Focus

Posted on 07/29/2012 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

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MIGHTY IS OUR GOD

Mighty is our God
Mighty is our King
Mighty is our Lord
Ruler of everything

Glory to our God
Glory to our King
Glory to our Lord
Ruler of everything

His name is higher
Higher than any other name
His power is greater
For he has created everything


BLESS THE LORD

I will bless the Lord at all times
I will bless the Lord at all times
His praise shall continually be in my mouth


BLESS THE LORD O MY SOUL

Bless the Lord O my soul
and all that is within me
bless his holy name

For he has done great things
he has done great things
he has done great things
He's so good to me

He saved my soul
he saved my soul
he saved my soul
He's so good to me

He is coming soon
he is coming soon
he is coming soon
Bless his holy name


FATHER I ADORE YOU

Father, I adore you
Lay my life before you
How I love you

Spirit...
Jesus...


*** listen to the audio for the introduction ***


Let's start off by reading from the book of Ephesians, the fifth chapter, beginning with verse eighteen.

Ephesians 5:18-21 (NKJV)

18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

And the title of today's message is "Focus."

Now, we've talked about this passage before, and we talked about how "wine" was not the focus, but rather "dissipation." I believe the title of that message was "Dissipation Busters," or something like that. But today, I'd like for us to go in a slightly different direction with this passage.

First of all, let's review what the word "dissipation" means, since that's not a word we hear very often, much less use.

"Dissipation" means to be distracted or unfocused, and to waste by misuse. It can also be defined as "unrestrained indulgence of physical pleasures," but that's a problem only because it is a misuse that blurs our fellowship with God and takes our focus off of where it should be.

So you could say that "dissipation," simplified, means a blurring, or loss of, constructive focus.

To strengthen that meaning, verse eighteen says we are not to be dissipated, but Spirit-filled, and then it goes on to paint a picture of a life that is highly focused in a constructive, Godly way: "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God."

That's a focused life, wouldn't you agree? You don't do all of this all day every day without a very strong focus, and a very strong focus on the right things.

Here's a little more to back that up, starting back in verse 14, right before we're told to not be dissipated:

Ephesians 5:14-16 (NKJV)

14 Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,
16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Okay, let's break this down a bit.

"Awake, you who sleep."

When we're focused on earthly pleasures, or on things that are distractions from our true purpose and from what's really important, we are asleep. We are dissipated.

"Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."

What does light do? It allows us to see. And it can bring things into focus. It either helps to cure dissipation or sends the dissipated one running for cover.

"See then that you walk circumspectly."

That word "circumspectly" means "watchful, cautious, prudent, well-considered, vigilant." The second part of the word means "to look." This is saying that we not only need to walk instead of standing still, moving forward toward the goal, and we not only need to be walking with our eyes open, but we need to be walking with our eyes open and with a sharp, carefully-honed focus. This is the extreme opposite of dissipation.

"Not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil"

Redeeming the time. What does that mean? Well, the New American Standard version translates this, "making the most of your time."

The word translated "redeemed" is a term that would be used in the marketplace -- it means "to purchase." When you purchase something, you give up something that is valuable to you, and ideally, you do so after you have carefully considered the related value of that which you are purchasing.

So what would you say it means to purchase your time? Could it mean that you carefully considered the value of your time compared to the value of what you're doing with that time? That's certainly not something that someone without focus would do; it's not the action of someone who is dissipated.

Next, the word translated as "time" does not refer to time in general, but to a specific point in time -- something that is pre-determined or opportune. Maybe that's why the New International Version translates this phrase as "making the most of every opportunity." A dissipated person is not focused on looking for Godly opportunities that may have been pre-determined by God. After all, they often come as barely discernable things, and without a strong, clear focus, you won't see them.

So this passage shows us the lifestyle we're supposed to live, and one we must live if we're going to be filled with and walk after the Spirit of God; it's a life of focus and discipline, one that examines what we do and say and how we spend our time; it doesn't just wander around aimlessly, and it is not dissipated by things that would blur our vision or distract us from what we are here to do.


Let's consider a few examples of dissipation from the Scriptures. And choosing which examples to share with you was no easy task. In fact, we can trace every single spiritual failure from Genesis to Revelation on some sort of dissipation.

Eve lost focus of what God had said about eating the fruit, and Adam lost focus of his role as the keeper of that word, and that led to deception and the first sin.

