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A matter of focus

Don’t start looking at the wind and falling for its bluff

A matter of focus

(Krieg Barrie)

Uh-oh, Barbara is backing out of her driveway again. I have nice neighbors, but they can’t drive. The couple’s asphalt strip runs parallel to ours, divided by a narrow flower bed end-capped with a decorative outcropping of rocks enshrining petunias. My husband has watched her do the maneuver. She turns her head 120 degrees to the rear and slowly, slowly, inches back and focuses on the rocks so as not to hit them—and then hits them.

Sometimes it is best not to focus so hard on the peril you wish to avoid.

They say that when you’re driving at night, if the oncoming car has its blinding high beams on, you should not be drawn to gaze at them but keep your eyes on your lane ahead. “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left …” (Proverbs 4:25-27). Who would have thought the Bible had driving tips?

We already knew this, of course, from Peter of walking-on-water fame. “Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me’” (Matthew 14:29-30). The apostle was doing great. Why did he start looking at the wind and falling for its bluff? For that is often the great downfall in noble human enterprises—regarding the bluff and according to it the dignity of too much attention.

God tells us what to focus on, for our best interests.

As in water-walking so in farming and church-planting and other risk-worthy kingdom enterprises: “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4). There are no 100 percent guarantees for any particular venture, but that’s where faith comes in. We must act. And there is this promise: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14). Even, somehow, in our apparent failures.

Job declares while scraping scabs with potsherds, “For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me” (Job 3:25; literally, “I fear a fear and it comes upon me”). Is Job making a merely banal point about the interesting coincidence that his fitful daydreams of doom have actually came to pass? Or are we hearing Job’s epiphany that the very fears he entertained—by virtue of his very unwise entertaining of them—were given breath and sinews and sprang to life?

Focus, and the artful directing of focus, can be used in a cynical way to steer a whole populace. No one in America used to be preoccupied with race 24/7. Sometimes we thought about other things—like eating eggplant Parmesan, or shopping for shoelaces. Now race is on the front page of the papers daily. Repeatedly saying, “Don’t think about pink elephants,” is the best way to get someone to think about pink elephants.

God tells us what to focus on, for our best interests. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). “Whatever is true … honorable … worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

Once there was a prophet’s timid sidekick who focused on a menacing ring of enemy warriors and chariots encircling the town of Dothan where he and the prophet were staying. “And the servant said, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ He said, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17).

The man merely needed a little refocus.

Email aseupeterson@wng.org

Comments

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  • DWayne
    Posted: Sun, 07/10/2016 01:24 pm

    Thank you so much. That's got to be one of the best sermonettes I've ever been blessed to enjoy. Each point made is quickly connected with God's word, and the counsel given finds its mark in my heart. Though my heart has grown weary ... perhaps even jaundiced of late ... you have carefully used Scripture to nudge me to a renewed vision of the mountains full of horses and chariots of fire. Thanks again, and may God bless you richly.

  •  mizpahlady's picture
    mizpahlady
    Posted: Sun, 07/10/2016 03:18 pm

    Oh thank you, Andre' for a well-focused article.   We need to speak the Gospel to ourselves daily as Jerry Bridges used to say.    We get drawn into the morass of talking heads instead of looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.