Having faith means believing God has a great future in front of you, and he uses the past to shape you for the future that lies ahead. In order to experience this great future, we have to get in step with him.
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)
I love this scripture, but I find it very challenging. It describes 3 things I need to handle correctly in order to build my future:
- How do I handle the past?
- How do I handle the future?
- How do I handle the present?
How do you handle these three things, and how does God want you to handle them?
11 We do not enjoy being disciplined. It is
painful at the time, but later, after we have
learned from it, we have peace, because we
start living in the right way.
Hebrews 12:11 (NCV)
We often have feelings and attachments to the past. The past is hard to let go of, and it affects us emotionally. So how do we let go of the past, forgetting what is behind so we can focus on what’s ahead? How do we let go of guilt, what we’ve done, and what has been done to us?
We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it. The past is there to train me, shape me, and mold me, so I become who God wants me to become now. If I don’t learn from the past, I become regretful, bitter, and nostalgic about the glory days.
The challenge of looking at the past is to see God, not yourself and all your mistakes or the mistakes of others. One of the reasons I really need the Bible is it helps me to learn from my past. The Bible gives me perspective and faith to see how God is moving through everything that has happened in my life.
14 But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!” 15 My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly. 16 Let your favor shine on your servant. In your unfailing love, rescue me.
Psalm 31:14-16 (NLT)
I can’t know the future, but I can know the one who holds it in his hands. If we don’t trust God, we become fearful, controlling, and selfish. When we trust God, we are excited and anticipate great things ahead. This is faith.
The challenge of the future is not to be afraid but to trust God more fully. How much do you trust God with your future? Personally, the more complicated life gets the more I want to control it.
How I view the future tells God what I think of him and how powerful I think he really is. For example if your fear about your 401k makes you willing to compromise your spiritual life, you are telling God you don’t think he is strong enough to take care of you. But instead of being so afraid of God not taking care of our future, we really should be afraid of what our future would be like without him. The Bible teaches that what the wicked dread will overtake them, so we really should fear leaving God out of our future, not have a hard time trusting his plan for us.
14-15 Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.
2 Corinthians 5:13-15 (MSG)
If I don’t learn from how God has moved in the past, and if I don’t trust God with the future, I will waste the present by being unfocused and reactionary.
The challenge of the present is to focus on God. There are so many things that demand our attention, but the most important decision we can make is to put God at the focused center of our lives.
Make time every day to focus on God, and work from this focused center. Put the cross and Jesus at the center of your life. This is how you build faith. I have to build my faith everyday. I have to work at putting God at the focused center of my life everyday. That means taking time to read the Bible and study the way he lived, and what he believed. How hard do you work to make God the focused center of your life each day? How much time do you actually spend with him? What does this reflect about where your focus is?
The Gods we worship write their names on our faces; be sure of that. And a man will worship something…That which dominates his life and character. Therefore it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
We will become whatever we focus on. If we focus on God, we will become like him and become who he wants us to be. Our focus determines our future.
Shifting My Focus
…shift our focus from what we do to what God does…
Romans 3:31 (MSG)
Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
Romans 8:7-8 (MSG)
…I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift…
2 Corinthians 12:9 (MSG)
So how do you shift your focus? The Bible calls us to shift our focus from ourselves to God, and to shift our focus from our limitations to appreciating them as a gift. In order to shift our focus, we have to unclutter our hearts, focus our prayers, and see clearly what God is calling us to do with our lives.
1. Unclutter my Heart
And give my son Solomon an uncluttered and focused heart so that he can obey what you command, live by your directions and counsel, and carry through with building The Temple for which I have provided.”
1 Chronicles 29:19 (MSG)
Before we can obey what God says, we have to unclutter and focus our hearts. It’s the only way to carry through with building what God wants us to build.
Having a cluttered heart means you feel too much about too many things. That’s why we need the Bible – every day reading the Bible is a time to unclutter my heart. This is a way to build my faith.
Here are a few basic things to make sure to do when you read your Bible:
- Reading the scriptures and applying them to my life. This straightens me out – I don’t start the day good hearted – I usually start selfish and angry. Applying the Bible to my life helps me expect myself to live out what it’s saying.
- Confess my sins and embrace the truth. I need to get rid of the guilt and secrets in my heart and embrace truth. The Bible is a mirror and it will show me what is really going on with me. If I am not applying scriptures to my heart daily I get deceived and get cluttered with a lot of emotion.
If I let go of any one of these things my heart goes bad and I lose faith. Do you have a conviction that you need this daily?
2. Focus My Prayers
6 “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
Matthew 6:6 (MSG)
Second, to shift our focus to God we have to look at our prayers. The Bible says to find a quiet, secluded place to pray – this means find a place where you can focus. Don’t just pray while you are driving, getting ready, or doing other things. Then the Bible says be as honest as you can in your time with God. Finally, shift the focus from you to God – don’t just pray for yourself, pray about God.
Decide to pray every day like this for the next month, and see how your focus changes.
3. See what he is calling me to do
But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!
Ephesians 1:16-19 (MSG)
Lastly, focus on your purpose. Do you know exactly what God is calling you to do with your life? The more I know God – the more I understand his word, pray to him, deal with my sins so I can see him clearly – I can see exactly what he is calling me to do. I believe am here to help people – I am not here for just myself, my family, my retirement, my security, and my comfort.
Understanding your purpose means looking at why do you have the family you have, why do you have the talents you have, why do you have the challenges you have – and understanding that all of these things are for the purpose of helping people.
To Focus is to Make Decisions
Focus requires making some practical decisions. Start with making a Stop Doing list. What do I need to stop doing, so I am free to focus on what God wants?
For example, in order to focus on God, I am going to have to stop doing some other things. Maybe you need to stop …
- Traveling so much
- Worrying so much
- Cut back time spent on certain hobbies
- TV Time
- Video Games
- Wasting emotional energy thinking about what other people think
- Competing with friends and start being friends
- Working so late
You get the idea. Make some practical decisions to focus on God, forget the past and look forward to a great future.