Serving Christ – The Miracle of Focus in our Commitment
When it comes to serving Christ, Paul gives us a great scripture revealing his commitment to Jesus, free from the distractions of his past, and focused on one goal going forward:
"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead" (Philippians 3:13).
How many times have you heard it said, or perhaps said it yourself, "There just isn't enough time to get everything done that I have committed myself to do?" Or perhaps this has escaped your lips at some point, "I have so many things to do I just don't know where to start!" I guess people have always been busy, but it seems in our culture and society everything is going at the speed of light. These statements are not just being uttered by those in secular work, but perhaps even more so by those working in areas of ministry. Have you ever wondered if the early church would have been different if Paul had written, "These twelve things I do…?"
What is it that Paul meant when he penned these words? It would appear obvious that Paul had more than one thing going on in his life at a time. He had established several churches, was writing letters to them regularly, was preaching almost every day either in a synagogue, in someone's home, or just out on the street. Sometimes he would teach well into the night, and on at least one occasion had a man fall asleep at midnight and fall out of the window. Don't forget that Paul also was a tent-maker by trade and had to work that in at some point. So you get the picture; Paul was a busy man. How could he then say, "This one thing I do"?
Serving Christ – The Key is Focus
When serving Christ, James 1:8 tells us that "he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." I understand the context of this verse is different than that of our specific topic, but I think the principle is the same. I believe the issue is one of focus, not activity. Paul may have had much activity in his life, but his focus was sharp. He knew who he was, what he was called to do, who called him, and what he must do each day to fulfill this calling.
For many years now, my wife and I have had a part-time professional photography business. As a photographer, I know that regardless of how good the equipment I own, how fast the film I shoot, or how good the lab that prints the image, if my focus is not sharp, the end result will be disappointing. With all the many things happening while trying to shoot a wedding, if I allow myself to become double minded (concerned about other things) and do not do what must be done to get the image in focus, I will be a failure as a photographer. This same principle is true when it comes to being an effective servant of God. The key is focus!
The Bible definitely teaches us that there are certain things all believers are instructed to do while serving Christ. These are general instructions to be carried out by all in the family of God. For example, we are all to be hospitable (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9), we are all to show love one to another (John 13:35), and we are all to be witnesses as we are going into the world (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8). There are many other examples, but you understand the point. Along with these, every believer is gifted by the Holy Spirit with a mix of spiritual gifts. These are given as the Spirit wills and are special abilities given by the Spirit for the purpose of reaching the lost or ministering to the Body of Christ, often referred to as evangelism, edification, or education. In addition there are certain callings into specific ministries, and when this occurs the Spirit will always spiritually enable the one called to accomplish the task. The point is this; not every believer is called to the same ministry, and is therefore not equipped by the Spirit to be successful in that area of ministry. With this understanding, we need to see how this can, and often does, affect our focus.
Serving Christ – Freedom from Distractions
Suppose you are serving Christ in a small church. You want to be involved in the work of the church and offer your services to the pastor or to the board in charge of such things. You may or may not be aware that you have a special spiritual gift to teach children, but all the teaching positions are filled. What the church really needs is a part-time church secretary, and it looks like the hours will work with your schedule. You take the position; after all, someone has to do it. Later the need arises for a person to take over the weekly Seniors outing. O.K…Sure, why not? They are looking for new choir members; warm bodies are welcome! And how about getting involved with the new homeless shelter outreach ministry. And so on it goes. Now each of these activities is good. But the fact remains that now you have at least four responsibilities you may not be gifted for, and the area of ministry for which you are gifted is neglected. The possibility is that there may be someone teaching the children's Sunday school that would really enjoy being secretary, or perhaps loves working with older adults. But after all, someone has to teach the children, right?
Now, consider the average pastor of a smaller church. He is the entire paid staff, and many times he has to be bi-vocational to survive. He has the calling and the gifts of a pastor-teacher. But along with the responsibility of being a pastor he also gets to be the church administrator, program organizer, committee participator, and choir director. At any given time during the week, where do you think his focus may be? He may get to spend a few hours each week ministering in the area of his gifts and calling. The rest of the time he is double minded, not necessarily distracted by things of the world, but by things in the church! He is out of focus, and the results of his efforts will likely be fuzzy.
Serving Christ – Know Who You Are in Christ
Like Paul, we all need to know who we are in Christ before we start serving Christ. We need to know what we are called and gifted to do, consider who it is that has called us, and understand what we must do each day to fulfill our calling. Somehow each of us must realize that while there is much to do for God, individually we are not called to do it all. We have each been gifted to accomplish that which God has ordained for us.
What is it that Christ has called you to do in service to Him and to His Church? What special spiritual gifts have you been given in order to accomplish that calling? How many "good" activities are you involved in that are outside your calling? In other words, are you focused? Do you know who you are, do you know what you are called to do, do you know who called you, and do you know what you must do each day to be successful in fulfilling your call? Most mature Christians are committed to serving God, and that is good. But far too many of these committed Christians are out of focus. If we are going to be free to serve God, we must be free from distractions, even the distractions of worthwhile endeavors. We must achieve The Miracle of Focus in Our Commitment. Only then will be able to say with Paul, "This one thing I do…"
Rendered with permission from the booklet, Free to Serve God: 7 Principles Every Believer Should Know, by James O. Jones, Jr. (Light of Life Ministry, revised printing 2009). Compliments of James O. Jones, Jr., and Light of Life Ministry. All rights reserved in the original.
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