Summary: This sermon teaches us how to stay focused in the midst of challenges.

Do you have trouble staying focused when challenges raise their ugly head? This is true of individuals! This is true of churches! This is true of marriages! This is true of businesses!

Joke: I heard about a bride who was nervous before her wedding. It was time for the wedding and she wasn’t sure if she could walk down the aisle. Her father gave her some words of wisdom. He said to her. “I want to share three things upon which you can focus in order to get you through this challenge. The first is walking down the aisle. Just focus on walking down the aisle of the church. I know it’s rather long, but just concentrate on the aisle. Don’t get caught up with those on either side of the aisle. Just focus on getting to the end of the aisle. Next, focus on the altar. It is your destination today. Make your way down the aisle to the altar. There you will stand before God with the man you love and will make vows to God and him. Focus on the altar for it represents God’s gift for you in this marriage. Lastly, focus on the hymn that is to be sung.” The father instructed her to focus on those three things: the AISLE, the ALTAR, and listening to the HYMN. The bride was very thankful to her dad for his words of wisdom. As she walked down the aisle her father saw a look of calm on her face. However, as she passed her father he began to chuckle quietly along with the rest of the audience. In order to help her keep her focus and remain calm she repeated the names of the objects upon which she was to focus. She was heard repeating: “Aisle, Altar, Hymn… Aisle, Altar, Hymn… Aisle, Altar, Hymn.” She was focused!

Staying focused in the midst of challenges is important. Business leaders recognize the importance of this principle. I have a book in my office that appeared on the #1 list as printed by the New York Times. The title of the book is “The Power of Focus.”

Married couples recognize the need for focus. One of the leading causes of divorce is financial issues. What happens is that couples take their eyes off of their marriage and focus on money issues. Also, couples sometimes fail to focus on maintaining their marriage and they grow apart.

Athletes recognize the importance of focus. Sometimes athletes focus on selfish pursuits instead of team pursuits and the team falls apart. Sometimes athletes have to focus on playing through the pain.

One parent defined challenges in this way. You can tell what challenges we are facing when you check out the bookshelf at our home. We’ve got James Dobson’s entire library: “Dare to Discipline”, “The Strong Willed Child”; “Parenting Isn’t for Cowards.” , “How to Make Your Kids Mind, Without Losing Yours”. We’re trying to be good parents for our boys, and what we’re discovering is that there are some challenges for which we were unprepared.

(1) There is no such thing as child proofing your home.

(2) Baseballs make marks on the ceiling.

(3) You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on.

(4) The glass in windows, even double pane ones, is not strong enough to stop a baseball that has been hit by a ceiling fan

(5) When you hear the toilet flush and the words “Uh-oh”, it’s already too late.

(6) If you use a waterbed as home plate while wearing baseball shoes, it does not leak – it explodes.

(7) A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 square foot house 4 inches deep.

(Contributed to Sermon Central by Matthew Sullivan )

Our text for today is found in Acts 16. Paul is called to go to the region of Macedonia (vs. 9-10). After arriving in Macedonia Paul goes to the city of Philippi and discovers a group of women who are seeking after God (vs. 13). While there he encounters a slave girl who is inhabited by an evil spirit (vs. 16). Paul expels the evil spirit from the girl (vs. 18). The slave girl’s owners were disturbed that Paul had interfered with their livelihood by helping the slave girl. The slave owners cause an uprising in the city which results in Paul and Silas being thrown into prison (vs. 19-24). This is one among many challenges which Paul faced over the course of his ministry. In this chapter we see some of the secrets which helped Paul stay focused in the midst of challenges. Notice three secrets of staying focused in the midst of challenges.

1. Stay focused on God’s will. Notice verse 9 and 10. “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (NKJV)

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