I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives. I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
-Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 (NIV)
We can learn a lot from Solomon's mistakes. The king like so many of us pursued multiple unrelated goals in a vain attempt to satisfy himself. I believe that like me, so many Christians have found themselves at some point pursuing something we want, but don't know to get.
By the time Solomon wrote these words he had reached a high level of success, but still felt empty. He couldn't put his finger on why fulfillment continued to escape him. Because he lacked focus, he searched, experimented with all kinds of goals, yet never achieved satisfaction. Like so many Christians he attempted to solve an inward problem with an outward solution.
There is a saying that is always true...if you chase two rabbits, both will escape. This was certainly true of Solomon's futile attempts to reach his various goals. Just in Ecclesiastes 2 alone, he pursued eight separate goals.
Clearly there was a focus problem...
Here is four things I want you to know about FOCUS.
1. Pursuing the wrong goals will always lead to the wrong outcome. The only goal in life we should be pursuing is loving God more. The fruit we bear will be a result of our pursuit of loving God more, not in our accomplishments. Our joy will be made complete in loving God more. Our joy will never be complete in pursuing the wrong goals. Anything less than loving God is simply joy trying to pursue joy...which will always lead to us to being even more incomplete.
2. Pursuing self-serving goals will always lead you to create a separation between what God wants for you and what you want. Pursuing what you want verses what God wants will always create a void in experiencing God. Here is the question you have to ask yourself...Am I dictating my will to God...claiming, hoping and justifying it to be Gods will, or am I letting God really direct my life to what he wants? What if God kept you where you are at because he knew that something big...his will was about to happen to you? This happened with Solomon's father King David when David wanted to build God a temple. God said, "not right now because your Son is going to build it instead but you will be blessed because of it." That son was Solomon the product of a sin that David had yet to commit, when he asked God if he could build a temple. God knew what was in store for David before David ever did. But because David stayed still and continue to pursue God instead of pursuing what he wanted for God he was blessed in spite of his sins.
3. Your focus should never be about what you want, but rather what God wants for you. So many Christians make the mistake of leaving what God wants for them to pursue what they want for themselves. The irony of this mistake is they use "leaving to pursue God more" as the reason to leave where God has them. Don't be so quick to leave where God has you because you think the grass is greener on the other side. Remember the only reason why it seems greener is because it's over a septic system.
4. Trying to pursue too many things at once will always lead you to failing at all of them. This mistake is easy to make in Christian ministry. We so desperately want people to know Jesus (That is the good thing), that we begin every little project we can do to try and reach people in the name of Jesus. Then we get burned out because our plate is way to full to effectively reach anybody. Jesus plate was never full. He encountered and reached exactly who God had intended him to reach...as HE pursued God. Notice Jesus didn't pursue people. He always pursued God and the people came to him. The word disciple doesn't mean pursued but rather it means a follower. Our job is to live a life so pursuing God that in our life others can learn the same thing.
At the end of the day our FOCUS should be 100% on the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not about what God is doing at another church, or through another Christian but rather the kingdom of God is always about what God is doing in you and through you. Only when you realize this will your focus become clear and your path to growing with God become stronger.
Do you ever like your walk with God is stagnant? Maybe it feels like you have lost sight of the passion you once had. Sometimes it feels like you have lost sight of God and quite frankly that he has lost sight of you. There is a story in Haggai about some builders who had lost sight. They had left their original purpose to construct the temple and instead went to work on their own houses and businesses.
I had once worked for a "Christian" business. I remember one day walking in and talking with the owner of the business. He could understand why God was allowing certain things to happen to his business. He kept saying over and over again, that the business was Christian. He just couldn't figure it out. So often in life this story plays out in our lives.
Here is what happened in the business I used to work for and what happens to so many Christians...
When you forget the ultimate, you become enslaved to the immediate.
The Christian business owner was so focused on the immediate that in the process he forget the ultimate, which was God. He would forgo the tithe to use to support the immediate needs of the business. He found himself enslaved to the immediate playing the "I'll make it up to God" game. Sound familiar???
In the story of Haggai four things happened to the builders when they abandoned their highest priority for the immediate priority.
1. Abandoning their highest priority for their immediate priority caused them to compromise their faith by contradicting their faith with the actions. The two didn't line up. They became hypocritical. I see this play out in church all the time. People want to experience God more, but when they loose focus of the ultimate priority for the immediate one, it plays out like this...I am not growing here...I am not feeling the passion any more...I no longer feel called here...Excuses begin to rack up as to why they shouldn't be there. This is not right, the music isn't what I wanted it to be, the preaching isn't as good as someone else, my friends are going someplace else....it becomes excuses after excuses. In Haggai's time it was that my house needed to worked on instead of God's house. The builders were called to build the temple, not their houses.
2. They worked hard but saw few results. So often it feels like we labor in vein for the Lord. Consider what the Lord told the builders who lost sight of the ultimate for the immediate.
