Laser focus. While having a solid focus could help you accomplish your goals this year, could laser focus be something God’s asking of you?
Many of you are familiar with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus from the Bible. They were friends of Jesus, and, as they lived in Bethany on the southeast slope of the Mount of Olives, He stayed in their home when He visited Jerusalem.
The Bible mentions them only a few times:
- in Luke 10:38-42 when Mary sits and listens at the feet of Jesus while Martha works
- in John 11 when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, and
- in John 12 when Mary anoints Jesus’s feet with an expensive perfume, to the great irritation of Judas Iscariot.
It is the second instance that caught my attention as I prepared to move into 2016. You see, as is my custom, I took December to think through the past year. I noted what I had accomplished and considered what I wanted to do in the months ahead. I prayed about direction and focus, making a list of goals for the new year, writing them down in a place where I will see them often.
And I’m ready to challenge myself. In 2015, I accomplished 10 of the 13 goals I set out for myself. I knew in the beginning that I probably aimed too high, and I proved myself right. Thirteen goals for one year is quite a lot.
So this year, I paid attention to the example Jesus laid before me, took the advice of people who teach goal setting, and wrote down eight priorities for 2016.
How did I get from Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead to limiting myself to eight goals? It goes back to laser focus. Let’s look at the story from John.
Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:38-44)
Assignment. Not need.
This passage is rich with important themes, from depth of belief in Christ to the different reactions of the two sisters. But something that is frequently overlooked is how many people Jesus raised from the dead: one.
In case you don’t know the geography of the area, the Mount of Olives includes the Jewish cemetery. Tombs there date back to the first Temple of the Old Testament and number in the thousands — 70,000 according to Wikipedia.
And yet Jesus just raised one man. Out of thousands.
Do you really think that he was the only one to have died recently? Do you really think that he was the only one to have family that needed him alive? That he was the only one people missed? The only one that was loved by Jesus?
But God in His great wisdom wanted to use Lazarus to showcase His glory so that others would believe (John 11:40, 15). Lazarus alone.
It was the assignment God gave to Jesus, and it was the assignment that Jesus completed. Not because others didn’t have a need, but because that’s what God asked of Him.
Time after time, Jesus didn’t focus on the need around Him. He focused on the assignment God gave to Him.
What would Jesus do?
So what would Jesus do with the year in front of you? As I looked ahead, I saw many good things I could get involved in, ministries that could use my talents, groups that could use my gifts, people that would benefit from my time. But ultimately I want to be successful in the eyes of my King and my God, which means I must maintain focus. God’s focus.
I must say no to the good things so I have time to accomplish the great things God assigned to me.
I must say no to the busy things so I am not worn out to finish the race God placed before me.
I must say no to the useless things so I do not merely waste time when I could be making progress.
I’ve made my choices this year, and I will prayerfully check in from time to time with God to see how I’m doing. But what about you? What has Jesus asked you to do, and what do you need to cut or limit from your schedule to make sure you complete your assignment?