Maintaining Spiritual Focus

by Larry J. McElroy

Have you been distracted from pursuing God’s kingdom? Have goals you once held near and dear seemingly slipped from your grasp? Have purposes so clear and distinct become blurry and nondescript? Is there anything that can be done to remedy this? Learn how you can restore spiritual focus to your life.

Each year, prior to the Passover, God commands us to examine ourselves. It is at this time especially that we can regain our spiritual focus and develop a deeper commitment to walk with God. Viewing our lives from God’s perspective—understanding who we are and seeing our calling as a future member of His Family—helps us to move forward.

All Christians face the challenge of maintaining spiritual focus. This physical world can be distracting. Its sights and sounds often take us on a path different from what would benefit our goals as Christians.

Are you able to walk the “straight and narrow” when disruptions and diversions compete for your attention? You can move forward, rather than sideways, in your calling—but it requires thoughtful planning and perseverance. And it starts with self-examination and taking spiritual inventory of yourself. These are vital to maintaining Christian growth.

Draw Close to God

Drawing closer to God is a primary way to maintain spiritual focus. The apostle James wrote, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up” (Jms. 4:8-10).

We afflict and humble ourselves through fasting, a sure way to slow us down. All of God’s people (even those not yet baptized) should fast prior to Passover to truly understand their frailty in the physical and spiritual realms of life.

Physically, we can survive for only several days without replenishing water and other elements needed to fuel our bodies.

Spiritually, we need God’s help every minute to survive the onslaught of perverse ideas, attitudes and motivations that circulate via the invisible airwaves of the world (Eph. 2:2).

We must overcome the pulls of the world through spiritual means. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:3-5).

Fasting helps us to overcome human nature. It reminds us that physical strength is temporary, sustainable only by food and water. Jesus Himself knew that flesh was no match for the temptations Satan would place before Him. With this understanding, He fasted 40 days during the greatest spiritual battle He fought on Earth (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).

Whenever we begin to drift from God’s Way, and find ourselves swirling in the turbulent currents of this world’s way, we must realize the need to steer ourselves back to God. Fasting removes the spiritual obstacles and distance between God and us. If we are in a humble condition, He can work with us because we can see our great need for Him in every facet of our lives. Fasting will steer you away from self and help you see and focus on God’s objectives for your life.

When we remove the dominant fleshly desires through fasting, we gain spiritual understanding. Through fasting we gain spiritual strength to bring our thoughts under control.

Evaluate Your Life

Determine to take spiritual inventory of your life! Step back from your routine—zoom out to get an overall picture of how well you are fulfilling your calling. See the big picture and analyze every major category of your life. Evaluate your relationship with God, family, work and future goals. How well are you doing? Where can you do better?

Align your life with God’s instruction in each of these areas. Ask penetrating questions!

Am I fulfilling my calling?

Am I serving my family as God commands?

Do I honor God in my work?

Do I produce spiritual fruit?

Do my goals harmonize with God’s plan for my life?

Human nature will balk at such incisive questions—but our future commitment and growth depend upon a thorough response!

Put God First

What is the greatest commandment? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).

This equates to thinking about God’s plan daily and remaining instant in prayer (Rom. 12:12). We should express appreciation to God daily for His “benefits package” (Psa. 103:1-14). In addition, obedience to God shows that we put Him first in our lives. Obedience keeps us in harmony with His way of life. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3).

If we regularly reflect on the great God and the value He has added to our lives, we will maintain our spiritual focus.

Supporting God’s Work

A marvelous, yet sometimes not thought of, blessing is being able to give financially to God’s Work. Imagine making a difference in a world where people throw away their money on material goods that profit nothing. But giving to God’s Work can make an eternal difference!

The Church of God is commissioned to give the truth—a gift that can make life-changing knowledge available to those God is calling. The truth enables others to be freed from the bondage of false knowledge.

Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19-21).

If our treasure is in God’s work—helping to proclaim the truth of God’s soon-coming kingdom—our motivations and desires will be properly calibrated.

