Faithful Focusing Strategy #1
If you're taking on God's purposes, He will provide the power.
Picture yourself as a vibrant young seventeen-year-old.
You're looking forward to all that life has to offer. It's summer, a great time to be alive, swimming and hanging out with your friends. One hot July day as the sun is setting you dive into the murky waters of Chesapeake Bay. As your body courses through the depths your head strikes something hard and unyielding. Suddenly, in a moment, everything changes. Seconds later you're lying limp, face down on the bottom with a broken vertebrae. For the next two years you will be sequestered in a hospital, one year of which will be spent in a geriatric ward. Your only means of transport will be a wheelchair. The term paraplegic hasn't fully sunk in because this was never supposed to happen. The onset of depression only compounds your agony.
How would you handle a tragedy like this? Where would God show up in your thinking? If this tragedy happened to you, could you possibly foresee an agreeable future, never mind a meaningful purpose for your life? These are tough questions if you have never experienced this type of situation.
Joni Eareckson Tada had plenty of time to reflect on these questions. She was the teenager who suffered the pain of that life-changing accident and still does today, thirty-seven years later. However, her depression has long since gone, replaced by a thirst for God and a passion to help others facing similar chal-lenges. Remarkably, her heart today is overflowing with gratitude.
Joni's transition to faith was slow. On searching the Bible she realized that God hates suffering. In the course of her rehab she discovered a talent for painting. Of course, compared to almost every other artist in the world there was one little difficulty—she couldn't hold a paintbrush! Undaunted, she developed the skill of mouth painting, gripping the end of the brush between her teeth, slowly applying the strokes to her canvas. Now her paintings hang in galleries in major centers like New York. It takes six months to a year to complete one piece of art. 'I want to paint slowly but give the impression that the work was done quickly,' she says.
But that's not all. Joni's talent and drive to live every day on purpose for God knows no bounds. She has written numerous books, has her own radio program broadcast weekly through more than 1,000 outlets, and she's a disability advocate recog-nized at the presidential level. Joni was appointed to the National Council on Disability when the Americans with Disabilities Act became law.
Her company, Joni and Friends, has four flagship programs serving thousands of people around the world. Her awards and accolades are too numerous to list here. Simply put, she is on fire for God and has found a purpose through him that allows her to live abundantly, despite the daily trials of pain and the need for others to feed and clothe her.
Joni's attitude is inspiring. 'I'd rather be in this wheelchair with God than walking without him,' she says. 'Suffering is God's way of waking us out of our spiritual slumber—like a splash of cold water. The weaker I was in the wheelchair the more I had to lean on God, and the stronger he became for me.
A wheelchair can be a passport to joy. I look forward to heaven because I'll have my hands back!'
Maybe you're thinking right now. 'I could never do what Joni did; she's one of a kind.' But that's the good news—we're all one of a kind, unique in our own way. You'll learn, as we start our journey together in this book, that seeking God is directly linked to finding purpose and fulfillment. God has a plan, and you're part of it. Our purpose is to give you some practical guidance and direction to help you clarify what lies on the road ahead.
when life knocks you
to your knees,
You're In A Good Position To Pray
A key component underlying the ten focusing strategies in this book is called the Faithful Life Quadrant (FLQ). There are two stages. The first is designed to sharpen your knowledge and awareness. The initial step toward any improvement in your life is awareness. For example, if you wish to have a higher level of fitness you might start by consulting an experienced personal trainer, or by taking a course on nutrition. Gaining more knowledge increases your understanding so you can make better decisions.
To create a life of faithful focus requires that you first become more knowledgeable about God, yourself, the most important people around you and your life purpose.
The second stage is all about love—learning to love God, loving and respecting yourself, loving others (especially those closest to you), and loving your purpose. When you move from knowing to loving in all areas of the quadrant, you will truly experience the power of faithful focus.
Take a moment and consider how you feel about each part of the FLQ:
• Is God merely a concept, or a person with whom
you are really in touch?