Cain lost focus of his purpose for sacrificing to God, which should have been to please God while expecting nothing in return, and as a result he became so hurt and angry that he killed his brother.

The people on earth at the time God confused mankind's languages lost focus of their duty to obey God and spread out, and so they all gathered in one place and tried to build a tower to heaven.

Samson was dissipated by his inappropriate desires for women, which resulted in his capture, slavery, and death.

King David should have been out with his army, but instead, he stayed home and surfed the net, dissipated by pleasure; and when he stumbled upon a voyeristic port site and saw Bathsheba taking a bath, he ended up murdering an innocent man and stealing his wife (and not in that order).

King Solomon was given supernatural wisdom by God; but near the end of his life, he became dissipated by his growing number of pagan concubines and wives (over a thousand of them -- talk about dissipation!), and as a result, he turned to other gods and his offspring lost the throne.

These are only a few of the more notable examples, and we could go on and on. But I think you'd agree that every single one of these became dissipated, lost their vision, lost their focus, lost hold of their purpose and of the word of God; and as a result, their lives spun into chaos and destruction.


Okay. So what does all that say to us? Are we supposed to never have fun? To always be serious? To never say or do anything that doesn't have some great spiritual purpose?

I'll let you answer that question yourself, but from my own experience, people like that tend to repel people from God, not draw them to Him. After all, Romans 2:4 tells us that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance.

No, I think the meaning of dissipation is not "having fun." Fun, pleasure, enjoyment, after all, were created by God, and He partakes in them and promises them to those who walk with Him and overcome. You see, "dissipation" is all about Vision and Focus. Vision of what God has told us, what God desires from us, and what God has called us to do, and focus on those things in the center of everything else we do.

After all, someone can do nothing but go to church, read the Bible, witness, and pray; but that doesn't keep them from being dissipated; dissipated, that is, from a fuller vision of God and a well-placed focus.

A greater vision of God and of His word will direct our focus to living a life of thanksgiving; not thanking Him for only the things we think are highly spiritual, but also thanking Him for the things He has given us to enjoy.

But there is a HUGE difference between enjoying something for the purpose of endulging ourselves, and enjoying that same thing with a focus on the greatness, goodness, and love of God, and on the balance He wants us to have concerning that thing.

So drink wine but don't be dissipated. Watch some TV but don't be dissipated. Surf the 'net but don't be dissipated. Eat good food, but don't be dissipated. Do everything you do with a focus on God, on His word, on His will, on His nature, and on the things He has created for you to do and the person He has created you to be and to become.


Focus. How does focus affect your life? What difference does a LACK of focus -- dissipation -- make?

Let's consider the differences between people who have achieved great success in life, and those who just barely get by. And I'm talking to myself today, because I know our finances would be in much better shape if I had weeded out my dissipations in the past; and I am accepting the challenge to do so.

Just consider this: great olympians and athletes, self-made millionaires, leaders of great movements, and anyone who has reached any significant level of success; they ALL have these two things in common: Vision, and Focus.

Vision and Focus. They didn't achieve success until they had a vision, and until everything else in life was measured by their focus on bringing that vision to pass.


Now, it's really easy to say that I have to have vision and focus, and that I need to not allow myself to be dissipated by the things that catch my interest, including things that are good... But it's quite another to actually do something about it. Not only do we get addicted to things, but we get caught in a cycle, and that in itself becomes an addiction... So what's the answer? How can we change? How can we break free from our addictions to our various forms of dissipation?

Well, the first step is to realize that it's necessary. If there's no reason to change something, chances are pretty good you never will. Of course if you're thinking about anything at all, then you already know, on some level, that you should probably change that thing.

The next step is to DESIRE to change. Everything we do is driven by desire. Everything. Don't believe me? Well, just think about it with me for a moment.

Sure, it's easy to recognize that we watch television because we want to (of course that's assuming someone isn't holding you down holding your eyes open).

But how about the person who has become addicted to drugs; they know they need to quit because it's destroying them and those they love; they WANT to quit because they know it's wrong and they don't want to keep hurting themselves and everyone they love. But they keep going back to their poison. They don't WANT to do those drugs, do they?

Once again, remember that we're talking about DESIRE. Everything is a battle of DESIRE. Even if you use logic and reason to make a decision, you acted on that decision because you had a desire to do so. The struggle comes when the desires of different parts of us are in conflict. And in the end, the stronger desire wins.

