Focus On Self

A clever and extremely effective strategy of the enemy is tempting us to keep focus on one’s self- our own problems, struggles, physical ailments, insecurities, shortcomings and failures.  When our thoughts are with these circumstances, they are not with God.  “You’re such a hypocrite; you can’t be of any help to anybody else.”  “You need to fix yourself before you can even think of a life of prayer and helping others.”  “Who do you think you are?”  These are the lies and accusations we hear in our head as our attention is turned toward our circumstances.   The name Satan translates to “Accuser.”

☩☩☩

In my last year working with homeless youth, I experienced one of those nights that had such an impact on me that it left a permanent imprint on my life.  I took a call from a guy and his girlfriend who needed to get into a shelter for the night.  It was late and very rainy, and I was ready for bed.  Rarely did I need to physically respond to hotline calls as most situations could be handled over the phone.  But this call required my going out.  Frustration started to set in as the couple was late meeting me at the agreed-upon rendezvous point even after giving them more than enough time to walk there.  Here I was focusing on myself, as God was most likely chuckling at me knowing the whole while exactly what He was doing, and what His purpose was for this evening.  Right before I decided to forget it and head back home to bed, they showed up.  After dropping the young lady off at the women’s shelter, I had some time alone with this young man on the way to the men’s shelter.  During our conversation, he told me, “I’ve read the Satanic Bible.  Most people think it’s about worshiping the devil.  But it’s not.  It’s all about the worship of self.”  That last phrase has never left me.  That’s why God took me out of the house that night- not just to give a couple of homeless youth a ride to a shelter, but to impress upon me a truth in such a way that would always stay with me, with the visual imprint of a rainy night, a tattooed and pierced young man, and a quiet car ride to a homeless shelter when I would rather have been sleeping.  Merely reading those words in print or hearing them from some speaker may very well have been easily forgotten.  But not so with God’s method.  He knows best how to help you remember something.  And to think that I almost missed it by focusing more on my own frustration than what God may have been up to that night.

☩☩☩

We grow through adversity, yet it is in this state when we tend to be our most selfish.  The enemy scores a huge victory when our minds are set on what is not going well or how we have messed something up.  We operate in a mode of scarcity when we focus on the obstacles at our feet [head down], instead of operating in a mode of abundance through focusing on the beautiful mountain ahead of us [head up], which represents the power of God and what He is able to do.  This is where the deep understanding of the mind as written in Romans 8:1-8 and Colossians 3:1-17 comes in, and why these two passages should be memorized, ingested and assimilated into the core of our being.  You see this daily, the pervasive weak-minded focus on what I can’t do, or how awful my circumstances are.  Rarely do you witness the strength-minded focus on the almighty power of God, what He is capable of, what He has done, and what He wants to do.  The Bible is filled with unqualified people doing supernatural things because their focus is on the Creator of the universe, and not their circumstances and shortcomings.  It’s difficult to even imagine the apostle Paul expending vast amounts of energy making excuses why he could not minister due to the trauma he no doubt experienced from shipwreck and floggings.  What if he was always thinking about his past and what heinous things he inflicted upon Jesus’ followers?  What if he had allowed himself to be paralyzed by focusing on all the negatives in his life?  Lord knows he would not have been nearly as effective as he was.  He did not dwell on what he couldn’t do, but chose to set his mind upon God Himself and what He could empower him to do.  Do we really believe that Yahweh created all of the galaxies, yet my situation is beyond His abilities?  Or beyond His care?

 

☩☩☩

Our Master Teacher was no doubt focused on His heavenly Father every moment of His life.  No matter who or how many turned away from Him and would not follow, He kept moving forward on His Daddy’s mission for which He had a clear vision.  Jesus Christ Himself did not have a 100% success rate in ministry and evangelism.  He did not sulk in wondering why those who did not believe Him chose the path of this world.  “Oh if only I had said this.  Maybe I should have taken a different approach with that rich young ruler and not offended him.  Maybe I’m not cut out for this sort of vocation.”  Even while being tortured to death He was conversing with God.  His very asking of why God had forsaken Him shows He was thinking of…Him!  And He prayed for those killing Him.  Here I sit and fret over wondering if someone thinks well of me.  Pathetic.

 

☩☩☩

It should also be understood that the enemy will just as well push us to focus on good things more than God Himself.  Ironically, one of the great hindrances to an intimate relationship with God, can be service to God.  Again, as long as I am concentrating on my work for God, I am not necessarily thinking about Him.  This can be subtle.  It may take the form of talking about and planning on doing good things, because as long as we are talking about doing good things, we are not doing them.  “Jesus went around doing good”, Dr. Luke tells us in Acts 10:38.  This, of course, flowed out of His constant abiding in the Father.  Good things being more important to us than God Himself can also take the form of Bible study for the sake of study and not transformation of the heart.  Study is an important spiritual discipline, seeing we are commanded to love God with all our mind, but as long as I only remain on picking apart the meaning of a word, I am not living it.  As Thomas á Kempis appropriately said, “I would rather feel contrition than know its definition.”

 

☩☩☩

What a brilliant temptation, to inflict us where we are all so easily prone to stumble- thinking about ourselves too much.  The enemy is more powerful than us, and very smart.  After all, he’s an angel, with millennia of experience.  But remember, that makes him the opposite of Gabriel, not God.  So, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, we have access to much more power, the enemy’s creator.  But on our own we will fail.  Every time.  By partnering with other Christ followers, focusing on our heavenly Father and wielding the power of the Holy Spirit, we can win.  Every time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *