Renewed Focus

Happy New Year! During the last few days, I have been taking time to reflect on accomplishments and challenges of the past year. I have also been considering what the Lord might have me do moving forward.  It’s a time of developing fresh hopes for the new year.

God’s plans for us are to give us a hope and a future. How do we effectively partner with Him to assure that these hopes and plans will come to fruition in our lives? Do our personal hopes line up with what God wants for us? How can we even know God’s plans for us?

Maybe it’s time for renewed focus.

What does that mean?

“Delight yourself in ADONAI, and He will give you the requests of your heart.
Commit your way to ADONAI. Trust in Him, and He will do it.”
Psalm 37:4-5 (TLV)

Where was your focus in the past year? Did you delight in the Lord? Commit your way to Him? Trust in Him? Or, was it a year of seeking your own desires while hoping He’d bless the way that you chose?

As I follow Christ, my vision and understanding of Him and His word continually becomes clearer. I realize with greater clarity that He really is the lover of my soul, the One who knew me before one of my days came to be (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:16), the One who planned good things for me to do (Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 2:10), and the One who gives good and perfect gifts (James 1:17). There is no darkness—spiritual or moral sin or depravity—in Him (1 John 1:5). He is good (Luke 18:19), and He is good to us (Psalm 31:19).

If this God knows so much about us—indeed, planned and created us—why would we not delight ourselves in Him, commit to Him, and trust Him? He will give us the requests of our hearts!

We easily get off track from seeking Him; not because we are so busy being holy, but rather because we are busy with the world that constantly screams and flashes for attention, or sneaks in subtly distracting us. We need to intentionally refocus using His word which is good for teaching, correcting our course, and training so that we may be capable and equipped (2 Timothy 3:16).

Ok… so what does renewing our focus look like? Let me offer one example.

I was recently asked to share a Christmas-themed dance at my church. I love to praise and worship the Lord with dance, but choreographing a specific dance is quite different than free-style dance. I’ve learned through experience to always seek the Lord before giving an answer. His answer is usually “yes”, but by always seeking Him, He saves me from possible disaster if in a certain circumstance He might have me say “no”.

After getting His approval and a song, I worked on being creative. Reaching frustration and weariness, I thought, “I don’t know what to do—I can’t do this!” I was right. I couldn’t do a good job of choreographing this dance, for His glory, without Him. I re-focused and asked Him to show me how to dance. As I slept during the next few nights, the music played over and over in my mind while He showed me what to do. I was amazed! He graciously and easily equipped me because I sought Him instead of trying to continue on my own.

In this new year, I encourage you to refocus by seeking Him first. If He hasn’t been your first love, work towards changing that. Make Him first in your life; first in your mind; first in your day. Talk to Him. Listen for Him. Read His word—I promise it gets easier (and more interesting) with repetition. The Bible can be difficult to comprehend, but dedication and repetition—in anything—increases knowledge and understanding. Take the time to gain knowledge and understanding of His love, and revelation of His will for you and your life.

But you don’t understand! I’ve got a really busy life!

But I do understand. There are seasons of life when responsibilities and activities push the limits of time; such as launching businesses, raising children, caring for family members in need, getting caught with schedule-overload from saying yes to too many activities. There is opportunity, even during busy times, to seek God for direction, even if only in very small increments.

Instead of having the pleasure of hours in a “prayer closet” (which I highly recommend and encourage), maybe it’s five minutes with Him before you open your eyes to get out of bed. Maybe the car radio is the distraction keeping you from achieving time with Him. Turn it off and pray (or listen). My personal favorite while raising children—30 free seconds (60 if I was lucky) in the bathroom before someone yelled, “MOM!” And on those days when you have nothing left to give or seek Him with, remember that He has told you that He is always with you (Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 28:20). Rest in Him. He knows and understands. Tomorrow will be a new day.

How much has social media, the news, or even chasing after multitudes of prophetic words tangibly change your life in a positive way this past year? How many good and perfect gifts did you miss out on because your focus was misplaced? How many relationships (spouse, children, neighbors, even strangers) suffered because you were too busy or preoccupied with things that do not last more than a moment, a day, or a week? If you didn’t grow closer to Jesus this past year, look for something to lay aside; to let go of.

With the Lord, relationships come first. He created you for relationship with Himself and others (Genesis 1:26-31, Genesis 2:18, John 3:16, John 17:3, 20-24). Seek to maintain the good relationships He’s given you. Add more only when time allows (yes, it is possible to have too many friends). You never know when He will place you in someone’s path to speak hope and life into them. He may want to answer one of your prayers through relationship with another person and the wisdom that they might impart to you.

