near those church and chapel bells. Instead he answered the call to tell the world that Jesus saves.  He worked to carry the gospel to a lot of the world, including Africa, India, and China.

I am sure this missionary was focused on the great commission – preaching the gospel to all the world.  I am sure he focused on daily tasks to help in accomplishing his main goal.  He sacrificed a great deal, including time with his wife who preceded him in death, and his family fortune given to missionary support.  

I don’t know what God has called you to do, but if you are truly a born again Christian then it is highly doubtful that God has called you to spend your life hiding among the spiritually dead. 

There is another story of someone who didn’t go to the mission field, but her story has a wonderful outcome.  Ina D. Ogden had plans to be a missionary, but she abandoned those plans to care for her aging father.  She wrote several songs, but probably the best known is ‘Brighten the Corner Where You are’. 

Both C. T. Studd and Ina D. Ogden gave their lives to the Lord.  A guess would be that Ina’s life had more time that would have allowed for depression or regrets, as caring for a sick person can be a heavy task.  C. T.’s Life was probably more fast paced allowing less time for regrets or ‘what if’s’ to plague him.  But they both had to stay focused to be successful as they worked to live a life obedient to the Lord.

Staying focused is the key to getting any job done, whether you are on a literal battle field, a literal mission field, or a mission field in your own home.  Get the big picture in your mind.  Focus on the daily tasks that need to be done.  While most of us will never have to run through gun fire to get a job done, we will have to face times when we are overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of getting everything done; and we will face other times when we are focused on remaining cheerful while tending to repetitive tasks.  In all these situations staying focused is the key to success.

In closing I want to encourage each reader to focus more on thankfulness and prayer.  Political and social battles are going on all around us.  Do your part to lead those in your sphere of influence to do what is right.  And, stay focused on doing your personal duty one job at a time.