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“21 Qualities for Christians in the Bible”

#8 - Focus

14 June 2020

This is our eightth lesson in our new series entitled “21 Qualities for Christians in the Bible.” We must remember our goal is to aid in our growth as Christians and help to develop servant leadership traits inspired by men and women of Scripture. The apostle Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:18, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Peter also tells us to “add” to our faith in 2 Peter 1:5-11, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.” These are just a few of the Scriptures that teach Christians to grow and mature as Children of God. These things aren’t done to make the Christian better “than” those around them but better “for” those around them. As Christians are to be as Jesus says in Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

You see, the Bible is not only the greatest book every written, it is the greatest leadership book ever written. Everything we could ever want to learn about leadership – vision, purpose, thinking strategy, communication, attitude, encouragement, mentoring, follow-through – it’s all there. We must be open to what God wants to teach us. We learn from the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 55:11 concerning God, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Three things we must recognize in this text, (1) God’s Word always fulfills His purpose. (2) His Word does not return to Him void; (3) It accomplishes what He pleases and prospers in what He sent it for.

So, for Our lesson today we examine: Focus: The Sharper It Is, the Sharper You Are.

Many people in leadership positions are majoring in minor things, while others seem to major in nothing at all. Either they fixate on the wrong goals, or they don’t seem to give any goal their full attention. Neither of these choices makes sense. This also applies to Christians! Like leaders, Christians need to develop focus, which is achieved when they are certain about their priorities and have a clear idea of how to pursue them. That kind of focus is targeted on two types of priorities: big-picture, long-term goals like vision and daily priorities such as important tasks on their to-do list.

For the long-term, effective leaders and Christians focus on what has the greatest impact. This usually means they devote more of their time, energy, and resources to growing in their strengths rather than areas of weakness. Obviously, every leader and Christian needs to give some attention to getting better at tasks that they’re not good at. But that should not be their primary focus. The key is to identify our own areas of weakness and seek out someone who has a strength in that area and ask them for help.

As for the day-to-day, effective leaders and Christians resist the tyranny of the urgent. Because leadership is so complex and filled with urgent decisions, it’s easy to be pulled off course by wrong priorities. So the first task is to determine what is really important – which is not necessarily the same as what is most urgent.

To maintain right priorities, determine your focus based on three questions. First, what is required of you? In other words, what part of your job can be done by you and you alone? Those tasks have high priority. Second, what gives you the greatest return on investment? What delivers a positive outcome that matches or exceeds the time and energy you give? After requirements, these tasks should come next. Finally, what gives you the greatest reward? What achievements would give you the greatest personal satisfaction? These are probably the tasks that you most want to do. If they are also requirements or high-return tasks, you’re really on track.

We have to remember; activity is not necessarily accomplishment. Effective leaders and Christians work hard to narrow their focus and give their attention to what really matters and has the most long-term impact. For the Christian we must focus our attention as Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33, ““But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Seeking First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness Requires Constant Attention to Detail in all Facets of Life! We have to remember the saying, “If you chase two rabbits both will escape!” So, we have two keys to focus, priorities and concentration. One who knows his priorities but lacks concentration knows what to do but never gets it done. One who has concentration, but no priorities has excellence without progress. When one harnesses both there is potential to achieve Great Things! How do you rate yourself in the area of focus? Do you spend time on the things which have little value, those things which are time zappers? To improve FOCUS Each Christian MUST: Work on Themselves. They are their greatest asset or detriment. To improve FOCUS Each Christian MUST: Work on Priorities. They will have to fight for them. To improve FOCUS Each Christian MUST: Work on Strengths. They can reach their potential. To improve FOCUS Each Christian MUST: Work with Contemporaries. No one can be effective alone! Divided FOCUS Always Works Against You! James Clear an Entrepreneur & Author said this, “…one of the greatest skills…for living a healthy life is this ability to prevent our attention from being divided and to focus on a singular task, whatever it happens to be…that’s important to us that day.” Ever wonder why a lion tamer uses a four legged or three legged stool? This is probably his most important tool for training. When working with the lion, the lion attempts to focus on each leg and therefore his focus is diverted. The tamer is quite safe!

