One of the things I love about the apostle Paul is his singular focus.
Paul preached the gospel across the Roman empire, personally led many to Christ, planted and then gave continuing care to churches in multiple cities, discipled young converts, mentored future ministry leaders, and so much more. But he didn’t allow the greatness of his responsibilities keep him from the singularity of a focus on Christ.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 3:13–14
Our theme at Lancaster Baptist Church this year is two words from the verses above: “Reaching Forth.”
To consistently reach forward, however, we must have clarity of focus. Notice that Paul didn’t say, “These many things I do,” but “This one thing I do.” He didn’t allow his activity for Christ to distract him from his focus on Christ.Don’t allow your activity for Christ to distract you from your focus on Christ. Click To Tweet
How do we gain and maintain this kind of clarity of focus?
Whether you are looking to strengthen your personal focus on Christ or your church-wide focus and ministry steps, Hebrews 12 shows us the way:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.—Hebrews 12:1–3
1. A Clear Focus
To maintain a Christ-ward focus, we have to set aside specific distractions.
Hebrews 12, using the analogy of a runner in a race, calls these distractions “every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.”
We cannot focus on Christ if we insist on carrying the baggage of unrepentant sin or anything that habitually turns our focus from Jesus onto ourselves. These weights may be our holding on to a wrong that was done to us, or they may be an activity or thought pattern that steals our Christ-ward momentum.
Whether it is a sin or a weight, if the Holy Spirit has convicted you of it, lay it aside. It is the only way you will be able to focus on Christ.We cannot focus on Christ if we insist on carrying the baggage of anything that habitually turns our focus toward ourselves. Click To Tweet
2. A Personal Focus
I love the phrase in Hebrews 12, “Looking unto Jesus.” Although there are others we look to for example or spiritual direction, there is only One who is worthy of our complete focus.Although there are others we look to for example or spiritual direction, there is only One who is worthy of our complete focus. Click To Tweet
The word looking in this passage mans “to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something.”
Do you “look to Jesus” as a sideward glance in your peripheral vision, or do you gaze upon Him? Do you glance occasionally, or do you fix your focus on Christ the way a runner looks to the finish line of his race?
Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the one who purchased our redemption and made us His own. He intercedes for us at the right hand of the throne of God. He is our everything.
If our focus is not on Christ, our forward spiritual momentum will be lacking. We’ll be spiritually distracted and easily dissatisfied even with things of God. But when our focus is on Christ, our spirits will be settled and our hearts satisfied.
3. A Contemplative Focus
Hebrews 12 not only tells us where to look, but it tells us how to do it: “Consider Him.”
Looking to Jesus is not done in the few moments of resolve while reading a blog post such as this one. It is done in the ongoing moments that fill our days as we meditate on Christ. It is done as we read God’s Word and discover Jesus throughout its pages. It is done, as is specifically mentioned in this passage, as we consider Christ’s suffering and learn from His endurance.
This kind of contemplative focus, as we meditate on Christ, renews our minds and keeps all suffering in perspective. It is in this way that the gospel is our motivation.
If our focus is on ourselves, everything else is out of focus. And this self-centered focus will eventually shrink our capacity for deeper relationships, gratitude, and a meaningful life.If our focus is on ourselves, everything else is out of focus. Click To Tweet
But when our focus is on Christ, God renews our minds, refuels our hope, and satisfies us with Himself.