And that's the key: "The stronger desire wins." Do you want to change your actions? Then weaken your desire to do or not do something, and strengthen your desire to do the thing that conflicts with that negative desire.

The night Jesus was betrayed, He told His disciples to "watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation; for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." By spending time in prayer, you strengthen your spirit and weaken your flesh.

So the first thing to do is make sure you have a solid prayer life in place.

But we've talked about that too many times to count, and there are other things you may need to do to shift the balance on your desires.

First, you need a vision. The one that is applicable to all of us is to love mercy, to do what's right, and to walk humbly with God. What does that mean for you? Write it down.

Then write down your focus. What should your focus be? Sure, I can tell you that your focus should be to please God and to have a closer relationship with Him, and to obey Him in all things. But it will make a world of difference if you write it down in the first person and in your own words. Make it your own.

Also write down the things He has gifted you to do. Lots of people think they aren't really gifted at anything. But that's hogwash. God has a calling for your life; and if He has called you, then He has gifted you so that you can fulfill that calling.

Maybe you're not giften in singing, or speaking, or writing, or something else that you think would be big and important. Maybe your gift is empathy, or encouragement, or something else. Maybe you haven't discovered your giftings yet, but as you continue to focus on the vision, those things will start becoming visible. And you should work with those gifts -- strengthen them, hone them, cause them to grow by diligently exercising them.

After you've done that, pick out one thing -- the biggest thing -- that you need to change. Write a list of all the negative things about keeping things like they are. Take your time with this and really thing it through. Is it hindering your walk with God? Is it holding you back from something good? And when you have a list, keep in mind that it's probably not finished. As you go about your day, other things are likely to come to mind. Keep your list handy, and keep adding to it.

Now that you have your list, perhaps the next day, read back over it. See yourself staying the same, and see all the negative aspects and outcomes you've written down. And when i say "see," I don't necessarily mean you have to get an actual picture in your head. Just imagine it, like you're daydreaming. Imagine how it feels to have all these negative things continue to grow and grow until they destroy you.

If you really put yourself into this, then your desire to change will grow, and your desire to keep doing or not doing that thing will weaken.

Finally, make a list of all the POSITIVE things that will come about from changing. Will you get closer to God? What will that mean? How will that feel? What else in your life will change for the better as a result? Will you do better financially? Will you help others more? Will you feel better about living in your own skin? Will you better strengthen and fulfill the gifts and callings God has placed on your life?

Once again, keep adding to this list. It may never be finished, and you will probably keep thinking of things to add to it.

Then, just like your other list, vividly imagine your life after you've made that change. Feel it. Smell it. Daydream about it as strongly and passionately and with as many of your senses as possible.

This will strengthen your desire to change, and will weaken your desire to stay the same.


It's helpful to remember that, on average, a habit takes about 21 days to make or break. Just stay with it for a month, and the hardest part is over. And ask yourself this: is three weeks to a month of discomfort too high of a price to pay to transform your life? After you've done these exercises, your answer will be an emphatic "no!"

And after this new thing is firmly in place, you can move on to the next.


One thing I'd like to point out before we close is this: it's very difficult to simply "stop" doing something we enjoy or to which we're addicted. If you want to stop doing something, choose something that is positive to replace it.

Do you want to stop smoking? Replace it with doing arobics or some sort of exercise that requires healthy lungs. Start singing. Start doing SOMETHING that replaces it. For that matter, you could at the very least replace tobacco cigarettes with an electronic cigarette; but the point is to make quitting smoking as attractive and beneficial in your mind as possible.

Do you want to quit spending all your time in front of the TV or computer? Then find something else to do -- something that is good, healthy, positive, enjoyable; and something that pleases God, uses and strengthens your gifts, and move your forward on the path God has laid out before you.

These things are sound and proven, and they are in perfect harmony with the word of God. I've committed myself to putting away my dissipation, and being continually filled with God's Spirit instead.

And today, if you'd like to commit yourself to not being distracted by over-indulgence in fleshly pleasures, to gaining the keeping clear sight of your vision, to strengthening and sharpening your focus, and to becoming all the God has created you to be, then I invite you to get out of your seat right now and make your way to the front. Let's lay ourselves on the altar as we surrender to God's excellent will for our lives, and let's stand tall with the unshakeable decision to stay clear and to move forward toward the prize that is leading us home.


*** listen to the audio for prayer and ending ***