"You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes"
If this doesn't sound like most Christians lives today I don't know what does. We work hard but in the wrong ways. So often we are hard at working on ourselves for ourselves to be and look better to others. We work hard but wonder why we don't see the results. I want a deeper more fulfilling relationship with God but instead of focusing on that relationship, I focus on the relationships with my friends, my family, my co-workers. After all they are the ones that are judging me, so which is why I need to work hard on myself. I need to look, act, talk, walk, believe, feel, attend in certain ways to fit in. All of this is labor and work for what? To put your earnings both monetary and metaphorically into a pocket with holes. We get so focused on the immediate that are blinded by the immediate for the ultimate. Which intern causes us to labor in vein.
3. They spent much but received little in return. The builders spent countless hours focusing on their houses and really themselves. They received little in return. When you focus on God, God focuses on you. When your too busy focusing on yourself, God is trying to get your attention to focus on him.
4. They felt dissatisfied in their production. I know many a volunteer that has served in church and ended up leaving because they felt dissatisfied. I know many a Christian that has worked so hard on their life and felt empty and dissatisfied with relationships, with their marriage, with their family, with their jobs...really with their life. They find themselves dwelling on the past and wondering what if. What if I had done this or done that. When you begin to feel dissatisfied be it at church or in life...the question has to be asked what are you focusing on...you or God? God the ultimate will never leave you dissatisfied. You...the immediate will. Here's the thing about focusing on the ultimate...IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU! It's always about God's glory. The production on the temple was for his glory. The production of the builders house was for theirs. The thing about personal glory...it always fades and leaves a desire for more.
When you fail to maintain proper priorities, disappointment always results. Remember the 80/20 principle.. With the right priorities, 20% of your effort will yield 80% of your results. But with the wrong priorities, 80% of your effort will get you only 20% of your desired results. It is not about working harder but smarter. It is about always staying focused on the ultimate and not the immediate.
I had a boss once tell me that he had been to the mountain top and back and that he knew the road to the top...all the while his business struggled. So I always questioned, if you know the way why aren't you on the right road then? And heres the thing...I think this is what happens to us. We saw this happen to King Soloman the wisest man that ever lived. He had been to the mountain top and knew the way but towards the end of his life he some how got off the right path .So what was it that caused him to steer off course?
The temptations that enticed Solomon continue to attack every leader. Once we "arrive," it becomes easy to stop feeling hungry for growth and excellence. How quickly we become satisifed...and how soon we begin to spiral downward.
Here is the process to recognize:
1. Distractions: Solomon deviated from his call to lead and be the light to the nations. He became distracted by possessions and his 1000 wifes. What in your life is currently distracting you from your calling?
2. Adversaries: God raised up adversaries to steer him back to his priorities and call. Sometimes in lfe God will bring a Goliath in your path. The point is not to deter you but to enhance you.
3. Self-absorption: Solomon became consumed with his himself rather his call. So often we mix up our call for ourselves. We become self consumed because we think our calling is about us when in reality it about God. The difference is that self-absorption is pride.
4. Loss of God's presence: God withdrew his anonting. Yes you can loose your anonting!
5. Pursuit of pleasure: Solomon became even more obsessed with his own pleasure. God wanted a battleship life for him, He wanted a cruise ship life. One is prepared for war for God and the other is ....well....the other. When God calls you he is not calling you to a cruiseship life. Satan tempted Jesus with having a cruiseship life, when clearly God called him to a battleship life. Battleships IMPACT, Cruiseships....cruise! Which are you on?
6. Emptiness: Solomon finally grew weary of his pursuits and recognized his emptiness. Have you ever felt empty...like the world no longer mattered? This is the final step to a decayed Christian life.
The process of decay is a stealthy process. You don't realize whats been done until it's too late. If you find yourself at any point in this process....REPENT and seek God with new heart focused on him.
A leader's relationship with God shapes his perspective. King David's dynamic and intimate relationship with God shaped his perspectives on life. He was the King of Israel and knew that he wasn't alone in life. He rejoiced that he could draw upon God's infinite wisdom...that he could never out run God...that he could count on God's power whenever he NEEDED IT. The King and Leader of Israel had a leader himself...GOD!
This is what I find happens in so many people's lives...they believe God exists but not for them in the everyday sense. They believe but their perspective about God is jacked up. Majority of the time...shame is what shapes our perspective about God...not the relationship with God.
Here are 6 points to help you strengthen your relationship with God and change your perspective about God.
1. God knows our every thought, every word, every move. There is nothing you can think, say, or do that God isn't already aware of...and here's the deal...we believe that because we have certain thoughts, or say certain things, or act a certain way that God has some how stopped loving us. We literally believe that we somehow have the power to cancel out the act of LOVE that God did by sending his son to die on the cross. We believe that somehow our shame we feel because of our thoughts, words and actions...disqualify us from the redeeming power of the cross. When in fact, we are the very reason for the cross.
