This week we are focusing in on the ONE THING that really matters – the ONLY THING in life that really counts – Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. But if you are anything like me, although I desire to focus consistently in this direction, my eyes, ears and heart often wander elsewhere and I end up ‘off kilter’, ‘off centre’ and ‘off balance’. Hey, I am not just talking about focusing on ungodly things or fixing my attention on the wealth or the worries of this world. My focus sure can shift to these things in a heartbeat if I am not on guard. My main problem is my tendency to fix my gaze on things that should remain in my peripheral vision – you know, the ‘good things’ like relationships and doctrines that potentially have more power to distract me from the ONE THING. What is your main distraction at the moment?
How can I train myself not to pay unnecessary attention to the millions of distractions around me – the good and the bad things? How did Beth’s focus on Jesus become sharper as the suffering went on and on for her? As much as I am repelled by the idea, perhaps the secret of whole-hearted, single-minded focus on Jesus Christ does lie within the realms of suffering. This passage from Hebrews 12 that comes off the tail of the ‘Great Hall of Faith’ in chapter 11 seems to suggest it does…
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
I have just experienced something incredible that I will never forget. Along with my family, I got to visit and explore the ruins of the Colosseum and Circus Maximus in Rome. It seems from what we can piece together from history, both these massive stadiums were places where believers in Jesus Christ were tortured and executed for their faith. I have often wondered how I would react if called upon to give my body to the flames or be torn open by a wild animal for the sake of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Scary thought indeed.
When the writer to the Hebrew Christians penned this passage, was the image of the Colosseum where gladiator battles and ‘entertaining executions’ took place what he had in mind? Perhaps he was trying to convey the thought that although a large crowd at the Circus Maximus may jeer at them and laugh at their ‘race of death’, a FAR larger crowd above was cheering them on and waiting to welcome them Home!
How on earth did these brothers and sisters I have not yet met face horrific death with such courage? How were they able to stand the torture, the great suffering, pain and shame? Could it be that when it came down to it, everything else faded away in the light of Christ and that He filled them with victorious strength to endure? This is what many of the tales we possess of the martyrs seem to shout out to us! These ordinary men and women were so focused on the ONE THING that mattered – they were fixed on Jesus Christ the supreme being of the universe who had them covered in the palm of His hand. They were single minded and focused on all that mattered– all other things had faded away and their hope was in Him and the Eternal Kingdom awaiting them! Exceeding joy was ahead!
Living in the world as we do, we may never be called to give our bodies in martyrdom. Yet all believers in Christ are all called to give up everything – our bodies included – for the sake of the ONE THING.
Remember Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20… “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I that lives but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave his life as a ransom for me.”
Dear friends, the trade is worth it all. EVERYTHING ELSE for THE ONE THING! If we get this ONE THING right, then everything else follows. What a liberating and simple truth! When life gets out of balance and peace eludes us, let us encourage each other to BE Focused on the ONE THING. “One thing, one thing I ask of you, one thing, one thing I seek. To see you in your beauty Lord, to seek you in your temple Lord!” (King David – Psalm 27)
A word from Bethany to inspire you:
Talking about ‘things’ this week, listen to a part of Bethany’s conversation with her dad back in June 2010…
“There are so many things I take for granted. Like drinking water and swallowing it without it going into my lungs. Like using my hands to do things – it is so much harder with one hand. Like me being able to get up and go and join in on things when I want to. It is the simple things that we don’t often think about that we take for granted.”
With so many ‘things’ taken away from Beth, we are so very grateful that she discovered and was possessed by the ONE THING that matters most!
Songs to encourage you:
Psalm 27 by Sons of Korah
(This amazing psalm has been set to music in four different sections – each of them beautiful and powerful!)
One Thing Remains by Jesus Culture
A book to build you up:
Jesus Freaks by dc Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs