Do you remember the story in Matthew 14:22-33, where Jesus sends his disciples across the water ahead of Him? The storm comes up and the disciples are afraid. Jesus walks toward them on the water. When Peter sees Jesus, he asks, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Matthew 14:28 (NKJV)
Jesus tells Peter to come to Him, which Peter does. But, the waves are high and the wind is strong. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, [Peter] was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” Matthew 14:30 (NKJV)
Why did Peter begin to sink? He lost his focus. As long as he kept his attention on Jesus, he could walk on water, but when he looked at the wind whipping against him and the waves rocking the boat behind him, he began to sink.
This story reminds me of our situation today and how much our focus needs to be on Jesus. The wind (virus, election, racism, riots, fires, tornadoes, etc.) buffet from all sides. The waves of unrest threaten to capsize our little boat and we struggle to keep our eyes fastened on Jesus.
During prayer time the other day God brought to mind that word – FOCUS. I did a search for the word in scripture and found some reassurances that I desperately needed. I hope you find comfort here too.
In Philippians 3, Paul says he is working toward a goal he has not yet achieved, toward perfection in Christ. Isn’t that the goal all of us want to achieve? Despite not reaching that goal, Paul reminds us what is important to do. … but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead… Philippians 3:13 (NLT2)
Forgetting the past is hard. Memories jump up to mock us or take over our thoughts. Our concentration is fragmented as bits and pieces vie for our mind, making us lose sight of what is truly important. Looking forward in 2020 can bring angst too. Every month seems to have brought some new trial. Yet, we can look forward to the future God has planned for us and trust that He has our best in mind.
I recently spoke with someone who was upset over the restrictions placed on us when we have to wear masks or stay home. In I Timothy 4, Paul writes to Timothy about problems he is having and gives these words of wisdom—Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. 1 Timothy 4:13 (NLT2)
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if instead of getting upset and bemoaning the negatives in our lives, we focused on God’s word and encouraged one another? So often, all it takes is a positive word to turn a negative conversation around. Rather than being upset with our circumstances, maybe we should offer to do a Bible study with someone, or mail an uplifting note to a friend we haven’t been able to see. Focus on the positive and on God’s promises.
Paul’s letter to the 2 Corinthians carries this reminder. We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (HCSB) Doesn’t that sound familiar? We may not be in Paul’s circumstances, but this year has been tough. Still, there are some wonderful promises mixed in there.
At the end of that chapter is this reminder—So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (HCSB) Our focus is not on the troubles we have now, the wind and waves buffeting us, but on Christ and the promise of Heaven. What a beautiful outcome to contemplate.
Finally, when your small boat is being tossed about ,and the water is too scary to walk on, take courage from these words in Philippians—If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Philippians 2:1-3 (HCSB)
Let us keep our goal of being Christlike in mind at all times. If you wonder how to live humbly, read Philippians 2: 5-11 to see how Jesus set the example. No matter what troubles came against Him, no matter how strong the winds, no matter how high the waves, He still walked on water because He understood the true focus. Let’s do the same.