The year 2020 will be talked about for years to come as a year like none other. For some believers staying focused was a real challenge. For others, the many trials that came with Covid, riots and reactions to it, and the election drama served to drive them towards greater focus.
Thankfully focus is important to our Savior, and the Holy Spirit specializes in restoring it when it has been lost or adversely affected. This blog on restoring our focus comes out of an experience I had this last Sunday morning as our congregation gathered in our parking lot to worship.
The apostle Paul says when we believers gather in corporate worship whether in a home or in a more public place we should be sensitive to the Holy Spirit for spontaneous gifts He might choose to pour out on us for the edification of those who are gathered. “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” I Cor. 14:26. While we were worshipping in song, I began to feel a stirring to share some thoughts (“ …a teaching…”) that I had actually begun to ponder that morning while shaving and getting ready to head out for our Sunday morning service.
When it comes to Spirit enabled focus, other than Jesus, it seems to me the apostle Paul was one who excelled in obtaining and maintaining it. As I’ve studied his life and teaching over all these years, his priorities – the primary objectives that guided his every move have become more and more clear and helpful to me. I submit them to you for your prayerful consideration. These are what I shared in a spontaneous manner this last Sunday morning.
First and foremost I would say Paul’s greatest passion or highest priority was that of knowing Christ. This is best seen in Philippians 3:7,8 “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,”. This more than anything else is what drove Paul and excited Paul and gave focus and perspective through all kinds of suffering and difficulties and disappointments.
Second, Paul aspired to be conformed to His image. Phil. 3:9-11 “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Paul gave regular time and attention to becoming like Christ in every way; putting on the new man and putting off the old; pursuing godliness and holiness; and embracing the suffering and death to self that was the doorway to being made complete and perfect in Him. This does not just naturally happen. And leaders who cause us to focus on others’ need to change, and thus getting our eyes off of our own need to change and be conformed to Christ need to repent!
Third, Paul aspired to proclaim Christ and nothing or no one else. Col. 1:28 “We proclaim Him, ….” It is very easy to be in the ministry and not proclaim Christ, or at least not proclaim Him like we should. I feel this singular focus was greatly diminished leading up to and after the Presidential election we just went through. If that was not the case, the body of Christ would not be so beaten up, discouraged and bewildered as we are finding ourselves in these days. Only Jesus saves: only Jesus heals; only Jesus restores; only Jesus exalts one and humbles another, etc., etc. When we proclaim Christ as He is clearly revealed in scripture, we can’t lose. When we proclaim things that are not clearly revealed in scripture, great discernment is needed; and frankly with the internet it is just way too easy to proclaim other things, especially since many seem to be clamoring for other things.
Fourth, Paul aspired to present every man complete in Christ. Col. 1:29 Every person that Paul ever had a moment with or an ongoing relationship with, he sought to help them know and become complete or mature in Christ. He was never content to just see people get saved or attend a church gathering. Numbers meant very little to him. Transformation by the Spirit was his passion. (see Romans 8:29).
Fifth, Paul aspired to see Israel saved. Romans 10:1. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” While Paul had an ever growing passion for the gospel to go to the ends of the earth, he never lost sight of his kinsmen for whom he said in Romans 9:1-4a, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites,….” Paul never allowed God’s clear intention to save the Gentiles from causing him to lose sight of the fact that God’s clear intention is still to save the people of Israel. Nor should we.
And finally, Paul aspired to see the gospel proclaimed among the unreached – where it had not gone before. Romans 15:20, 21 “And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; but as it is written, “They Who Had No News Of Him Shall See, And They Who Have Not Heart Shall Understand.” Paul was passionate about this because the more he grew to know God through the scriptures, the more He realized God was passionate about this and had communicated repeatedly from Genesis to Revelation that He wanted every tribe, tongue, people and nation to know Him.
The apostle exhorted the church in Corinth to “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” I Cor. 11:1 May we do the same and thus may our focus be restored and thus may our joy and hope and faith be restored in 2021 for His glory!