Summary: As long as we are in the midst of our journey in this world, we are subject to distractions. How do we maintain our focus?
1 Jn. 2:15-17 & Phil. 3:1-14
A young woman is taking her final exam. She’s excited and relieved because the teacher asked the right questions and she really knows the answers. But part way through the test she looks out the window and sees her boyfriend chatting with another girl – a popular, good-looking girl. She can’t help but keep an eye on him. Before she knows it, the class time is up and she has not finished her test. She lost her focus. A young man is driving home from college for the holidays. He becomes engaged in a prolonged, exciting cell phone conversation with his girlfriend. He can’t stop talking to her – after all she’s saying things that excite him. Suddenly he careens off the road and crashes. He lost his focus.
Each of us, like Christian, is on the journey of a lifetime. As long as we are in the midst of our journey in this world, we are subject to distractions – temptations, the lure of human pleasure, and ridicule for following the straight and narrow path. With all the distractions life throws at us, how do we maintain our focus? The scene from Pilgrim’s Progress depicted it graphically. So John, in 1 Jn. 2:15 ff. wrote: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him. For everything in the world …comes not from the Father but from the world… BUT IF YOU DO THE WILL OF GOD, YOU WILL LIVE FOREVER.” We are not to love or focus on the ‘world,’ the system of life opposed to God. As Evangelist said, “The people there are enemies of the truth and will try hard to put you to death. It is a place of murder, falseness, cruelty, and deceit. Beware – no good is there.”(1) In order to help us maintain our focus, so we can pass the exam of life and stay on the road to heavenly blessing, we must surrender our wills. But just what does ‘surrender mean?”
We discover, first, that to surrender is to ADOPT A SOBERING ATTITUDE. John knew that when we fall into the world’s trap of sensuous, self-serving living, we, in fact, live out of control – subject to both what others say is good and wonderful and to what we feel. We are slaves of others and our passions. WE ARE POWERLESS TO DIRECT OUR LIVES. Listen to Paul’s description of the results of living out of control: (Gal. 5:19-21): “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Paul also said, however, that we can combat this because WE CAN SURRENDER TO A POWERFUL SPIRIT OF POWERLESSNESS. Surrender begins when we admit we are helpless. Surrender begins when we recognize that we cannot fight the battle alone and win. Surrender begins when we admit, before God, that in ourselves we do not have what it takes to survive the journey. Surrender begins when we admit our need for, and dependency on Jesus Christ. Consider Paul – he had been the master persecutor and murderer of Christians, all in the name of his Jewish religion. He was in charge and in control. Then He met Jesus who appeared in a brilliant light. He was blinded for three days. By the time God gave him further instructions, Paul was ready to listen. Why? He had a sense of his own helplessness. As he later wrote the church in Philippi: (Phil. 3: 4f. NLT): “I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless … I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage…”
Until we recognize and confess our total helplessness and powerlessness, we will never be able to do the will of God and rise above the world. As that classic hymn states, “Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling…” Have you faced up to your powerlessness lately? Or are you still convinced that life is what you make it and want it to be?