• Is your self-knowledge superficial or substantial—
have you moved beyond clichés to real self-respect?
• Are you living free from anger, enjoying a variety
of healthy relationships?
• Do you have a specific sense of purpose and at
least the start of a personal plan?
As you allow the FLQ to awaken your heart and mind toward God and your future, we want you to know that Jesus Christ himself is the tangible truth for which all thoughtful people are longing. Jesus is the model of a life of love.
He loved his Heavenly Father, he had a humble and confident view of himself, he gave himself in his life and death for others, and he fully understood his purpose.
With Christ's love radiating from the center and embracing the four most important areas of your life, you are blessed beyond measure.
The Faithful Life
Having God in your life is the most important relationship you can have. He is your infinite and intimate Heavenly Father, and He's longing for a close, personal relationship. Through Jesus Christ we discover that the Lord did not come 'to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.' (John 3:17) How do you do this? There are lots of ways. Bible study, prayer, courses, books, inspirational music, mentors and your church pastor are all great sources. Meaningful movies and documentaries can also help. Better still, talk to Him every day. Tell Him your concerns. Ask for guidance and the discipline to know Him better. Make time with God a daily habit—schedule it in your planner so you won't miss the opportunity. You schedule other appointments throughout your day, from business meetings and family functions to sporting events, so why wouldn't you schedule specific time to rendezvous with God?
I like to connect first thing in the morning, just in case my day goes off course later. I enjoy this quiet time with God before the phones start ringing and I become immersed in my latest project. Being grounded in faith each day gives me strength, and at the same time keeps me humble.
Here's a great way to give your marriage a boost. Schedule time with your partner each evening to talk to God together and enjoy a few moments of inspirational reading from the Bible or another great book. I guarantee you will be refreshed. You will resolve conflicts and more easily feel closer to each other. Think about this: in the presence of the Lord, who said to his Father, 'not my will, but yourwill be done,' how could you possibly say to your spouse, 'my way or the highway?'
You might be thinking that you know yourself pretty well because you hear your own voice more than you hear the voice of anyone else. On the other hand, you may be saying, 'What do you mean? Is this some philosophy class where I stare in a mirror or follow some self-help guru's idea for instant enlightenment?' Not at all. We want to help you get beyond the surface noise in your head, or perhaps really think about your life for the first time.
Really knowing yourself requires a much deeper level of understanding. It means knowing what you value, knowing your philosophy, character, level of integrity and self-esteem. It involves your deeply ingrained belief systems, your strengths and weaknesses, and your attitude about life. Are you clear about who you are and what you stand for? What do you enjoy doing the most? What type of work inspires you and gets your adrenaline pumping?
Life is really all about relationships. When you pause to think about it, what are the truly enduring and enriching aspects of your life? Bank accounts don't bring happiness. Power is fleeting. Even sexual pleasure is temporary. It is authentic marriages, friendships and professional connections that really fulfill us. Who are the most important people in your life right now? Consider your immediate and extended family, friends, colleagues at work, business clients, and customers. How much time do you spend with these people? For most, especially if you work full time, the answer is not enough.
Have you noticed that we are losing the art of face-to-face communication? We interact electronically more than ever before, and the trend is growing. Clipped, bullet-point phrases have replaced the art of flowing speech and heartfelt expression. Church attendance is declining, especially among young families. For many people the race for wealth and material success is all-consuming. As a result we have fractured families, high stress and little time to connect with each other, never mind have fun. We've forgotten how to play!
In the chapters ahead you'll learn how to strengthen your relationships and have a lot more time for you and your loved ones.
Knowing Your Purpose
A lot has been written lately about purpose and meaning. Rick Warren's runaway bestseller, The Purpose-Driven Life, is proof that millions of people want something more than their present drifting.
The dictionary has a wide variety of words to describe purpose. These include a guiding principle, the root source, driving force, your vision and ultimate aim. When you resolve to live God's purpose through you and surrender to it completely, you can anticipate feelings of joy, enthusiasm and happiness.
