By Gary D. Erickson
The eight-millimeter movie camera was a new innovation when I was a child. My mom and dad purchased one of those modern marvels, and it became a family ritual to make home movies at every family gathering. My mother appointed herself the official photographer and was as aggressive as the paparazzi. At impromptu moments she would interrupt the visiting with a picture-taking session by lighting up four bright 600-watt bulbs. The blinding hot lights would invoke moans of disapproval and send people scurrying about, hiding their faces to avoid another rude intrusion into their holiday fun and capturing forever their physical imperfections. After so many years, I am glad for my mother’s dogged pursuit of our family heritage.
Before she became skillful at her new hobby, many of the home movies were annoying to watch jerky camera, whiteouts, double exposures, and low lighting. One of the major problems was poor focus. When the camera was not focused properly, everything was fuzzy and blurred. She learned quickly that getting the focus right was an important function for producing good home movies. Life must have focus. If we lose our focus in life, things can become like those fuzzy home movies filled with ambiguities and stymied pursuits.
Life has a way of distracting us from our goals and leading us into unplanned detours. Keeping the focus is a constant vigil. Every individual has been given a mission by the Lord to use his or her talents and abilities for His kingdom (Ecclesiastes 9:11; I Corinthians 12:28; Romans 12:1-8; Ephesians 4:11).
Through prayer and self-evaluation we should all strive to form a vision of what God wants with us. George Barna, in his book, The Power of Vision, defines vision as “foresight with insight based on hindsight.” He also offered a more formal definition: “A clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God to His chosen servants and is based upon an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances.” As we pursue our vision, it must stay focused. A fuzzy perspective is not vision. A multitude of things can distract us from our vision, will blur our focus, and cause us to be deterred from our goals. Trying to do too many things to perfection will cause us to achieve at nothing. The following distractions may challenge us.
Michael Jordan, who some think is the best basketball player of all time, evaluated his success in these words: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” The fear of failure can be overcome by realizing that sometimes we will fail. But, it is not the end. We can always try again. We can overcome the fear of being misunderstood by accepting the fact that from time to time we will be.
Nevertheless, we will prove our integrity in the long run. We can overcome criticism by realizing our goals are more important than the critic’s opinion of us. We have a wonderful promise that God will help us overcome fear: “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). Paul gave us an excellent promise: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7).
- Our Past
The past is gone, frozen in time and cannot be changed. Yet we spend much time preoccupied with regretful thoughts. I could have, should have, or would have becomes our mantra as we replay the vivid memories of failure. Brooding over our past failures will blur our vision for the future. Paul had some skeletons in his closet; nevertheless, he insisted upon having clear vision: “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 3:1314).
Adjusting the focus of life’s lens will eliminate the bad memories of our past.
Past mistakes, however, can be a great source of knowledge. A successful businessman was asked by a reporter, “Sir, what is the secret of your success?” He responded, “Right choices.” To that he asked, “How do you make right choices?” He responded, “Experience!” The reporter then asked, “How do you get experience?” The businessman tersely responded, “Wrong decisions!”
It is great to dream-as long as we do not sleep too long! Ultimately, analyzing and evaluating must come to an end and we have to just do it! Some people’s goals are like a carrot on a stick their vision dangles just out of reach and never comes to fruition. Jesus warned us about losing focus by just not counting the cost:
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he has sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, this man began to build, and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:28-30). Laziness can always find excuses not to work. “The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets” (Proverbs 22:13). Loosing our focus with complacency is like having faith but no works. James warned that this accomplishes nothing (James 2:14-17).
Achieving our goals can be hard work. The human body and mind can only stay intensely energized for limited periods of time. Rest is that essential pause that gives us time to reflect on our progress and restore our energies. Jesus felt it necessary to get away from the crowd in order to be restored. ‘And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23). When we are exhausted, our vision cannot remain focused. It is time to rest and be restored. Learning to pace ourselves so that we do not become burned out is an important factor in achieving our goals.
- Short term mentality
One man prayed, “God give me patience, and I want it right now!” Instant gratification is the philosophy of our times. Having to wait for anything is considered to be cruel and unusual punishment. People in our society think that they should have everything and have it now! Nevertheless, some things take time and hard work. Finding our mission and fulfilling it requires persistence and patience. Paul said it well: “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:16-18). Persistence is a virtue with promise: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Jesus came into the world with a mission. It was not a pleasant one, but an important one.
When circumstance interfered with His goals, He resisted with determination. Knowing that the end was near, He set His face like a flint toward Jerusalem, where He would die for the sins of the world. The night before His execution He fell on His face in prayer, sweating profusely in agonizing decision. He was determined to fulfill His mission. There is so much to be done in the kingdom of God. Pastors are begging for Sunday school teachers, youth workers, witnessing teams, maintenance workers, home Bible study teachers, and many others.
There is no lack of opportunity only a lack of Christian people who will find their mission in life, capture a vision, and keep the focus.
‘George Barna, the Power of Vision, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regal Books, 2003).
This article “Keeping Focus” was taken from “Sunday Morning Reflections” by Gary D. Erickson.