It seems hard to believe, but an entire decade is now behind us and we are taking our first steps into the next. Ready or not, 2020 is here!
A few months ago, I went to have my annual eye exam. When asked if I had noticed any changes in my vision, I told my eye doctor I seemed to be able to see much more clearly after putting on a pair of readers while making jewelry with really small beads. My eyes were definitely changing. And not for the better!
As I took my contacts out at the exam, I discovered that even the big E on the top of the eye chart looked blurry to me!
My optometrist then had me peer through a variety of strong lenses to read the chart. Suddenly, everything looked sharp and clear. I could even read the tiniest letters near the bottom! She announced that with those lenses, I could see 20/20. She had figured out my prescription to be able to focus for perfect vision.
Focus…A Scarce Commodity
With the beginning of 2020, I couldn’t help but do a little thinking about what it means to have a clear focus for the year ahead.
This is the time of year when we tend to make new goals with gusto and renewed energy, ready to tackle whatever we have set our mind to accomplish.
We seem to have 20/20 focus when we start out, knowing exactly where we want to be more successful in life. But as the days and months progress, our focus becomes a bit blurry.
There is so much fighting for our time and attention. We find ourselves very distracted, devoting less time toward reaching those new goals. To make real progress it takes focus, the ability to pay attention and concentrate in the midst of everything going on around us.
According to a recent Microsoft study, the human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds down to 8 seconds. In other words, we tend to lose our concentration after only 8 seconds – less than the average attention span of a goldfish which is 9 seconds!
The reason? We can blame a lot of it on the smartphone. According to the research, Americans touch their phones (tap, type, swipe or click) an average of 2,617 times a day! The brain learns how to rapidly switch from one task to another, becoming a habit that conflicts with focused attentiveness. The brain is continually seeking out what’s new and what’s next.
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, made the insightful comment, “The true scarce commodity of the near future will be human attention.”
Although focus is very difficult for most of us to execute, the good news is that it’s a learnable skill. It takes practice and training but with time, you can improve your ability. If you don’t make time to focus, your skill fades. And it can lead to costly mistakes.
These current distracted driving statistics in the U.S. prove it:
• It only takes 3 seconds for a car crash to occur once the driver has been distracted.
• Of all car accidents, 80% are caused by the driver being distracted.
• Over 1000 people are injured every day in car crashes caused by distracted driving.
• Approximately 9 people are killed every day from car crashes involving a distracted driver.
20/20 Spiritual Focus
Your spiritual focus can also get blurry without practice and training. This happens when you don’t spend enough one-on-one time with God. He wants your undistracted time with Him alone so you can enjoy a close relationship with Him and be able to follow His direction for your life.
Having 20/20 focus resulting from spending quality time with Him is the most important goal you could ever set for yourself. He made you for a specific calling to bring Him glory, giving you the most joy you could possibly experience here on earth.
The more you focus on your self-made goals without His guidance, the more distracted in life you become. The consequences are costly. You can end up missing out on His best for you, chasing goals that may not even be a part of His will for your life!
For 20/20 focus to experience God’s very best, your heart, mind, and spirit must be free of distractions.
A Distraction of the Heart
One of the most dangerous distractions that can keep your focus off of God is the sin in your heart. If you are living a life of disobedience to His Word, your focus will most assuredly be blurred.
Our hearts are naturally bent on going our own way. When you lose focus and stop fighting against the sin in your life, even to the point of becoming comfortable in it, you lose discernment for what is godly. You will be unable to accomplish His purposes for your life if you are habitually living in a pattern of sin.
Discernment comes from spending time in God’s Word, the light for your path ahead so you don’t stumble and fall in your own darkness.
Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil. Proverbs 4:25-27
The enemy loves to distract people with the temptation to sin. He knows what your weakness is whether it is sexual sin, addiction, discontentment, bitterness, pride – whatever it is, he knows and would love to see you bite the enticing bait on the end of a very deadly hook to pull you further away from God. It is so easy to take the bait if your focus is off of the One who keeps you standing strong against temptation.
When you become a follower of Christ, you are given the Holy Spirit to be your conscience to help bring your sins into the light, letting you know when you are doing wrong. This is experienced by feelings of conviction. However, if you ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit, His voice will grow more and more faint until you can no longer hear it.
And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30
The prescription for your heart to have 20/20 focus on God is transformation. To experience a true change in your heart, you must be able to admit you are wrong and repent of your sin. Because of His grace and His deep love for you, He will forgive you no matter what you have done and will always be there to help you when you struggle with sin.
You know your heart is transformed when you love to do what pleases God and when you turn away from doing the things that displease Him. Know that transformation is a life-long process – a marathon, not a sprint – after you fully give your heart to the Lord.
Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2a
I took a photo of these verses in my Bible, focusing my camera lens directly on the Scriptures. As you can see, that part of the photo is clear and sharp. It immediately draws your eye toward it. You’ll notice the background is out of focus and blurry, making it much more difficult to see.
The same is true when you focus on Jesus. All of the distractions in the background are blurred. But His truth remains sharp and clear so you can live a godly life, reflecting Him, and always headed in the right direction.
A Distraction of the Mind
A huge distraction of the mind is busyness. Many of us are actually addicted to being busy. When we complete tasks, our brain releases dopamine which is a pleasure hormone, making us feel good. So we will often pack our schedules with things to do that we can cross off our list so we can repeat that exhilarating feeling.
