Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kingdom Focus, Perseverance

Another rare commodity among the followers of Jesus today is the F word, spelled F.O.C.U.S. Every one seems to be chasing the latest fad in town. We are more keen to run around seeking the so-called latest revelations than to be content and focussed in one's call and vocation. We need men and women who are focussed in their pursuit of God and the establishment of His Kingdom on this earth. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you -Proverbs 4:25(ESV). However, the culture of the day seems to encourage a diffusion of focus and intent. Billboards and all forms of entertainment and advertisement are intent upon grabbing every consumer's attention and we wonder why the children of this generation seems to have a short attention span.

The remarkable life of an African American named George Washington Carver would help us to appreciate how valuable possessing "focus" and "perseverance" is to one's life and the surrounding communities. Most of us would agree that "peanuts" are rather insignificant and would pay little attention to the same. It would be unthinkable to be imagining someone spending hours and days to research and discover the possibilities of something as insignificant as peanut. But, here's George Washington Carver, who discovered 300 uses for the peanut and the vine and skin when he worked in the laboratory for 6 days and 6 nights (which he claimed that God was with him in the laboratory) amongst his many findings. This is a classic example of "focus" in action. An African American, who defied the negative social circumstances of his day and putting in effort and focus into his pursuit for the betterment of mankind.

We have crossed the halfway mark of the first quarter of this new year 2011. Perhaps, many have written down new year resolutions early this year and it is sad to note that very few ever see the fulfilment of what they have written each year. Somewhere along the way, we tend to lose the focus and enthusiasm we possessed during the early part of the year. It would not be incorrect to state that the lack of focus and perseverance seems to be a common disease that infects the entire human race.

Mark Virkler, the founder of Communion with God Ministries shared his secret of how he learned the art of hearing the voice of God. He decided to set aside an entire year - just to read and learn all he can about hearing the voice of God. Mark’s hunger and a focussed intent to hear God’s voice was rewarded when God gave him a breakthrough. The books "How to Hear God's Voice" and "Dialogue With God" are the fruit of the year-long pursuit. God has given him a commission to saturate the world with the message of communion with God and Mark has traveled worldwide since 1984 teaching the Communion With God weekend seminar. There's no doubt every Christian longs to hear God's voice but not many were focussed in their intent and only a few persevered in the journey of learning from the Master.

I recall another God's servant, Bill Johnson, who decided to spend an entire year to practice the art of thanksgiving. The Scriptures exhorts us to give thanks in all circumstances and Bill decided to do just that for the whole year. Whatever calamity or storms that he faced that year were greeted by thanksgiving. I believe at the end of the year, there was definitely a marked change in his spiritual life and a breakthrough secured. This is another example of a man who displayed focus and perseverance in his Christian journey. Perhaps, it would be a justified challenge to us to set aside this year for what God has laid in our hearts (with a focussed intent coupled with perseverance) and witness remarkable breakthroughs in our lives come December 2011.

One of the secrets of the life of a man after God's heart is his "one thing" in life. Psalm 27:4 - One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple. The love and devotion of David towards the God he adored touched the heart of the Most High God. No, perhaps God is not too impressed with our shallow, weekly devotion we offer to him by church attendance. It's not even the prayers we offer to Him in our free time. For David, it was his "one thing". His focus in life was summarized in the aforesaid verse. It was not just a nice lip-service but that was what defined the heart of the man after God's heart!

There have been a couple of blog entries on Elisha recently. The condition given by Elijah for Elisha to inherit the double portion anointing was that if Elisha could see Elijah being taken up, he would receive it. Interestingly, we would imagine Elisha opening wide his eyes every day since then and never at any point strayed from looking unto Elijah - which may sound ludicrous to us. However, the spiritual significance we can glean from this account is that Elisha's pursuit was from then onwards marked by an enormous dose of focus and perseverance. In other words, it was a single-eyed and single-hearted pursuit and devotion. In order for Elisha to only keep his sight on Elijah, he had to turn his eyes away from every other thing. That is an important key for our lives too in our pursuit of God and His destiny for us. In fact, the many exploits of the Apostle Paul can also be traced to his single-eyed devotion in his walk and pursuit of God. We read that the Apostle Paul himself revealed one of his secrets when he said "...but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" in Philippians 3:13-14. In these precarious times that we are living today, we are to keep our eyes away from each and every distraction and be focussed and persevere in our walk with the Lord. For us to be focussed in what the Lord lays in our heart, we have to lose focus on everything else. Wandering eyes and a wandering heart would cause us to stumble and fall.

A practical way to keep our focus is to learn from the prayers of the psalmist when he prayed, "Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things..." (Psalms 119:37a)and in Psalms 86:11 - "Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name." As faced by the majority of Christians today, the psalmist was keenly aware that his heart seemed to be running in every direction but God and He needed divine help and inspiration to have a "united" heart to fear Jehovah God. Another version of the prayer is to ask God for "an undivided heart". These are the sincere prayers and cries that each believer should likewise cry unto the Lord. As it is the Holy Spirit who deposited a deep desire and hunger in our hearts to do great exploits in the Kingdom of God, our part is also to co-operate with the Holy Spirit to maintaining a focussed pursuit. But if we do not see our hearts as divided, we will not cry to Him in desperation. May the Spirit of truth so shine in our darkened hearts and minds that we may cry unto the Lord unceasingly for an undivided heart. Sadly, many in the last days will be deceived into thinking all is well with them.

May the Lord speak to our hearts and inspire us to greater heights and deeper depths with Him as we keep looking unto Him in the days to come. Oh God, unite our hearts to fear your Name!
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