At a Christian camp I attended a few summers ago, the speaker talked about how the spheres of our life interact and the thoughts we have towards one sphere can affect our thoughts of the others. The spheres that she touched on were self, others, the world, and God. At the end of her talk, we were sent back to our cabin with “cabin time” questions – things to discuss with our small group. One of her questions was something along the lines of “Which sphere affects your other spheres the most?” We had a great discussion and a range of answers, all of which are legitimate ways to think and feel. Our views on the world can affect what we think of others. Our thoughts toward others can affect what we feel about ourselves. Our feelings toward ourselves can affect how we view God. And all other variations of connections between these areas.
But I think the Bible leads us to one proper way of thinking about this question. God must be the focus of our lives, and everything else is to flow out of that. (For more of my thoughts on focusing on God, see my post here.)
How does putting God first really affect the other areas of our lives? It’s kind of like a staircase – if you solidly plant your foot on that first step, you’ve really set yourself up for success with the rest of the stairs. But if you trip and fall on the first stair, you end up doing summersaults all the way down. It’s really hard to catch yourself and get the whole staircase right, when you fumbled that first step.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:37-39 NIV
I mean, when Jesus gives you the hierarchy right there, it’s hard to argue with. It is possible to do good things towards others without loving God. But it can be much harder to have a loving attitude toward others without first loving God. With all the people in the world that are in need, it is easy to become discouraged or even annoyed and calloused toward everyone that is asking for help. But when we first love God, we can also grow in His love towards those that He loves.
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. – 1 John 4:7-8 NLT
Relationships of any kind (friends, family, dating, marriage) can be tricky to navigate. A lot of work and care has to go into relationships, and, because we’re human, there’s a good chance that someone is still going to get a little hurt at one time or another. If you’re wanting to improve your relationships, it makes sense to want to focus on the other person. That’s valuable...to a point. Focusing on another person’s wants and needs and interests can help you care for that person and build that relationship. But what about the days that you don’t feel like caring for them? Or what if you get so caught up in that other person, that you lose sight of everything else and end up getting hurt yourself? Focusing on God and making Him the foundation of our relationships helps us to put healthy boundaries in place, and also helps the overall quality of our relationships. We need to know God to have love. When we focus on God first, we are able to love others better.
Let’s be honest here – who’s ever complained about their job? *raises hand* Work is so easy to have a bad attitude about sometimes. But what would happen if we shifted our focus off of what we are doing and onto who we are doing it for? No, not the annoying customers and clients that we have to deal with, or even our bosses, but God.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. – Colossians 3:23-24 NIV
Oftentimes, when we are discontented in our jobs it is because we feel that our skills are not being used to the best of our abilities or we think we aren’t getting the appreciation and recognition we deserve. There are so many difficulties that can come up at work that make us feel frustrated. But we are not working for our own glory – we are working for God’s. When we take our focus off of ourselves and our work, and put it on God, we are able to be better, more motivated and servant hearted workers.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:13-14 NIV
Self-esteem and self-love are pretty common struggles. It can be hard to think positively of ourselves all the time. We look at ourselves and wish we were prettier/handsomer, more fit, smarter, funnier, the list goes on. But that right there is the problem – we’re looking at ourselves. When our focus is on ourselves, it is so easy to see where we are lacking. But when we fix our eyes on God, all we can see is His abundance. When we look at this verse, it is encouraging to know that we are wonderful, but what is even more encouraging is WHY we are wonderful – because God makes wonderful things.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13 NIV
It’s a bit funny to think that even in our faith we can take our focus off of God. Faith quickly becomes a meaningless chore when the focus is on religion, principles, traditions, and customs. The point of faith is to know God. How blessed are we to have that opportunity? Faith becomes an exciting journey and daily necessity when we are focused on the One that it’s all about, rather than just a tedious list of do’s and don’ts.
Keeping our focus constantly on God is literally life changing when we let Him into every part of our life. How could a shift in focus change your life today?