A Choice of Focus

“Worship is intense focusing of a surrendered will, with mind and feelings on the greatness and goodness of God.” – Dallas Willard

In Ephesians, Paul prays for those he is writing to and says, “I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you wisdom to see clearly and really understand who Christ is and all that he has done for you.”  In a world of uncertainty, what might happen if you prayed that prayer at the beginning of each day?

When life is scary, painful and filled with uncertainty, the temptation is to allow those things to have the loudest voice. Difficult and painful experiences can consume us, especially when a longed for outcome to a situation doesn’t occur, or seems impossible.  The “what-ifs” of life become the focus of our thoughts, and hours are spent chasing down potential scenarios as we depend on our own ability to work a way around, and obtain what is desired.  We are worshiping what we want and it drowns out the clear evidence of God’s goodness, love and faithfulness.  

Dallas Willard has a wonderful way of describing worship.  Worship is “an intense focusing of a surrendered will, with mind and feelings focused on the greatness and goodness of God.”  The word “worship” is most often associated with religion or faith – but the truth is, we can “worship” or have focus of mind and feeling on almost anything.

When we focus on a desired outcome, we are putting that outcome first and foremost in our thoughts and mind.  This can lead to a relationship with God that is more transactional in nature. God becomes much like a finicky vending machine that is holding the things we want. We run ourselves ragged trying to figure out what we need to do or say to finally get God to cooperate with our plans and give us what is desired. In a way we seek to manipulate God as we trust our own wisdom, strength and abilities instead of trusting an almighty good and loving God.

Worshiping God is a choice to focus on His goodness and greatness instead of the problem at hand or on ourselves. This does not mean suffering will end or the thing you desire will be dispensed.  This is not a formula for manipulating God to give you want you want.  It is a choice to lay down your will, surrender to God and trust him in all things knowing he is loving and good.  Does this scare you?  If it does, it may be an indicator of where you are placing your trust and faith.

Surrendering to God used to scare me, and honestly at times it still does.  What if God allows my pain to continue, or doesn’t rescue me from the difficult circumstances I find myself in?  I’m a classic over-thinker with an ability to imagine almost every negative outcome and then work to exhaustion to figure things out.  The formulaic, rules based approach to relationship with God feels comfortable because then I can predict what might happen.  But God wants more than just a “if you do this, then I’ll do that” relationship.  He wants a relationship based on complete trust in his love for me.

In each moment of every day we have a choice to surrender and trust God, or surrender to our feelings, wants and desires and trust ourselves or even other people.  The difference between these two approaches to life are stark.

Focusing on desired outcomes and trusting our plans and abilities produces anxiety and fear.  It is all based on performance, gaining approval and results in immense amounts of stress. The desired outcome becomes the God we pursue and it will leave us wanting in the end.  

Trusting God involves living life with open hands, waiting, trusting and accepting love when life is hard, abandoning all outcomes into God’s care and learning to wait on Him.  It brings peace, joy and contentment in the middle of any circumstance. This way of faith does not excuse effort, allow for abdication in making decisions or mean dreams and plans should never be pursued.  It does leave the outcome up to God, and trusts that God’s outcome is perfect and loving. It does demand that we invite God into every aspect of our lives and apprentice ourselves to Jesus, living our lives the way he would live our life. Living this way takes training and is purposeful in its focus on God.

In the midst of a world filled with uncertainty and fear, this is my prayer for you,

 “I pray that God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 will give you the wisdom to see clearly and really understand who Christ is and all that he has done for you.  

In the midst of whatever you are going through, 

may your heart be flooded with light so you can see something of the future he has called you to share.  

You are precious to God.  Realize that God has been made rich because you who are Christ’s have been given to him!

 I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great his power is to help those who believe him. 

 (Ephesians 1:17-21 paraphrased )

Be purposeful today.  Choose to see the good and beautiful.  Choose to drink in and experience the common everyday blessings.  Look back, and unbury the evidence of God’s goodness and love from the mountains of pain and hardship as well as take time to savor the sweet memories that bring joy. Look forward with joyful anticipation to the future God has for you. Live in the present, aware of God’s goodness and love. Pray, and ask God to give you the wisdom to see clearly all He has done.

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