The word the Lord had impressed on me last year was focus. The verse was Hebrews 12:2: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” But all year the secondary word seemed to be contentment, choosing to be content with where the Lord has put us for this season in our lives. So many things have changed over the last two years, and sometimes it's hard to keep my focus on Jesus rather than on our circumstances.
Toward the end of the year, the primary word that kept coming up in my Bible and devotional reading and in prayer was perseverance or endurance. But focus was still prominent because the verse for this year is Hebrews 12:1. Plus verses 1 and 2 are all part of one sentence: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1–2 nasb).
The Lord seems to be saying, “Stick with it. This is the race you’ve been given to run. Do it. Don’t give up because it’s not what you envisioned. Keep your eyes on Me, for only in Me will you find true satisfaction and contentment.”
The last two months of last year and the first two weeks of this year, I was very focused on what needed to be done with two book contracts so I could complete them. But once I turned in the work-for-hire project, I took a few days to relax a little before doing the final push on Calming the Storm Within. Those few days turned into a few weeks. As a result, I’ve struggled with disappointment (those unfulfilled expectations again), discouragement, and even depression. Distractions and interruptions are common, but I allowed them to control the way I spent each day.
Since the beginning of the year I’ve been working at losing the weight that had accumulated everywhere on my body during the last few years of stress eating. I joined a FB group called Transformation 2013, and we’ve been reading/studying Lysa TerKeurst’s 70-day devotional based on her book with the same title, Made to Crave. The readings the last two days have especially hit home, specifically in how I’ve been making choices based on my fleshly pleasures and desires.
Yesterday I read, “If you want to be a sold-out somebody for God, you have to break away from the everybody crowd.”
Ouch! The Lord reminded me of my deepest heart’s desire: to daily become the woman God created, reflecting Christ to others around me. Instead, these last few weeks I’ve focused on me—needing more time to “think through the topics” before I can write them, and trying to find a solution to our continued financial issues. In reality I’ve known what goes in those last two chapters for several weeks now. And my trying to find a solution to our problems is a lot of what got us into this mess in the first place. So . . . yeah. Very convicting.
Then Lysa quoted these verses from The Message paraphrase: “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention” (Matthew 7:13–14). My choices weren't shortcuts to getting those chapters written, nor did they bring solutions to paying the bills.
So I approached the day and week with purpose and a plan to finish the book. Which was fine until I took time after lunch to play “just one game.” Just to relax a little, get my mind into gear for writing. Only I know better. It takes my mind out of gear so I don’t have to think about the tough things like self-discipline and hard work. I went to bed last night frustrated with myself once again.
This morning when I opened Made to Crave on my Kindle, I read: “We often desire the long term solution, but shy away from the actions necessary to reach our goal.”
Ouch again! She’s not talking about just food here. Anything that keeps us from being all God desires for us is sin. It involves a conscious choice which direction I pursue. When I allow the “easy” choice—the one that gives me temporary pleasure and postpones the real work—I’m playing into Satan’s desires to keep me from being effective and fulfilling God’s plan for me.
It’s obvious I can’t accomplish the work the Lord has given me to do in my own strength. Nor can I truly be content when I’m pursuing my own way. Frustrations continue to build when I choose to focus on my circumstances rather than on what God wants me to learn because of them. True contentment all boils down to my choices—to pursue God and holiness or to follow after the temporary pleasures of my flesh and the world; to persevere in the face of extreme trials or to drift along or give up the struggle; to prepare for eternity to come or to live in the moment.
Today I choose to pursue God’s plan one decision at a time. Step by step walking the path He has chosen for me. Perseverance, focus, contentment. “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).