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Focus – The Virtue of Clarity



3/10/2024

2 Corinthians 3:18

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Spirit of the Lord.

 

I want to speak on the virtue of focus this week. It is another of those qualities that work powerfully in combination with other virtues, yet by itself it is profoundly important. To contemplate the Lord’s glory with an unveiled face refers to the concept of focus.

 

The word ‘focus’ does not appear in the Bible; it didn’t come into our vocabulary until the 1640’s. However, the concept of directing our attention, setting our minds, and aligning our thoughts with spiritual matters is prevalent throughout Scripture. While the specific term may not appear, the essence of spiritual focus is woven into the fabric of biblical teachings. Verses encourage us to focus on God, His Word, and eternal truths.

 

Sometimes I enjoy the translation of the Bible called The Message. It is written in the tone of somebody off the street just talking. Here is Paul in Philippians 3:13-15: Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward - to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back. So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision - you'll see it yet!

 

This paragraph uses the concept of focus as we understand it. Whenever we are ‘setting our minds,’ ‘aligning our thoughts,’ or ‘concentrating’ we are focusing. Psalm 101:3 tells us, “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.” That is intentional focus.

 

It is a question that enters my mind at times: “Where is my focus?” When I am irritable, out of sorts, or down in the dumps, where are my thoughts? What is my focus? Inevitably, my attention is on something dark and negative. We are told in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” When I am downhearted, it is always because the focus of my thoughts is on something negative.

 

It is not that we deny that there are negative things happening to us and around us. It would be foolish to think they are not. But like our thoughts, we control where our emotions are taking us. Just because there is darkness in the world, does that mean we have to focus on it and allow it to enslave us under its influence?

 

The answer is “No!” It is our focus that leads us into the dark, and it is our focus that moves us into God’s Light. We are a child of God, a powerful spiritual being and heir to God’s abundant good. Knowing this keeps our focus on the positive. When we remember that God is good all the time and focus our attention on that idea, we are not disturbed by anything that is happening in or around us. We may not understand why it is happening, we may not like it, but we are not being punished or tested; it is just the process of God working things out for the good of everyone.

 

Like all virtues, we choose our focus, and it is our focus that directs us to the virtue of our choice. There are many benefits to choosing to focus on the true, right, noble, pure, and positive. First, focus is the virtue of clarity. When we focus on the Light, on the positive, we gain clarity about our thoughts, goals, priorities, and purpose. Focus helps us discern what matters most so that we can then align our actions and attitudes accordingly.

 

We are more productive when we are focused. There are so many distractions on our journey through life. If we stop and engage in every meaningless thought or event, we slow ourselves down. Focusing on one task at a time allows us to work efficiently and accomplish more. We avoid distractions and channel our energy toward meaningful endeavors. We are constantly inundated with choices and a focused mind evaluates options more effectively. We make better decisions when we concentrate on relevant information rather than being scattered.

 

For instance, suppose we desire more peace in our lives. Where is our focus? We can begin the day in prayer, immersed in the love of God and steeped in peace and tranquility. Focused on peace we can go forward through the day in serenity, confident that no one and nothing can disturb the calm stillness of our soul. When situations arise that are beyond our control, we focus on the fact that God is greater than any circumstance. If challenges leave us feeling rattled with a racing mind, we pause and focus on our heart. We pay attention to our breathing and take a few deep calming breaths as we release negative or fearful thoughts. With a grateful heart, we affirm the goodness of God. We end the day in quiet contentment, focused on the peace in our heart as it spreads throughout our mind and body. As we prepare for sleep, we relax into the love of God. We are peaceful and blessed.

 

Focusing on learning new skills or deepening our understanding leads to personal growth. It allows us to absorb knowledge and apply it effectively. In challenging situations, focus helps us stay resilient. We persevere through difficulties, knowing our purpose and maintaining our resolve.

 

Focusing on relationships fosters deeper connections. Active listening and genuine presence strengthen bonds with others. That requires the purity of focus on the other, and not on ourself. Where is our focus?

 

A focused mind avoids unnecessary worry. With focus we can intentionally and healthfully compartmentalize our emotions and feelings and prioritize tasks. We face problems one at a time, reducing stress and anxiety. Our focused thinking sparks creativity, allowing us to explore ideas deeply and find innovative solutions. Concentration improves mental and physical health. It reduces mental fatigue and promotes overall well-being. Spiritual focus draws us closer to God, deepening our faith, prayer life, understanding, and responsiveness to Spirits nudges and guidance.

 

Colossians 3:2 teaches us to:  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Our personal human history and unique experiences determine how we see the world. We are often tempted to look at any troubling or disappointing situation and think, “That’s just the way it is.”

 

The truth is there are many ways to perceive the world around us. It is a matter of focus. If we don’t like what life is showing us, we have the power to change how we interpret what we see by going within ourself. We alter our perspective by keeping God at the forefront of our thinking. We do this by practicing gratitude for blessings already present as well as those that are on the way. We also pray, not for specific things or certain results, but to touch the peace and perfection of the Divine and to carry the awareness of that Presence with us throughout the day. As we elevate our perspective, how we view the world around us changes.

 

Spiritual focus involves directing our attention, thoughts, and actions toward spiritual matters. It means making God the central focus of our lives, aligning our priorities with His will, and seeking to grow in faith and righteousness. Focus is not just about what we do; it’s about how intentionally we do it.

 

So, it is my prayer that we move our thoughts toward God, toward the Light, toward Christ, and away from the darkness of the world. There is enough negative going on in the world; we don’t need to add our anxiety and concern. I pray that we hold on to powerful visions of hope, peace, and joy. Let us see the world clearly, through the focus of God’s Love. The darkness of the world has no power over us when we are standing in the Light of God. Let that Light be our focus.

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