Summary: This message is about how our enemy desires for us to lose our focus on our heavenly Father by focusing on what is happening to us individually leading to our failure.
Facing Opposition Clearly Under Stress
Scriptures: Rom. 8:5-9; 12:1-2; 1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Chr. 34:23-28; 35:20-24
The title of my message this morning is FOCUS: Facing Opposition Clearly Under Stress. If you take nothing else from this message remember this: when we lose our focus we can negate the blessings and promises of God for our lives. God will never override our will and sometimes what we choose to do conflicts with what He is doing in our lives. When that happens, our personal will (if acted upon) trumps His promises. Please remember that!
We often here of the importance of having focus. We tell our kids that if they focus more on their homework they will make better grades. We tell ourselves that if we focus on this or that then we will eventually get better at it. Focus is defined as a “concentrated effort or attention on a particular thing” so whatever you give your attention to is what you are focusing on – good of bad! For example, if you are playing a team sport, you must concentrate on what you’re supposed to be doing as part of the team. Each person has a role to play and together with everyone focusing on their specific roles the team can win. When individuals on a team lose their focus and does not pay attention to what they are supposed to be doing, it hurts the team.
Now think of this from a spiritual perspective. Do you know that our walk with Christ requires focus? Paul wrote the following to the Church in Rome, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:5-9) He also said in chapter twelve, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2) Paul makes it clear that when we accept Christ we have to “focus” on something different. We have to renew our minds to a different way of thinking because our enemy desires that we remain the same and continue to think the same way. Why? Because that is his only hope! He has been stripped of his power when Christ rose from the dead so the power that he exercises in this world comes from what people give him and make no mistake about it, he is a very powerful enemy with a very powerful force supporting him! Because we are facing a powerful enemy, we can only experience victory on this side when we are focused on what we are to be doing versus getting sidetracked by our enemy. Remember Peter said “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Now let me give you a real world example of how when we lose focus we can lose our victory. For those of you football fans you will understand this as some of you may have even watched this game.
In the first round of the 2016 NFL playoffs, the Cincinnati Bengals’ loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. You had two teams that some believed were evenly matched. But in reality, Cincinnati was the superior team, except at the quarterback position. If you looked at their rosters, position by position and then the depth in those positions, Cincinnati – on paper – was the more talented team hands down. When you listened to the analysts and play-by-play announcers, there was no doubt in their minds who was the better team. They talked about Cincinnati’s receivers, tight ends, running backs, etc. and the speed at those positions and the overall team depth. Cincinnati would win this game even with a backup quarterback. Pittsburgh also knew Cincinnati was the better team and they had a plan.
Cincinnati had two players on defense who played with a great deal of “passion and aggressiveness.” Translation: their emotions would cause them to become reckless and make poor decisions at some point in the game. One player was a young linebacker with a “fuse so short” he could burst into flames if, for example, he felt an opponent’s blocking was illegal and no flag is thrown. Pittsburgh knew that. The other player was a seasoned veteran who played cornerback. Before joining the team, his life was spiraling out of control because of poor off the field decisions. Pittsburgh knew that too. So here you have two very good defensive players who were game changers because of their focus and skills in playing their position. Notice I said they were game changers because of their “focus and skills in playing their position.” Pittsburg knew this.