Summary: Your focus will determine your reality.
Wired for Worship: Focus
Pastor Mark Batterson
This evotional continues the Wired for Worship series. If you want to subscribe to the Theaterchurch.com podcast, there is a podcast link on the Theaterchurch.com homepage. It’s free and it’s automatically downloaded onto your computer or MP3 player each week.
If you want to watch this week’s video, check out my blog entry (www.evotional.com) from Friday, September 23. Let’s just say that I got a nice surprise—a deep dish Lou Malnatti’s pizza delivered to my door!
This week I read about a fascinating research study done by Vicki Medvec, a professor at Northwestern University. She studied Olympic medalists and she discovered that Bronze medalists were happier than Silver medalists. Here’s why. Medvec found that Silver medalists tended to focus on how close they came to winning gold so they weren’t satisfied with silver. Bronze medalists tended to focus on how close they came to not winning a medal at all so they were just happy to be on the medal stand at all.
I think that study reveals a fascinating facet of human nature: your focus determines your reality. How we feel isn’t determined by objective circumstances. If that was the case, Silver Medalists would be happier than Bronze medalists because they had an objectively better result. But how we feel isn’t determined by our objective circumstances. How we feel is determined by our subjective focus.
Here’s another way of saying it: your internal attitudes are more important than your external circumstances.
John Milton said it best: “The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a Heaven out of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”
That’s so true isn’t it? All of us know people who can find something good to focus on even in the worst of circumstances. And all of us know someone who can find something bad to focus on even in the best of circumstances.
There is a universal principle I need to share with you right out of the gate: we tend to see what we’re looking for. I think there are two basic types of people in the world: complainers and worshippers. Complainers can always find something to complain about. Worshippers can always find something to praise God about.
Please read what I’m about to write.
All of us develop hypotheses about everything all the time. Then we look for evidence to support our hypotheses and ignore evidence to the contrary.
For example, if you decide you don’t like someone you’ll notice everything that is wrong with that person. And you’ll probably ignore anything you could potentially like about them. The flipside is true as well. If you’re head-over-heels in love with someone you tend to only notice those things you love about them.
We see what we’re looking for.
What does that have to do with worship? A worshipper makes a pre-decision to look for something to praise God about even in the direst of circumstances.
Acts 16 is exhibit A.
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are in a prison cell in Philippi. I’d encourage you to read the entire chapter yourself, but let me set the scene. Paul casts a demon out of a fortune-teller. Her master doesn’t like it because she loses the ability to predict the future so he has Paul and Silas arrested.
Acts 16:22 says, “A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So he took no chances but put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.”
I think we read a story like this and it’s almost tough to put ourselves in their shoes. I’ve had bad days before, but nothing like this. As a kid, my mom used to read me a book titled Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. This is Paul and Silas and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
If I’m Paul or Silas I’m emotionally and physically and spiritually spent. I’m drained to the last drop. I’ve got nothing left to give.
Their backs are bleeding from their beating. They are black and blue all over. And they had to be ticked off. I’ve never had a mob form against me, but I’m guessing that’ll set you off emotionally. And to top it off they land in the maximum security cell in stocks!
It just doesn’t get much worse than that. And that’s why this next verse is so amazing to me. Acts 16:25 says, “Around midnight, Paul and Silas were complaining about their circumstances.”
That’s not what it says.
It says, “Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.”