How do you find your purpose? It's connected to your God-given talents, the ones that have been instilled in you since birth. Part of life's puzzle is uncovering these talents.
Some people know what these are from an early age, even in childhood. Others may take half a lifetime or more to
discover them. Are your gifts in service to others, making money, creating unique products, teaching or parenting? Maybe you'll touch the world with your creative talent in music, painting or per-forming. What's most important is to know that God has a purpose for your life. When you truly believe this, it inspires confidence and trust. The Faithful Life Quadrant will help you define your specific purpose.
I used to feel a little guilty about being an entrepreneur and growing my business. I often asked myself, 'Is it wrong to focus on becoming strong financially?' Then I'd ponder if I was supposed to be in mission work overseas. But with a young family and all the normal restrictions— education, buying a home, paying the bills—I didn't feel called to volunteer abroad.
Over the years I've come to realize that the best service I can provide is teaching others, particularly people of influence in business, how to live a faithful, focused life. This is my true gift. If financial strength occurs for my clients, and for me, it creates more opportunities to tithe and support people whose talent is not around money. They in turn are free to serve God in other ways, including missions.
Here are two areas that need God's help: our families and worthy organizations that are struggling.Your family needs real attention. Take moments for quiet reflection—and exuberant recreation! Make time for mean-ingful discussion instead of fleeting commentary, like ships passing in the night. Create a statement of purpose that resonates with who you are and allows you to fully express your God-given gifts. Set aside time to really contemplate this; preferably take a day or two away in solitude with a pen and notepad. Few people follow through on this. You be different! The rewards are enormous. When you know your purpose, decision-making becomes simpler and your focus sharper. You'll experience a deep sense of fulfillment the more aligned you become with God's plan for your life.
Sadly, many small charities, community groups and churches are struggling these days, even though they are served by good people with great intentions. The reality is that financial support is critical not only to their growth, but to their sur-vival. People in business need to step up and contribute more so that overworked staff can live their purpose and focus on what they do best. Being office administrators through the week and gearing up for the 'money pitch' at every meeting is simply not a good use of their time. Are you doing all you can to help? As you grow closer to God and God's purpose for you, your place in contributing to the community will become clearer.
Make sure you complete the Action Steps at the end of the chapter. They will help crystallize everything for you.
The Faithful Life
Your awareness will evolve into greater love as you seek God through Christ and sincerely desire to honor Him and to serve others. Notice how your growing awareness becomes intense affection, which in turn will lead to practical action.
Love, according to Francis Schaeffer, is 'the mark of the Christian.' 'God is love.' (I John 4:8) This simple confir-mation is the bedrock for faithful living. Jesus proclaimed that, 'God loved the world so much that he gave his only son Jesus Christ, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.' (John 3:16, NLT)
If you have a son or daughter—your own flesh and blood—would you make that same sacrifice? The enormity of this is staggering. God's love knows no bounds, and all he is asking from you is to return the favor by loving him and others. (Matthew 22:37–40)
To be faithful in loving God requires the highest form of devotion, allegiance, unswerving loyalty and dedication to Him, steadfast and true. Is your love for God dependable and unwavering? True faith requires this high standard. Moses spelled this out clearly: 'The Lord your God requires you to fear him, to live according to his will, to love and worship him with all your heart and soul.' (Deuteronomy 10:12–13)
The next question is, 'How are you demonstrating your love for God?' Just follow his instructions. Jesus said to the people who believed in him, 'You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.' (John 8:31–32)
There are three things that will endure—faith,hope and love—and the greatestof these is love.
—1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)
The Bible is clear. Study it. Start with Christ's call to love God and others as your core values. Then embrace the other key components of the Faithful Life Quadrant, and you will learn a new life of love.
