Simple ways to stay focused; overcoming a distracted faith
Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” When I read this verse, I imagine to live it, must feel like sitting beachside listening to the rhythmic sound of the waves rolling in. It’s amazing how ocean waves effortlessly draw us into peaceful ambiance. Peace. We all want it. We crave it, but often find ourselves distracted, overlooking it’s path as we, frantically search for ways to stay focused.
Peace is a promise
Let’s break this verse down. God promises to keep us at perfect peace. That peace however, is contingent on two things:
- A “stayed” mind.
When we have these, then we will be kept at perfect peace.
Peace is wonderful, but can often seem out of reach. At times we feel as though there are miles standing in between us and its experience. Living in the mid-west, my route to beachside peace is inconvenient and at times, unobtainable.
Peace isn’t always convenient.
For many of us, the nearest beach is hours away. My dreamy ocean front home actually sits in the midst of a sea of corn and soybean fields. Albeit beautiful, they are not a substitute for those ocean waves.
Peace, just like the nearest beach can be difficult to reach.
I’d like to think I trust God, but I experience moments where I have to force that prayer that says, “Lord I believe, but help my unbelief.” It’s keeping my thoughts on him that proves difficult. “What-ifs,” and surmising self talk consequently lure me to forget my trust. As a result, peace is pushed out of reach.
Contingency 1 – The challenge of staying your mind.
At face value, I look at Isaiah 26:3 and think, “how hard can it be to just stay?” Then I catch myself in one of those slithery surmising thoughts, and realize, “ah! That’s it!” there’s more to this…
It makes me think of my dog – she’s CRAZY full of energy. I tell her to “stay” and she’ll try her best but all the while her hind end wiggles wildly as she tries with all her might to stay put. Sometimes, however, the temptation to move is too much for her and off she goes toward whatever it is that’s caught her attention.
It sounds funny to liken staying our mind to my, at times, disobedient dog’s ability to stay – but it is absolutely the same. “Staying,” sounds inactive and easy but it’s definition reveals it’s the “ACTION of halting.”To stay requires action (sometimes a whole lot).
Check this out – here’s a prayer I have caught myself in:
God – You are amazing. You are Holy, sovereign, miraculous (Thought: The laundry needs folded). You gave me this day, and I give it back to you (Thought: it’s been sitting in the dryer for two days!) please help me to surrender (Thought: AH! the clothes in the washer – I can smell them!) and be available that you can lead me where (Thought: I need to get the kids up!) you want me to go today (Thought: I forgot to put breakfast in the oven!). In Jesus name I pray – Amen.
That’s 20 seconds worth of prayer I prayed on a low stress day. 20 seconds and I have proof that staying my mind on him is work, purposeful intentional – work.
Staying focused is hard.
Having to put forth effort in our faith is an unpopular idea. We have somehow fallen into this entitlement mentality that believes we shouldn’t have to work at our relationship with God.
We’ve allowed ourselves to believe that we should simply be able to call ourselves a Christian and immediately obtain all the promises in His word, peace being one. Believing this is a ploy of the enemy. It’s one that leaves peace out of reach, that is, until we come to that place where living without it is not longer an option. It’s then that we begin to ask the Father to teach us how to stay our mind on him.
God’s word tells us we are to pray about any thing (Philippians 4:6). Learning to keep our mind stayed on him – is part of that anything. Several years ago, I found myself at a place where living without His peace was no longer acceptable. It caused me to ask our Heavenly Father to show me ways to stay focused. Our Lord is so good, he answered without hesitation, and offered me several simple ways to maintain my focus.
3 simple ways to stay focused on the Lord.
1) Specifically, Prayer at the first part of the day. It doesn’t have to be a long laborious prayer. It begins with simplistic acknowledgement of His authority. Isaiah 26:3 tells us peace comes from God, training our mind to think of him first, is a great step toward obtaining it.
Read God’s Word
2) God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our way. If given the opportunity, it will illuminate our path to peace. If we aren’t picking it up and reading it, we’re walking blindly bumping into, and stumbling over things that we wouldn’t had we been obedient in His call for relationship with us.
Reading the Word is a forgotten necessity. Whether it is 5 minutes or 5 hours (I long for the day this happens) – we must make time to allow the Prince of Peace to speak. John 1:1 tells us, in the beginning was the word, the word was with God and the Word was God. Reading the word directly (books about the Bible are not a substitute), allows the Word which is God to speak to us giving him the opportunity to reign as Peace in our life.
For many of us, our lack of peace is due to thoughts that directly challenge God’s ability. These are imaginations, and God commands us to cast down them down (2 Corinthians 10:5).
We gain knowledge of God through his word. The knowledge we gain transforms into arms used to take these thoughts captive. If we aren’t reading it, how are we ever going to identify restrictive self talk that exalts itself?
Listen to God’s Word.
3) Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. It’s ok to look at these words simplistically. The more we hear the word of God, the more our faith grows. When my work day allows, a podcast is on, or my Bible app is reading to me. If my day is too busy then these things are happening on the commute to, or while dropping kids off to different activities. A godly podcase is a prime opportunity to hear His word even in the midst of life’s busyness.
NOTE: there are lots of podcasts out there be sure the one you choose speaks true Biblical wisdom.
Contingency 2 – Trust
Actively living as God has called us is hard to begin. It’s effort intensive. It’s a lot easier to do nothing than to put forth the effort required to build a relationship. Relationships are work, but time invested with this one, is undoubtedly worth it. None of us longs to live a stressed out and anxious life. We search endlessly to find peace. Implementing these simple activities enables us to see the Prince of Peace. They’ve helped me to stay focused, and build true relationship with him by putting to action the things I’ve learned. As a result I’ve learned to trust him.
Storms of life teach us to trust him.
Do these simple activities have the power to eliminate tough situations from happening? No, and to think they will is not Biblical. God directly tells us life will not be easy. We live in a fallen world. When sin entered in, it removed our peace. God’s redemptive plan however, restores it. Isaiah 53:5, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” The chastisement of our peace. Peace was part of the cross. Just as through it Jesus has redeemed us from our sin, He has secured our peace. Through our obedience to His word, baptism in His name, and the infilling of the Holy Spirit, Peace becomes our right. Our RIGHT.
Making these simple activities part of our day allow that truth the opportunity to shine as it prepares and transforms our thinking shifting our attitude from victim to victor. Where we then head into storms of life head on, and our trust in him grows as we watch the Lord make a way where we cannot see one.
They introduce us to the peace speaker. The one whose voice is more peaceful than those ocean waves, and whose distance is closer than the nearest beach.
In them, we learn his voice so when the noise of life sets in and distractions attempt to overwhelm. They encourage us to press on to claim the peace that is already ours. And all that stands between is a decision to make where we consider how bad do we want it?
Choice for today
Are we going to allow the noise of life to distract us and steal our peace as it did Martha, or are we going to follow Mary’s lead and sit at the feet of our Savior reaching for the good part – the one that Jesus said won’t be taken from us? If that’s where you are, and that’s what you want, I encourage you to join me today, Choose Him.
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