I can be a terrible listener. My wife and kids will attest to that. When I am watching a TV show and they try to talk to me, I won’t hear them. Especially if it’s a really good movie. I want to hear every word and see every action on the screen because I know that each word has its own importance. I could easily mis a key element of the movie if I don’t concentrate fully. Or maybe it’s a football game. I want to see every play, every replay and hear what the commentators are saying. I can’t be bothered with interruptions. If they try to talk to me, they can’t get through unless they turn my head to listen.
I’m the same way when with a bunch of people. If someone tries to talk to me, and does not get my attention first, I hear every conversation in the room and can’t distinguish one from the other. It all becomes a muddled mess, In most instances in my life I can multi-task, but when it comes to words, I cannot get them from multiple sources at once. I have to focus my attention on one aspect at a time, whether it be the movie, or the football game, or the conversation that wants to include me. Once I focus my attention, I do fine.
Many times, when we think of focus, we get a visual picture of what that is. We focus a camera to get the best shot, or a telescope to see further into space. Without that focus in our visual image, it comes out all blurry and we can’t define the better points of what we are looking at. The picture is not what we really want because we want to see that smile or those beautiful eyes, or that gorgeous sunset. If it’s not in focus, what good is it? The focus has to be to the right depth in order to get the picture we want. If we focus too much on the background, our image is blurry. The same is true if we focus on one feature and not the whole picture. Our focus has to be completely on the image we want to see clearly.
Focus also means the center of interest or activity. It is what we spend the most time thinking about in our daily lives, whether it be the next lesson in our school work, or a detailed job we need to get done for work. Recently I have been focused on getting the weeds out of my garden in preparation for next year’s garden. Every day I do a little more to make sure those pesky weeds won’t shed their seeds into the soil and give me a bumper crop. If I don’t focus on that goal, I won’t get the job done. It is tedious and won’t show results for a whole year. Why bother??
In my spiritual walk, focus is just as important. What exactly do I focus on one day to the next. I know that I am a sinner saved by grace, and every once in a while, that sin creeps back into my life and sets me back. I repent and ask God for forgiveness only to have it rear its ugly head again. I often don’t think to ask myself why it came back up. I just repent again and God, in His mercy, forgives me and I go on. This seems to be a recurring cycle that I don’t have the power to control.
Or do I? I heard a message the other day that talked about focus and realized what my problem was. After I sin, and after I repent to God, and after He forgives me, I have a tough time putting out of my mind that sin that I committed. I know I am forgiven, but I just think about how much I disappointed God and how disappointed I am in myself. I think about how much I want to give it up and never do it again. I think about why I got into that mess in the first place. In other words, I think about my sin – I focus on my sin. When I am focused on my sin, it is bound to come back again. It is bound to overtake me again. It is inevitable because that is where my focus is.
Instead, I need to change my focus. I need to put that sin behind me and put it out of my mind. In Philippians 3:13, Paul says he forgets those things that are behind and reaches to the things which are ahead, and he presses toward the mark of the High Calling of Jesus Christ. God says he separates are sin from us as far as the East is from the West. (Psalm 103:12). It is not God that keeps our sin alive! When God cleanses our sin, He cleanses us as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). He cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). How does sin remain if God takes it away? We keep it alive by focusing on it, even if that focus is to try and get rid of it,
My focus needs to go to something else. Paul said “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” in Philippians 3:14. He focuses on Jesus! That is how you overcome sin! Not by avoiding the sin, which puts the focus on your sin. NO. We defeat sin by turning our focus to Jesus. We are victorious when we forget the sin, forget that we have sinned, forget that sin ever had us in it’s grasp. It is what is before us that matters. It is where God is calling us to that makes the difference. There are so many admonitions to this in the Bible that I can’t begin to scratch the surface here. I think of Matthew 6:33, Philippians 4:6-8, Proverbs 3:5-6, Joshua 1:8, Psalm 23, Psalm 91. I think of the words of Jesus when He says “In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Or the words of James in James 1:2-4. “2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
You can leave that sin behind. You can clear up the muddled voices that speak inside your head and confuse you. You can go toward God instead. Change your focus and you will be an overcomer.