By Will Cunningham
When I was 8 years old, I remember coming out of the Dentist office, filled with joy. I was so happy because I had just talked my dentist out of one of those dreadful “Novocain” shots (I still hate those things). He reluctantly dismissed me from this very needed visit, and I gladly walked out the door; strutting of course, with a sense of pride. I thought I was on top of the world. Nothing to stop me, I thought. I felt like I knew better than this doctor and he finally believed me.
My ride was waiting for me a few yards away, so I took off like a speeding bullet with pure joy in my heart. As I was trying to break the speed bearers on that sidewalk, I was looking in the opposite direction to watch the parked cars fly by as I ran on. Then, out of nowhere, “BAM!” I ran – headfirst – into a steel pole (ouch!).
I was put on the ground with a huge throbbing knot on my head. Looking back on that incident, I have concluded why that happened. It’s obvious… It was my inability to keep focus that deterred me from reaching my goal (my ride home) or better yet, staying put and allow the dentist to work on my tooth that needed filling due to a cavity
What about today? What is our focus?
The author of Hebrews tells us to: “…Run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb. 12:1-2).
Over the past couple of years, this passage has become paramount in my marriage, family, and ministries. It has taught me that I need to look to Jesus for my marriage and family, not the man-made solutions to the problems that arise from a fallen world. It has reminded me to keep my focus on Him to strengthen my faith during a polarized pandemic, uncertain future and questionable political decision making. More than any other factor, as pastor and counselor, it is what the sheep need the most, a charge to keep running to the author and finisher of our faith.
First and foremost, our focus is “…looking to Jesus…,’ not parked cars, or anything else for that matter. In our day and age there is so much competing for our time whether in our family life, church life or ministry life. There is so much that can cause us to look the other way and lose focus. We can see this from the physical dimension to the spiritual dimension as the devil is always scheming to get our minds off the author and finisher of our faith – Jesus. His strongest tactic is to prey on our weaknesses. I’d ask you to reference 1 Peter 5:8 as a commentary. If it’s not the devil, it’s the worldly influences or the flesh (our own selfishness). See Matt. 13:18-30 & 1 John 2:15-17.
With those biblical truths in scope, we need to be intentional and purposeful in what we lay our hands to do. Our aim must be precise, whether pastoring a flock of a small or large church or giving Godly counseling to hurting sheep or leading your church in their missions’ program. For Heart for Lebanon organization (H4L), we are focused on Looking to Jesus first, serving Him and secondly, we are focused on His guidance for us, to Love God and Love others, whether that be of the refugees and marginalized Lebanese or our church partners. H4L does this in two ways for those we serve in Lebanon: Family Care & Outreach and Children at Risk for the Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon farmlands. They have been referred to as the “lost generation.” Regarding our investors and church partners, we desire to be value added back by connecting often to pray for, counsel, encourage or help provide strategic leadership inputs on a monthly basis. Therefore, we are single minded with an intent to run the race with endurance with these opportunities before us, as that is the very race before us.
This is what happened to the children of Israel. They were losing their focus, looking at the “park cars.” God had given them Moses to lead them out of Egypt and all it’s worldliness and into a land flowing with milk and honey. A place where they could freely worship the LORD God. Once out in the wilderness, journeying to that promise land, they began to get a little restless with the plan of God for their lives. Suddenly, they were desiring to go back to the comfort zone of Egypt. They faltered in their faith, they lost focus. You know the rest of the story. God only allowed two from the former generation to enter the promised land. These two were Joshua and Caleb. They were the only ones that kept perspective on God and His plan.
This is also what happened to the church of Ephesus. Jesus tells them in Revelation. 2:1-7 that They were good people and did good things, they even hated evil, but in all their good merits, they lost focus – they left their first love. However, there is a beautiful comment that Jesus makes after that. It was hope. He says: Remember, Repent, and Do. It is an exhortation to continue to fellowship with Christ.
If there is anything that we need today – It’s focus. Focus with the right perspective. This is why going Jesus, going to the Bible and going to church is so important. It gives the right perspective in a world that doesn’t have any. God’s word planted in broken hearts will always keep us in focus. It is equally important to invest in the work of God, whether it be the community you live, work and serve in or investing in a global footprint like the H4L organization as well as others. Doing so positions our Christian character to the heart of God and changes a bad situation to a good situation. ie… God at work in the lives of people.
The Bible says: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful.” (Heb. 10:23). We read in that same chapter, just a few verses ahead: “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: ‘For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
Caleb is a perfect example to end off with. He was one of the two that came back with a good report after spying on the enemy. Everyone else was complaining and worried of how big and bad the enemy was in Canaan, but not Joshua and Caleb. They believed in the promise of God (He IS faithful). Caleb even got up and told the Israelites that God wanted them to have the land, and they in turn wanted to stone him, but he was keeping focus. God gave the land to him because he never stopped believing in the promise of God.
At age 85 (45 years after his steadfast testimony for the land of Canaan) he desired to take on Hebron to complete what he felt the LORD wanted him to have. And at that age he drove out the Anakimites and fortified the place of Hebron for the LORD. Here was a man that Kept focus.
Be a Christian that is keeping focus in 2022. Not on circumstances of our world problems, not on how much money we need to raise for this or that program, not on church attendance or ministry operations, marriages or family issues. Let our first focus be on the author and finisher of our faith. Everything else is secondary. It would be our greatest prevlidge for our Heart for Lebanon team to be praying for you. Please reach out and let us know how by sending a prayer request to: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me directly to connect, email@example.com.
By the way, “my sin did find me out”, I got in a lot of trouble for talking my dentist out of my visit.
–Inspired by Heb. 12:1-2