Recently a couple came to me for counseling. They were tense. Money was tight, schedules chaotic and Christ was only thought about briefly on Sunday. I showed them a simple graphic of the Faithful Life Quadrant and asked if they prayed together. They seemed almost offended by the question. I then asked them to join hands and pray a blessing for each other. No preaching at each other—just words of blessing. In thirty seconds they were in tears.
The presence of God was strong. They immediately apologized for their attitudes. I saw the couple two weeks later and they were radiant. The wife said that her husband was a new man! By choosing to love God together they were able to attack the other issues as a team, instead of as adversaries.
Some well-meaning religious people turn God's invitation for a wonderful relationship into a list of duties. Yes, disci-pline is required if you wish to live life with God's approval. However, Christ invites us to delight, not just duty.
Let love be your highest goal.
—1 Corinthians 14:1 (NLT)
To love God means that you want your life to be a thank-you to Him for all he has done for you in Christ. This is not a duty. The creator of the universe and savior of the world really wants to be close to you. Take time every day to reflect on how much God loves you. You are a child of the King, a friend of Christ, and worthy of our Lord's suffering.
This isn't an opportunity to boost an unhealthy ego or to become vain, narcissistic or full of pride. God will punish those people in due course. Loving yourself means having a core belief that you are important to God and that your life is meaningful, not to be wasted. When you truly believe this, it strengthens your resolve to overcome any obstacle that gets in your way. Healthy self-respect emerges from our secure relationship with Christ and from growing appreciation of the uniqueness of our personalities and gifts that have been given to us by God.
Ephesians 1:3–14 is the greatest passage on affirmation in all of Scripture. The terms St. Paul uses to describe believers are staggering. These words apply to everyone who loves Christ, not just a few super-talented people! Read this passage slowly, pondering the terms: chosen, adopted, beloved, redeemed (liberated), knowledge of God's will, included in Christ, sealed by the Spirit—we are infinitely loved and impor-tant to God. How encouraging! God's view of us is not a fantasy, but a faithful delight in who we really are—his masterpiece, created for something special. (Ephesians 2:8–10)
What's important is how you respond to each situation. Consider your life as a series of challenges, with God watching to see how you handle each hurdle. He's testing your resolve, your attitude, your commitment, so you can strengthen your character. Remember Job?
How do you practically strengthen your self-love without going too far? How do you avoid the pitfalls of vanity and arrogance? You do this by receiving God's love for you, his unconditional and unlimited affirmation, and releasing it to others, especially those who cannot return the favor.
Feel good that you are a child of God with a thinking mind that can do amazing things. You are privileged to be the crown of his creation, made to be a steward of his wonderful world. (Psalm 8) You have the ability to create, to love, to serve and to make a difference in this world. You are not a rat or a frog! Maybe being a dolphin would be fun for a day, but even dolphins cannot write poetry, build a skyscraper or bring the gospel to a distant land.
Every day remind yourself of the supreme advantage God has given you. Never underestimate his support and power. Seek Him first when you get stuck.
Dr. David Eckman is a typical pastor.
Well-educated and warm-hearted, he has helped hundreds of church members grow spiritually. Being spiritually mature and emotionally sensitive, he discovered that just knowing theol-ogy was not enough to meet the real needs of the human heart. For the past fifteen years he has confronted the deep hurts and needs of others and brought biblical truth to healing and free-dom. As founder of Becoming What God Intended Ministries, today he and his team are serving thousands of people. Here's a summary of one of his key themes:
'It's important to understand the connection between loving God and loving self. So many people find it hard to love God the Father because their own fathers and mothers were abusive or neglectful. The key to healing is to realize that each of us is worth the death of God's son! When we realize that Jesus had us in mind when he was on the cross and that our Heavenly Father loves us passionately and unconditionally, we will have spiritual and relational confidence in our lives.'
You cannot pour genuine love and appreciation into other people if you don't have a healthy respect for yourself. Oh,
you may fake it convincingly enough—but at a deeper level there's a disconnect, a tension that prevents you from being 100 percent real. We'll share more about this healing in Chapter Three. In the meantime, just know that lasting wholeness may take time, prayer and help from others. God is present to help you, if you are willing to release your rights to victimhood and choose to live going forward, pursuing the best future possible through Christ.
