Summary: To live pleasing to the Lord one must have the right focus or priorities in one's daily walk. Christ must be that priority. He alone must be our focus.
Having The Right Focus in the New Year
As we face the end of one year and the start of a new year, it would be good to evaluate what our desires are for the coming year. What are the priorities that we have or will establish for ourselves in this coming year?
E.M. Gray spent his life searching for the one trait all successful people share. His essay entitled "The Common Denominator of Success" revealed successful people's common characteristic was not hard work, good luck, or astute human relations, although these traits were important. The one factor that seemed to transcend all the rest was the habit of putting first things first. He observed, "The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don't like to do. They don't like doing them either, necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose."
German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe grasped the importance of priorities. He said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
Priority has as its root the word, prior. It is that which comes before anything else, or is ahead of anything else. It takes precedence. As John MacArthur says, “It is then what is supreme, what is essential, what is foundational, what is preeminent, what is antecedent to everything that follows. So when you talk about priority, you're really saying what in my life comes before anything else? What is before anything else and everything else? (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/42-145/the-christians-priori, Copyright 2007, Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission).
Therefore, the question remains what am I going to make as the focus or priority of my life? Christ told us in Matthew 6:33 to “... seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness...” Will your priorities be eternal or based on the temporal things of this world?
I. The Wrong Focus -Focusing on or making material matters the priority in life.
A. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus tells us that we cannot have a divided allegiance. This just doesn’t work. Christ points this out saying, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Mammon – a Semitic word for money).
B. After saying this, Christ, then, addresses the result of placing the material as the priority of one’s life instead of Christ. Four times He speaks of the anxiety and worry that results from not focusing on Christ in verses 25, 27, 31, and 34.
C. Worry and/or anxiety is the natural result when our hopes and focus are centered in anything short of God and his will for us.
D. Crystal McDowell - Distraction is the nemesis of focus. We are constantly tempted to pull away from a consistent focus on Christ. As a result, we often find ourselves being tossed to and fro by the concerns of life.
E. When our focus is taken off Christ, we move Christ off the throne of our hearts and make idols of things we desire and ultimately make idols of ourselves.
F. When asked, “what is an idol?”, John Piper replied, “Well, it is the thing. It is the thing loved or the person loved more than God, wanted more than God, desired more than God, treasured more than God, enjoyed more than God. It could be a girlfriend. It could be good grades. It could be the approval of other people. It could be success in business. It could be sexual stimulation. It could be a hobby or a musical group that you are following or a sport or your immaculate yard. I was looking for some yard stuff the other day and I clicked on a video ad for a yard service and three people came on and all of them made the point that this yard service enabled them to brag that they had the best yard in the neighborhood. I thought: What a motivation? I want to be number one in green grass. So that could be an idol. Or your own looks could be an idol. It could be anything.” – What is Idolatry, John Piper © Desiring God Foundation. Source: desiringGod.org
G. We need to realize that the heart is bent on keeping the focus on self and what we want or desire rather than Christ or His will. We find ourselves placing our trust in self and what we want rather than in Christ and what He wants.
H. Psalm 146:3 “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.”
I. Matthew 6:25, 27 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?... And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”