It’s easy to get distracted. We know that we as Christians have a job to do, but it’s so easy to get our eyes off of my responsibilities and onto someone else’s. We see folks that have more money, more opportunities, and more advantages than we do. They have a better job, a better support group, better parents, better kids, better spouse, better church, or better natural abilities. We can become frustrated, bitter, and envious; our thought life becomes nearly the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. Our spiritual life dwindles and our prayer life slowly dies. Unfortunately, at this point, some of us decide to step out of God’s will. We either stop altogether or find somewhere we can run from their problems. As my fried Jerry always says: “If you run from your problems, you’ll find that when you get to where you’re running to that your problems beat you there.”
How can we avoid a bitter, unproductive spirit when all around us, everyone else has more than we do? Here are three lessons that I’ve learned that help me stay focused on the work God has given me to do:
Focus on your current resources
I had the privilege to work for a pastor in northeast South Dakota for six years. This September, he will have pastored the same church in a town of 26,000 people for 30 years. He did not get startup hymnals, a donated van, or 10,000 flyers as a gift. He didn’t have a staff member until 2008, and then only part-time. He didn’t spend his time driving to meetings to raise money, flying to conferences to “get away from the church for a while,” or writing his complaints down on Facebook. He focused primarily on the job that God had given him to do. He had bad days and good days, just like any other man. The difference in my pastor, though, was that he was always happy and hopeful. He cheerfully looked forward to what God was going to do. He expected God to do a work. The church there is growing and blessed because of his labor. Several other churches in South Dakota refer to him as the “anchor of the North” because he has been faithful to labor in a place where others would be quick to leave given the slightest provocation.
He also had an unrivaled work ethic and didn’t waste a single minute that I ever saw. He seemed to always focus on things he could do rather than the things he couldn’t. He focused on the things he could buy rather than the things he could not afford. He focused on how he could take care of his family (he did paper routes for years) instead of how others had it so easy. Instead of focusing on what he did not have and what he wished he had, he focused on what God had given him and was endeavoring to be faithful with that. It seemed to me that he understood and lived out the principle in Luke 12:42-48 – Live as if you had to give account today of what you have been given.
I learned (and am still learning) to live as if I had to give an account today with what I have been given, not for what others have been given or what I hope to accomplish one day in the future. If God came back right now, would you be able to give a good report of what you have done with what you have been given?
Focus your current resources on the job God has given YOU
Matthew 6:22-23 teaches us that our focus is incredibly important to both our heart condition and our service. In the context, we are taught that attempting to focus on spiritual treasure and worldly treasure is unproductive and to have a proper purpose, we need a proper focus. I believe that this truth affects every aspect of our life. Although I believe it is very helpful to attend events designed to grow you and join discussion boards with other like-minded Christians, it is also easy to lose sight of your own purpose if you spend a lot of energy focusing on the things that you cannot do right now. Make a plan, get some ideas, but in the end, focus on YOUR job.
God has given you the job for a reason. You were called to your location, not anyone else. You are called to your family, not anyone else. You were led to your job. You were given those kids. You were given the Great Commission to tell others about Jesus. Learn to seek God on your own. Learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, not just the voice of popular leaders. Counsel is a wonderful, God-approved source of wisdom, but it is not the main source of wisdom. Be men and women of the Word! Be men and women of fervent prayer! I am so thankful for all those who have assisted me through the years, but I am most thankful to the Holy Spirit of God, Who has an active role in my growth in Him and in my work for Him.
Guided by God, go out and do what you know to do. Connect others to Jesus, care for those in your church, communicate Christ to the lost, and contribute where God has called you serve. God will lead you if you’ll follow his guidance. Are you trying to be like someone else or trying to find God’s will for you?
Learn in Order to Labor
More than ever, we have opportunities to learn. We have cheap ebooks, nearly unlimited free blog posts to read, and dozens of interactive communities in which to engage. As we focus on all this learning, we can become distracted by all the things we can’t afford or need to be doing that the other guy is doing.
We can easily get caught up in learning, learning, learning. We can boast on the books we’ve read and boast on the blogs we subscribe to. We can reference the latest article and video that has come out. We can talk about the all the great ideas we’ve gleaned.
We all must learn, but we also must labor. We must put to use that which we are learning! We must work to take “what we will do” to “what we have done.” Many times, we learn too much and either get overwhelmed and don’t try anything or we try to implement too much at one time. We ought to learn and then take what we’ve learned and work to make it happen.
Perhaps you’ve learned about a great way to love your spouse. Maybe you’ve been convicted to go tell someone about Jesus. Perhaps you have seen something that inspired you to clean the house or build the shelves your wife has been wanting you to build. Great. Now get off the computer, go to Home Depot, and go build something. Get off Facebook and start cleaning. Pick up the phone and plan a date with your wife. Get up, grab your Bible and some tracts and go have a conversation with someone about Jesus. Stop just hearing about ideas and start implementing them.
The purpose of learning is not to become a scholar; the purpose of learning is to labor and put to practical use the things you have learned. In the context of learning from the Bible and doing the work of the Word, we know from James 1:22-25 that if we don’t do the work, the hearing hasn’t done us much good at all. God has given you a job to do – go do it. Whether that job is raising your kids, loving your spouse, serving your neighbor, wisely budgeting your money, talking to your co-worker about Jesus, or simply being faithful to attend your church and encourage God’s people, determine today to go do the work.
The next time you are distracted by another’s success or the “unfairness of it all,” please consider the resources you do have, the job you have to do, and get to work doing it. Bitterness doesn’t like sweat – get busy with what you have and it will probably find somewhere else to be.