Today we are going to learn focus from Nehemiah when he ignores the opposition in Nehemiah 6:1-15, “Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), 2 that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, "Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono." But they thought to do me harm. 3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?" 4 But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner. 5 Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. 6 In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. 7 And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, 'There is a king in Judah!' Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together. 8 Then I sent to him, saying, "No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart." 9 For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, "Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done." Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. 10 Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, "Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you." 11 And I said, "Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!" 12 Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me. 14 My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid. 15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.”

In this text we learn that six times Nehemiah was approached by his enemies to hinder his efforts and make him afraid but he stayed focused! One response is found in Nehemiah 6:3, “So I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?" Nehemiah recognized his efforts were a “great work” and prayed for God to strengthen his hands. Notice what is said in Nehemiah 6:9, “For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, "Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done." Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands." Nehemiah was so focused on the task at hand and bringing the people back in line with God, it didn’t matter what came his way to get the job done, his faith in God drove him to remain focused for the duration of the project and we read in Nehemiah 6:15, “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.” Let’s understand, the majority of these people who were building the wall were not masons, or construction workers. Many of them were not soldiers, most were quite simply farmers. Also, they didn’t have completely new materials to rebuild the walls with! They made do with what they had, and they still got the job done even when their adversaries attempted to stop them. You and I have to recognize the need to focus in our lives as Christians. We may not have a wall to build, but we do have a walk to walk! This requires a daily focus. It requires recognizing our adversary, the devil is out to get us at all cost and so Peter’s words in 1 Peter 5:8 are vital to help us focus, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…” Nehemiah was able to ignore the opposition to get the job done. He was also prepared to do what was necessary should the adversary become aggressive. Nehemiah was also able to influence the rest of the Israelites to the same disposition!

Now let’s turn our attention to yet more teaching on focus. Now we turn to John 21:1-22 where Jesus helps Peter regain his focus. “After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We are going with you also." They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any food?" They answered Him, "No." 6 And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish which you have just caught." 11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, "Come and eat breakfast." Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, "Who are You?" --knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. 14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead. 15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." 16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. 18 "Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish." 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me." 20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?" 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?" 22 Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me."”

In this section of Scripture Peter had lost his focus and ended up taking others with him. Jesus knew He had to help refocus Peter. So, when we look closely at John 21:15-17 we read, “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." 16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.” Knowing Peter like He did, Jesus knew He would have to challenge him repeatedly, so He did! In this text we see Peter become grieved and frustrated. How many times does this happen to us when we lose our focus when it comes to our service to God and our fellow man? How often have you been reading Scripture and come across an area in which you needed to make correction? If you are sincerely looking to improve in serving God, we must not be so prideful that we become grieved to a point of rebellion but accept the discipline from the Word of God and change! All of this teaching was necessary for Peter to focus on the greatest work he would ever do, “fishing for men.” And the teaching in the Word of God is necessary for us to focus on our growth to become the sharpest servants possible!

Learning from Nehemiah and Jesus with Peter could be enough to teach us about focus. But the Good Lord has provided numerous other examples! There is one more we want to draw your attention to and that is the Apostle Paul. In Philippians 3:7-14 we learn where Paul puts his life in perspective. “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul was determined to remain focused and knew the true excellence in of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord! Paul was focused on the righteousness of Christ, which is the righteousness from God by faith and was determined to know Him! Paul remained focused on one thing: forgetting those things behind and reaching forward to those things ahead, the upward call of God in Christ Jesus! You see Paul was able to focus his life based upon the perspective of God’s Will, not his own. This is a very challenging area for each of us. But it is possible to do! The apostle Paul did it and even more than that, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did it! He focused in all areas of His life. He was to be the perfect sacrifice for all of man! Just think if He had not focused on the Word of God when He was tempted by the Devil?!? Don’t you shudder to think what would happen to us and our souls if Jesus wasn’t focused?!? I do!

     So, with these examples of focus and so many others, let us examine our hearts and see if we “measure up” to the level of focus truly desired in us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The level of focus He Himself had when He was willing to go to the cross on our behalf. His focus aided Him in going through all that He did on our behalf. All Christians need to be a focused people! The Lord has provided for us time and time again this quality modeled in the Bible for our growth.

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