Let's look at how we need to love others. The most difficult aspect of this is preferential treatment. It's easy to love people with whom you have synergy, people who have the same interests, ambitions and positive attitudes. It's like a magnetic attraction. Have you ever been introduced to someone at a social event, and within five minutes you feel at ease and genuinely interested in who they are and what they do? You just click.
When it comes to a male/female attraction that leads to a happy marriage with wonderful children, it's easy to show your love and affection. As the family matures however, every day may not be in harmony—stress happens! Nevertheless, there is an underlying love and level of commitment that overrides the bumps along the way.
But what about loving less amiable people? The Bible gives us clear evidence that to be steadfast means offering your love
in many ways. Once again Jesus cuts through the excuses. In Luke 6:27–33 he tells his listeners to love your enemies, do good to those who hate you . . . bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you . . . do to others as you would have them do to you . . . then your reward will be great, because your Heavenly Father is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
All you need is love.
Love is all you need.
As you will find out in chapters Three and Six, we are not advancing any notions of codependent or self-destructive behavior. Real Christianity is not about getting along with 'the beautiful people.' Rather, it's about watching God use faith and love to unite people who, apart from their Christian beliefs, never really knew each other.
This is why we eat together at a Communion table, sing together each week, and laugh and cry together as we pray and teach each other. God has chosen that our personal wholeness comes in community with others.
But what about outside the church, back in the real world? It's easy to offer someone in distress a helping hand. You see an old gentleman pulled over at the side of the road. His battery has died and he needs a boost. His elderly wife anxiously sits in the front seat of their small motorhome, concerned that their first vacation in three years is off to a bad start. As you size up the situation, unhesitatingly you decide to help. In a few minutes you've provided the boost they need, and you smile as the old man's wife gives you a hug, tears of gratitude rolling down her face. It's a busy freeway and you are the only one who took the time to stop. This is what it means to love others in times of need. A Christian attitude of helping people in distress is commonplace with true believers. (I John 3:16–20)
But let's stretch your comfort zone a few notches. Imagine your brother has been brutally murdered. Your sister-in-law, a mother of two children ages five and three, is now a widow wracked with grief and confusion. Imagine you are face to face with the shooter, the man who callously took your beloved brother's life and who showed no remorse at the trial. What compassion for the murderer can you summon? Can you love the unlovable?
In our natural, human hearts the answer is no. We might be able to control our reaction, but we would want that person as far away as possible. But God has something even better for us. He can turn enemies into friends and totally change their hearts. The story of the Apostle Paul is a perfect example. There are five versions in the New Testament (Acts 9, 22, 26, Gala-tians 1 and Philippians 3). That's a good reason to pay attention!
Paul was an arch-enemy of the church and a leader of the opposition. He threw people in jail and even approved of the stoning of St. Stephen. He was a crusader against Christ. Everything changed when Jesus spoke to him from heaven. What a turnaround! The great persecutor became the great preacher. A man who wouldn't be in the same room with most of the world was now eating and worshiping with slaves! It took a while for the Church leaders to believe the change was real. Paul was determined to live for Christ and serve others, even when he was not always understood or appreciated.
God's grace was so powerful in Paul that he could feel at home in any community. He could celebrate his Jewish heritage with a special vow (Acts 20) and he could enjoy communion with the new church he founded in pagan Athens. (Acts 17) Paul knew that when people came close to Jesus Christ they were united, and this created a new community of love and hope.
The same grace helped Paul to reconcile difficult rela-tionships from the past. He and Barnabas ended their ministry partnership because they disagreed strongly about Mark joining the team. By the end of his life Paul was thankful for all the help Mark had given him. The very person Paul said was not fit, became his assistant.
As you grow to love God more and appreciate what Christ has done to forgive your sins, are you willing to model his love for others as you face the unexpected challenges of life?