Loving Our Spiritual and Physical Family

Serving others is a high calling—and we have more opportunities to serve than ever before in history. Those with even minimal computer knowledge can remain in contact with brethren and friends via email. Encouraging words and expressive cards, which can make a real difference in people’s lives, are only moments in the making—if we choose to think of others.

Loving others requires action. Love is outgoing concern for others, which takes time, energy, resources and thoughtfulness. Jesus said we are His friends if we serve others. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends, if you do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:13-14).

Providing a meal, listening to others in crisis, speaking encouraging words, or simply sending a card are ways we can express love to brethren and family. In John 13, Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another” (vs. 35).

If we love others, if we consider their needs and concerns, we will express that love through works of service.

Goals

What goals motivate you? Which ones do you work on each day?

A goal should motivate and provide vision for the future. Your goals should keep you on the path to eternal life. Physical goals should compliment spiritual goals.

Here are some we should pursue each day:

• Seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33)

• Study to show yourself approved (II Tim. 2:15)

• Grow in grace (i.e., godly character) and knowledge (II Pet. 3:18)

• Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12)

We live in a generation that has superficial goals. The “now” generation does not look to the future, but only to satisfaction now! Most people live for the weekend party—the big game—the sensual pleasures—the latest electronic game—the buzz that fizzles out quickly.

Instead of planning for a productive and secure future, many seek to escape the present through pursuing pleasure. The morning after is a fog, and this often continues throughout life. Then reality strikes. Escapism and the pursuit of nonstop satisfaction ultimately lead to discouragement and depression.

We, on the other hand, have the long-range goal of being born into the ruling family of God at the triumphant Return of Jesus Christ.

And because God’s kingdom is our primary focus, physical blessings in this life are an added benefit. “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?…But seek you first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:31-33).

Having godly goals will keep us focused on our true purpose—the reason God called us now—and God will add the physical blessings in balance.

Bible Study

For those called of God, Bible study should be a way of life. Salvation requires a proper spiritual education.

After being called, we realize the lack of true knowledge in this world. We recognize that people are being destroyed for lack of proper physical and spiritual knowledge (Hos. 4:6).

If we study God’s Word each day, we will feed our minds with spiritual principles that will steer our lives down the road to eternal life.

Jesus said, “It is the spirit that quickens [gives life]; the flesh profits nothing: The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

Studying and analyzing God’s Word daily adds a spiritual dimension to all we do.

As we study and feed on God’s words, we grow in the understanding of His Plan for mankind. Our understanding will lead us to a desire to please God through obedience. Our compliance with His ways will gain favor with Him.

Yes, we will sometimes slip and fall—but we should be determined to get back up and honor God’s will. Repentance will allow us to grow in grace. And as we grow in obedience and faithfulness, God will extend more grace when we do slip.

The process of salvation requires us to work. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). “Work” in the Greek means to “perform, accomplish or achieve.”

We must work to make ourselves fit for the kingdom of God.

As Christ’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10), we must study, overcome sins and faulty knowledge, and practice God’s ways over a lifetime to qualify for our future responsibilities. Just as a disciple or student of a particular discipline spends years learning a trade or profession, so must we spend years applying God’s laws to solve the problems we encounter. Working involves laboring in prayer, study, meditation, fasting and responding to God’s Spirit.

Seek God!

Plan to involve yourself in an intense self-examination before Passover.

Seek God’s will for your life.

Reaffirm your dedication to walk with God, putting Him first in your life.

Take time to talk to God and ask for His counsel in every area of your life.

Do a personal inventory. Establish or confirm the goals related to attaining the kingdom of God. Work on overcoming—serve others as opportunities arise—do good works to glorify God.

Working to attain these goals will keep you from drifting and losing sight of your purpose in life. Maintaining spiritual focus is spiritual work, labor that will yield wonderful fruit.

Ask God for more of His Spirit—the power to patiently endure—the power of meekness and humility—the power to focus until you attain the goal of eternal life!