One of my favorite scriptures is Lamentations 3:22-23: The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
I don’t know about you, but I set a lot of goals for myself, but I don’t seem to accomplish a lot of them. I see changes I want to make in my life; I have ideas for projects to improve myself personally or my physical surroundings. But many times, I get pulled away from my goals and fail to make any progress. That’s why I love this scripture because it reminds me that God never gives up on me!
Every morning is a new start.
There is hope!
For the past two years, God has stirred in our hearts a new desire and urgency to live “on mission,” with a goal of sharing the gospel with the people around us. And I know that many of you reading this have that same passion. You love Jesus, and you want others to know Him. But maybe you’re like me; sometimes you get off track and wake up one morning to find your life is consumed with things that don’t really matter.
What keeps us from accomplishing what we set out to do, particularly in the area of sharing the gospel? Why do we start out well with a focused excitement, only to slip back into old habits, our old way of thinking, and old ways of living?
I believe there are two distractions that the enemy uses to keep us from being a people who are devoted to living a gospel-centered life.
Distraction #1: Wrong Perspective
Matthew 16:21-23 – From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
In this passage, Jesus had turned His attention to the cross. He knew He was headed for suffering and death, and He knew why. Peter’s response was normal to our way of thinking. He loved Jesus and certainly did not want Him to suffer and die. And he told Jesus this in no uncertain terms.
Jesus gives a very strong response to Peter. He basically said, “Peter, you are acting like my worst enemy, trying to keep me from doing what I came to do! You are saying to me what Satan himself would say!” Those are strong words, so we must conclude that Jesus’ next words of teaching would be very important for the disciples.
Matthew 16:24-26 – Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Peter’s earthly perspective had become a distraction to him. He was missing the eternal value in what Jesus planned to do, by obeying His Father and going to the cross. He was thinking in terms of Jesus’ physical life, and what would benefit himself personally. He loved Jesus and did not want Him to suffer. He also misunderstood the true cost of discipleship. Jesus was illustrating by His own life, that we must be willing to give up everything for the kingdom of God.
To overcome the distraction of a wrong perspective, we must change our focus from self-interest to God-interest.
What matters most to God?
What furthers His interest?
What expands His kingdom?
What brings Him glory?
What am I willing (or unwilling) to give up, to focus on what matters to God?
These are the questions we must ask ourselves every day if we are to do as Jesus said, and set our minds on God’s interests, and not our own.
Distraction #2: Wrong Priorities
Luke 10:38-42 – Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Martha’s concern was getting the meal on the table. But she was overwhelmed with all the preparations, and complained to Jesus, “I need help! Tell my sister to get up and get busy!” Jesus’ response was that Martha needed to focus on what was really necessary, the good part, which Mary had chosen: to be with Jesus.
Martha’s priorities were wrong. She had good intentions; after all, she had invited Jesus into her home and felt responsible for the meal preparations, hosting, and serving. But her focus had become more about the event, and less about the person she was ministering to…Jesus!
To overcome the distraction of wrong priorities, we must take time for the most important thing.
When do I spend time with Jesus?
When do I sit at His feet and drink in His words?
Do I love being with Jesus, or just doing things for Jesus?
As we prioritize our relationship with Jesus and set aside our own interests and self-protective instincts, our love for Him will grow and naturally spill over into the lives of the people around us. We will start to think like Him.
His perspective will become our perspective, and we will focus on His interests.
His priorities will become our priorities, and we will focus on His presence.
As we think about our perspective on kingdom work, and the priorities which fill up our day to day lives, we need to ask God to show us where we may be distracted. Are we more concerned with our self-interests, rather than what God’s interests are? Are we distracted by worry, consumed by tasks which keep us from focusing on Christ?
His mercies are new this morning, and His faithfulness is great. Let’s ask Him to renew our passion, our priorities, and our perspective today.
This material is adapted from Going Around The Corner, a six-session study designed to teach us how to live on mission and share the gospel where we live, work and play.