Will you forgive your spouse quickly for not remembering to enter a check in the ledger and balance the account?
Will you choose love by taking some extra time to really hear your friends' prayers and see if you might be part of God's answer? Test your ability to love by reaching out to people with whom you normally would not interact—a home-less person, someone suffering from AIDS or a terminally ill cancer victim. Yes, you may be way out of your comfort zone, but God won't put you into situations you are not able to handle. Practicing selfless love that is truly unconditional, where nothing is expected in return, is something worth striving for. In fact, God commands it. (James 1:22–27)
Singer-songwriter Ken Johnston1 penned the words to this powerful illustration of God's love.
Approach each day with child-like curiosity
and you'll see God's touch all around you.
IT'S ALL ABOUT YOUR LOVE
You live in my heart
You have from the start
You have always been there
And I have been too blind to see
That it's not about me
It's all about your love
That's the reason we're here
To give us the life you hold dear
And surrender to your love
Will I ever let go
Trying to master this show
On a stage made of sand
And now that I know what's true
Am I ready to give
All of myself to you
Or hold on to this pain that I feel
When I hold back giving my love to you
And yes, I've made my decision
I'm not turning back
As weak as I am,
Because I know, I know in my heart
It's all about your love.
It's all about your love.
It's all about your love.
Loving Your Purpose
Can you imagine going through life hating your purpose—grinding your teeth every morning and proclaiming, 'Oh no, not another day serving God with my unique talents!' Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?
The only thing worse is drifting blindly along every year with no purpose at all, not understanding that life must not be wasted or used only for material gain. That's why a midlife crisis is so valuable—you get to ponder that all-important question: 'Is there more to life than this?' And the answer
is yes, a thousand times yes! If you are ready for God's touch at this point in your life, he will open the door so you can see the bigger picture.
In the next chapter you'll learn how to evaluate your strengths and apply them in a purposeful way. It's worth noting that you don't have to be forty or fifty years old to discover a fresh purpose. Any age will do. It doesn't matter if you're ten, twenty, thirty, sixty, seventy or one hundred, God has wonderful things to share with you that will help you design a life of spiritual and personal abundance.
If you already have a clear sense of purpose, that's great.
Be alert, however, to the constant pull of our modern world with all its enticements to live the easy life. Living on purpose will enable you to have a deep sense of joy in the midst of difficulty and suffering—as well as humility when the applause is deafening and all is well.
Brett and Lyn Johnson live life with purpose.
They grew up in Hout Bay, South Africa, and now live in California. At the age of twenty-five Brett was one of the youngest senior consultants of a major firm and the pastor of his local church. Such honor came suddenly because the previous pastor had left under difficult circumstances. Brett and a team of elders found themselves in charge of a hurting con-gregation. Rather than quit his job to be in full-time ministry, Brett and the team developed models of ministry that released scores of lay people into new levels of service for God. This little church soon gave birth to several more churches as Brett continued to rise in his corporate role.
This has spawned several new enterprises for the kingdom of God. Brett and Lyn do more than promote ministry in the marketplace—they know with certainty that business is their ministry. As these words are being written, Brett and Lyn are in South Africa with ten Christian business leaders, consulting with ten South African firms about how to do business Christ's way. Lyn is one of the top producers in a global organization and is responsible for 1,100 personnel. Brett and Lyn embody the concept of living-with-purpose, integrating their business, family and ministry into a seamless whole and challenging the old-fashioned notion that some roles in God's kingdom are more spiritual than others. Their full story is found in their book, Convergence (www.inst.net).
Do you long for a sense of meaning and significance in what you do every day? Have courage. Know that God does have a specific purpose for you and your family, and that this purpose is more than just making it. In fact, here's a saying that's worth repeating when things get tough:
GOD WANTS ME TO THRIVE
Not Just Survive!
©2008. Les Hewitt, Charles Self. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Power of Faithful Focus. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442