2. God directs us no matter where we go. God is ALWAYS WITH YOU! He never leaves you! It is amazing to me about how quick we are to think that God has somehow abandoned us when we screw up. I fight this thought everyday...because I screw up everyday! The thought I have to always fight is that because I screwed up God has stopped loving me and that he is no longer with me. Here is something to keep in mind...if God is only with us when we are "GOOD" then the focus becomes always about us and what we do...and not GOD and what HE DID! Do you think any father that loved the world so much to send his son on the cross to die really wants all the focus to be about you and what your able to do....or....about his act of LOVE! God is always with you...when it seems like he isn't, the problem isn't that he left you...it's that you LEFT HIM!
3. God knows hopeless or helpless situations. Your life is not hopeless or helpless or without purpose. You don't randomly exist! There will be...guaranteed....times in your life where you feel hopeless and helpless and it seems like the whole world is caving in on you. Can I tell you...that majority of the time...you are the one that caused the situations in your life to happen. If your marriage is on the rocks...God didn't cause it! If your broke...God didn't cause it...stupid spending habits did! However, regardless of the cause... God is there and can use a hopeless, helpless situation to bring Glory to himself through you. You face nothing in life alone unless YOU CHOOSE TOO!
4. God formed every complex detail of our bodies, minds, and spirits. You were created. Period. You didn't evolve over time and certainly aren't you because random luck. Every detail about who you are serves a purpose in this life, and that purpose will always bring Glory to God to show that he can use anybody no matter their difference.
5. God constantly thinks of us and is concerned with the details of our lives. The reason God cares about the details of your life is because you are part of the details of his life and his plan. You matter. You are part of the large picture and the small picture. You may not feel like God care about you, but feelings are like a roller coaster. One day your feeling good, the other bad. Your feelings can change a moments notice. God is not concerned with your feelings, he cares about your joy. He wants you to have joy centered on him, not centered on your circumstances. Often times your circumstances you created are used by him to bring you closer to him...it just seems like it takes forever because our first reaction is to RUN FROM AND BLAME HIM...why, because it...It's much harder to blame ourselves and then turn to him.
6. God searches our hearts and purifies our motives. Have you ever done something that started out for the purpose of helping yourself but then it turned in to helping someone else and you found joy in that? Amazing how that happens.The only motive God demands from you is love. He looks for opportunities in our lives that can be used for our benefit, for us to experience true love. The more we experience true love the more we experience God.
FOCENSITY? What is it...A made up word...kind of. I have a friend of mine who makes commercials and in one of the commercials for a bar, one of the bar tenders jokes about his FOCENSITY being 111%. While in the background, he is ignoring all the activities of the customers trying to get his attention at the bar. So what does FOCENSITY have to do with anything....the answer is simple...EVERYTHING!
As you start this new year with your list of resolutions..,if you were to pinpoint the one reason why you still have the same resolutions from last year and the year before...my guess the one reason would be that you lost your FOCENSITY.
It is amazing how in life what is in front us keeps our attention. Since the reason for not following thru with resolutions boils down to losing your focus...what do you have to do to keep you focus?
The Apostle Paul openly communicated his priorites. He talked about them all the time, and the accomplishments and glory from the past he counted as rubbish. Now that word Rubbish...in the orginial lanugage is SKUBALA. The real translation of that world is S#@!.. Garbage... Crap...the point is... it counted for nothing moving forward. Paul wanted to know Christ, experience his power, share in and complete his suffering, and ultimtely be conformed to his death. This was his RESOLUTION! He wasn't trying to loose weight, gain more stuff, payoff debt, focus more on himself or anything else. His RESOLUTION was to know and experince Christ in completeness. Paul was a man on a mission, and he narrowed his wedge and his focus to the essentials. He was successfull by all accounts. So what was his secret that we can learn to apply to our FOCENSITY?
There were three things that helped the Apostle Paul keep his FOCENSITY...
1. HE DISCERNED WHAT HINDERED HIM! Paul had to let go of all the things he once cherished, considering them distractions. He basically added more MARGIN to his life. MARGIN is the space between our load in life and our limits in life. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for continegncies and unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion...the space between breathing freely and suffocating.
2. HE DISCOVERD WHAT HE WANTED! Paul wanted God's righteousness, not his own. Christ became his solitary pursuit. One the biggest obstacles to focus is truly deciding what you want. When you really know what you want, when something else comes along, it won't grab your attention. If really really want to lose weight and get in shape the donut shouldn't be able to take me away from that resolution.
3. HE DETERMINED HOW TO GET IT! With single-minded PASSION, Paul forgot the past and pursued the prize of his call. You have have plan and then work your plan. It is not enough to simply want...As my mom used to say people in hell want ice water but they don't always get it! Every house that is ever built starts with a set of blue-prints. The end is determined first, which determines where to start. Until you have a blue print for your resolution you won't be successfull because you won't have a starting point, and definitely not an ending point.
How about you? Have you narrowed your FOCENSITY? Can you list your priorities on one hand? What are you pursuing?