Focus Is A Choice

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31 NKJV).

Fear, worry and panic (all related emotions) have always been a struggle for me.  Loud noises make me jump. I often hesitate before stepping onto an escalator. I had a very hard time watching my sons climb beyond where I could reach them and have the identical response in observing my grandsons. In unfamiliar circumstances, I may experience a moment of panic. Perhaps it was something I learned as a child. Perhaps it is part of my temperament.  Whatever the reason, this tendency makes it necessary for me to exercise faith more often than I might otherwise.  My husband rightly says, “Fear and faith cannot reside in the same space.”  I choose to be a person of faith and so constantly work to remove the “fear factor” from my life.

My life verse is Philippians 4:6-7. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (NKJV)In many situations of life, I have had to say these verses to myself in order to get my mind off the situation that would cause me to be fearful or to worry.  More than anything, I know that I need the peace of God to guard my heart and my mind. If I allow myself to focus on negative possibilities, fear gains the upper hand.  If I focus on God and His unfailing provision, the negative emotions disappear. I have learned that focus is a choice.

Not only has my life verse (and many other scriptures) helped me conquer my fears, but my preference in reading material includes examples of those who have learned to focus on the positive.

Victor Frankl was a Jewish Viennese psychiatrist who recorded his experiences as a concentration camp inmate in his 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning. In his observation of other inmates, he discovered “those with a why to live could live with almost any how.” He also concluded that once a man lost his faith in the future, he was doomed.

No one can argue that the horrors of a concentration camp can devastate a person both physically and emotionally.  But, as evidenced in the story of Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy, how you react to those circumstances is up to you. Corrie’s book The Hiding Place tells how she and Betsy chose to focus on Jesus and eternal blessings rather than the horrendous situation in which they found themselves.  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 [focus on these things] (Philippians 4:8 NKJV).  With your focus on Jesus, you can birth a ministry even among the most terrible circumstances.

The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer is based on Proverbs 9:10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (NKJV). Reading this book helped me understand that when we fear God (have an awesome reverence for Him), we need fear nothing else.

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith helped me to see the sovereignty of God in a new light.  Focus on God and He will direct your life (Proverbs 3:5-6).

In Tozer’s book, The Next Chapter After Last, he states “Doctors are becoming increasingly aware of the deadly effects of  the burden of the imponderables; they are learning that if they would do the patient any permanent good they must minister to the mind as well as to the body.” Many illnesses are caused by or made worse by worry.   Scripture states that as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7).  Worry can make you sick.

Jesus knew that man had this tendency toward worry. He supplies the remedy in his Sermon on the Mount. One of the bullet points in this sermon starts with Matthew 6:19 and ends in verse 34. Jesus tells us that our perspective determines our loyalty.  Are we focused on the material and the immediate or are we focused on Heaven? An eternal perspective makes all the difference.

At first glance of verses 19-21 where Jesus tells us not to lay up treasures on earth, but in heaven, we might conclude that Jesus is telling us that we should not accumulate material things.  He had no place to call home himself and had few possessions.  However, we must always remember to take scripture in context and see the big picture.  Abraham, David, Solomon, Job and others were blessed with great wealth by God. He made the world and all that is in it for us to enjoy.  The key is verse 21, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Your heart determines your perspective.

Do you love God more than the things He provides? If everything in your life was removed, would you still trust Him? Is God enough? When you believe that life is more than food (Matthew 6:25), then your perspective is directed away from the concerns of the temporal.

Worry is mentioned five times in this passage (Matthew 6:19-34). In many other passages, God makes it clear that we should not worry. Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (1Peter 5:7 NAS).

My only consolation about my tendency for fear or worry is the Bible says I am in good company.  David said, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3 NKJV).  God repeatedly told Joshua to “be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1). At one point, the faith of the apostle Peter was so strong that he was able to walk on water. He discovered something important that day. When he took his eyes off the Lord and focused on the wind around him, he became afraid and began to sink. See Matthew 14:25-31.

Like Peter, you can choose to focus on the wind of fear and circumstance or Jesus.  I choose to focus on Jesus. I pray that you do as well.

© Stephanie B. Blake

July 2009

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