You may feel anxious or even guilty if you’re not busy. There is so much value placed on being productive in our society, so we feel the pressure to always be accomplishing something. If we aren’t, we may feel like a failure, and when we are, we feel a sense of importance.
One of the downsides to constantly being busy is that it will keep you distracted, leaving no time for focusing on God. When you are not focused on Him, your busyness has no real purpose or meaning. It’s just busyness, a waste of the precious, limited time God has given you to accomplish His meaningful, fulfilling purposes for your life. The purposes that give Him glory while giving you overflowing joy.
The prescription for your mind to have 20/20 focus on God is to make time in your schedule for being in God’s presence by simply drawing near to Him.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8a
When you draw near to God by making time for a relationship with Him, He pours out His grace and favor on you. He gives you His presence by communicating His love to you. He gives you wisdom and courage to do what is right so you can live a godly life. He gives you peace in the midst of turmoil. He blesses you in so many ways when you are walking close to Him.
The enemy knows this and will do everything he can to distract you with busyness so you have no time left for intimacy with God. He would much rather have you stay busy doing all the meaningless things that keep you away from spending time with Him and enjoying those blessings.
Perhaps the quietest time for you to spend with God is in the morning before your day begins. Or maybe you are better able to be still in the evening hours. Whenever it is, set aside that sacred time to open up your Bible and read His love letter to you. He has so much to share with you and teach you!
Slowly meditate on what you are reading, thinking about the words. How is God speaking to you through this passage? What is He revealing to you about His character? As you are reading, ask God to show you exactly what He wants to teach you. This is how you will grow spiritually. There is always something you can apply to your life when you carefully study His Word.
I like to underline any passage of Scripture that seems to be jumping out at me. I meditate on it by reading it over and over and amazingly, it sticks with me all day! It is the best encouragement for my soul.
Another way to meditate on Scripture is by turning it into a prayer back to God. Personalize it by using I, me, or my so it becomes an expression from your heart.
For example, with Hebrews 12:1-2 you could say, “I must get rid of everything that slows me down, especially sin that distracts me. I must run the race that lies ahead of me and never give up. I must focus on You, Jesus, the source and goal of my faith.”
Drawing near to God also includes spending time in prayer, sharing with Him all that is on your mind. He loves you so much and greatly desires to have an intimate relationship with you. This happens when you are willing to open up and share your worries, fears, doubts, hopes, and dreams – everything with Him like you would with a close friend.
The more time you spend with Him in His presence, the more your mind will be renewed and you will have the ability to see things through His eyes with 20/20 focus.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
A Distraction of the Spirit
God’s fulfilling purposes for your life often include getting out of your comfort zone. This is so you can use your skills and talents in new ways that will bring Him glory. He knows how much joy you will receive if you are simply willing to obey Him.
We tend to lean toward the familiar so we don’t run the risk of having to go through stress or anxiety. We like to be comfortable.
When God asks you to walk through a new door and you are uncertain about what is on the other side, you may encounter one of the greatest distractions of the spirit called fear.
Fear begins as a thought and then develops into emotions that can dominate you. It is one of the enemy’s favorite tools. Here are a few reasons why…
• Fear can be used to manipulate you to keep you out of God’s will where you would experience a fulfilling, joy-filled life.
• Fear is a major distraction that can paralyze you from reaching your full potential with all God has blessed you to use for blessing others.
• Fear can intensify your weaknesses, making it difficult to grow and develop into who God made you to be.
• Fear can prevent you from obeying God’s voice, choking the life out of the amazing future God planned for you by keeping you from daring to try new things.
• Fear can keep you from living as a witness to the freedom you have when you surrender to Christ rather than to your fear.
The prescription for your spirit to have 20/20 focus on God is complete trust in Him. If you allow fear to be a stronghold and rule your spirit, it will take over and distract you from your focus on God.
A stronghold is anything that will deter you from experiencing freedom in Christ. One of the most powerful weapons you can use against fear is God’s Word, the sword of the Spirit, to fight fear and be free.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:4
Of course, the only way you can use God’s Word as a weapon is to read it. When you feel fear rising up in you, start reading His words of life and truth. Soak them in.
The more you read, the more you will find you have everything you need in Christ to do all you were created to do. God is stronger than fear and will give you the power to overcome it. He will replace your fear with peace as you put your trust in Him.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
When my sister and I were little, we would occasionally have nightmares. To calm our fears, our mother helped us memorize Psalm 56:3-4 which says:
When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?
We would recite those verses over and over whenever we felt any fear and God would give us His peace – and a good night’s sleep.
When you begin to fear, remember that God is greater. He will give you the power to live boldly in this life so you can bring Him glory and experience incredible joy.
Focus may be the most valuable skill of the new decade but to God, having 20/20 focus on Him is the most valuable skill you could ever learn. Make your main goal this year to spend time in God’s presence so you can experience His very best for you, looking at the year ahead through His eyes with perfect vision.
Sparkler #1: Prayer
For 20/20 spiritual focus, ask God to give you a transformed heart, a desire to draw near to Him, and a deep, unwavering trust in Him.
Sparkler #2: Action
Set a goal to schedule quality, undistracted time with God each day, reading His Word and sharing your heart with Him in prayer.
Sparkler #3: Challenge
Try something new this year that uses your skills and talents, glorifies God, and takes you out of your comfort zone.
Kimberly Moore is a vintage costume jewelry expert, blogger, speaker, and author of Beauty in a Life Repurposed. To learn more, visit her website at kingdomsparkle.com.
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