Take a moment to reflect on the beginning of God’s creation. After God formed Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation, He rested. They rested. Before Adam and Eve worked the garden, they rested. They rested in the relationship of their Creator and Father. What might we be missing out on by not resting in relationship to and with our Creator and Father, and even our closest family and friends? Would He ask you to rest more—to be still and know that He is God—in this new year?

In addition to rest and relationships, God has given each of us skills, gifts, and talents specifically suited so that our lives are fruitful and fulfilling. We use our skills, gifts, and talents for provision, personal fulfillment, ministry, and relationships.

He also calls us to specific works or ministries to bless others and bring glory and honor to Him. His call for your life may be your vocation. It could also be a surprising thing—something that you never considered doing before, that may feel way out of your talent range—but also something that He has known and planned all along for you. It is something that He offers to you when He knows you are ready, or at least ready and willing to learn and grow.

As a fairly new mother, I was led to homeschool my children. I had been in the business world and had not thought about teaching.  One day a book about homeschooling caught my eye as I was passing through the library.  I’d never heard of such a thing.  My curiosity piqued, I checked it out and read it.  Fascinated by the concept and the ability to manage my children’s education and activities, I poured myself into more research. Within a year or so, I was a teacher to my children (wasn’t I already?), and eventually ended up teaching music classes in homeschool co-ops.  It was a very personally fulfilling time.

Even before my homeschooling adventure, through a prophetic psalmist, the Lord spoke to me about dance. This was totally out of my comfort zone and I had no idea what this was going to look like.  Sure enough, by the time my homeschooling season came to an end, opportunities to learn and grow in worship dance opened up.  It is something that I now thoroughly enjoy, and something that the Lord had planned from before my beginning.

Have you discovered His call for your life? If not, search it out from Him. He hears your prayers (Psalm 116:1, 1 Peter 3:12, 1 John 5:14). He answers prayers (Mark 11:24, John 15:7, 1 John 5:15). He delights to reveal His will (Deuteronomy 29:29, Daniel 2:47, 1 Corinthians 2:10, Galatians 1:16). God will not withhold any good thing from you (Psalm 84:11). Go to Him and ask.

If you know your calling, are you using it; growing in it? Is this the year that He would have you make new connections? Read a new book? Take a new class? Seek out a mentor? Avoid becoming stagnant and choose to grow deeper and wider in your relationship with Christ and His plan for you. Refocus on Him and ask Him to help you build up the gift within you (1 Timothy 4:14) and grow in your calling.

God’s call may come at any time in your life, but it will always be in His perfect timing. Following are a few scriptural examples.

Near the age of 80, God personally met Moses (a shepherd by trade) and gave Him the enormous responsibility of leading the Israelites out of Egypt and slavery. By God’s divine leading and intimate relationship, Moses led the people to the promised land while teaching them God’s ways. Moses’ call was to lead and teach.

In Exodus 18:13-23, Moses became distracted by spending much time judging various matters among the people. Moses’ father-in-law Jethro recognized God’s call on Moses’ life, and knew that being the peoples’ judge from sunup to sundown was not God’s will. Jethro helped Moses refocus by recommending that other capable people be appointed to judge the daily matters. Moses would then be free to focus on hearing from the Lord, leading, and teaching God’s commands.

Mary was a young virgin woman when God called her to give birth to the Son of God (Luke 1:35). She humbly accepted His will. (The world may disagree, but in God’s eyes, motherhood is one of the most important things a woman can do. It is one of the most valuable ministries to be taken seriously and to be highly valued. You moms out there, I applaud you and cheer you on as you are doing a great work in raising your children.)

In Acts 6:2-4, the apostles were approached by some disciples complaining that their widows were being overlooked in the daily food distribution. Rather than stepping in and taking on additional responsibility, the apostles appointed others to handle the matter. They knew that their calling was prayer and the ministry of the word.

The apostle Paul (who had his own amazing personal call in Acts 9) wrote to young Timothy urging him to not neglect his gift and call, but to be diligent in preaching and teaching, and to give himself wholly to those things (1 Timothy 4:14). In 2 Timothy, Paul continued admonishing him in different ways to stay focused.

As this new year get rolling, make more time to be with the Lord. Reflect on what He has already brought you through. Ask Him where He wants to lead you this year. Whether in small steps or big ones, refocus your time and energy to accomplish His will. Give Him first place, and He will give you the requests of your heart.