As COVID-19 ravages the globe, we’re all stuck at home in quarantine… and I’m wondering how long my patience will last. During the next few weeks, siblings will get on our nerves, we’ll get irritated at the lack of activity, and it will be difficult to not have angry outbursts. We also might stay disappointed about all the athletic improvement that has come to an abrupt stop. If we keep the focus on ourselves during all of this, our relationships and sanity will suffer. Putting the focus back on God could change your entire time in quarantine (and keep you sane!). If we focus on what God wants us to do (instead of what we’re missing), this pandemic could be more of an opportunity than a lost chance.
The World’s Focus
It’s obvious that people are obsessed with themselves. Self-centered slogans and “inspirational”, “feel good” quotes are shoved down our throats. And what’s not to like about it all? The world tells us to follow our hearts, love ourselves, and do whatever it takes to make ourselves the best. They blur the destructiveness of their views with catchy phrases and supposedly good intentions.
When we strive after honoring and pleasing ourselves, we’ll never be content. Worldly pleasures will never fully satisfy us, and we’ll never feel truly “enough”. Trust me, I’ve tried to put my identity in what I can do an it has never satisfied me. We’ll always be looking for more pleasure, but we will never find true joy or peace. That can only come from a relationship with God.
A Christian’s Focus
As Christians, we are called leave behind the idol of self, and we are given a greater purpose: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
When Christ steps into the picture, our lives become blessed with meaning and peace. Christ fills the gaping hole in our lives, and when we realize that “He first loved us” and “gave Himself for us”, we only want to know Him more.
God is greater than we realize, but He is interested in being Father even to the simplest. Living for Christ doesn’t prioritize being successful, beautiful, famous, or perfect. Living for Christ means knowing Him.
Whether God has “big” or “small” jobs for us, what we do for God is not the focus. The focus is on Him. Being a follower of Christ means having a relationship with our Creator and Savior. When we spend time in His presence we can’t help but become like Him!
Are We Different?
A Christian’s focus is nothing like the world’s focus. While Christians esteem and worship God, those in the world work hard to make themselves greater, prettier, and more successful. They want to “make a difference” for themselves and for their own glory. Yes, they might not want a person to go hungry, but their lives are ultimately centered on themselves.
Are we like that?
Christians (myself included) often fall into the trap of believing that we are what matters most. Pride seeps into our lives, and sin come with it. We might serve God with part of our lives, but our energy is ultimately used for ourselves. We strive after wealth, power, fame, and beauty but are only left with prideful, discontent hearts and empty lives. We worship ourselves and create one of the most damaging idols of all: the idol of self. We lust, covet, steal, boast, hate… all for ourselves.
The apostle Paul calls it “selfish ambition”.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.“
You can see in this passage and many others that God calls us to glorify and serve Him FIRST, and then to love other people… all before ourselves.
How Can We Do It?
Can I be the first to say that humility is hard? We humans have a feeling deeply rooted in us that says, “I am what matters most.”
I’ve spent countless hours in front of the mirror, at the gym, and at my desk. Some were spent for the glory of God, and some were spent in “selfish ambition” . I’ve tried to be the very best and have wanted to be “perfect in every way. “
And the times when I don’t feel this way? When I put others before myself and love them without selfish ambition? That’s ONLY from God. I know I could never serve from a pure heart on my own. That’s a difficult thing to admit, but it’s ironically freeing. When we know and admit that we can’t do anything good on our own, we can be released from the constant pressure to be the best. We only have to trust and obey God. While we can be successful and beautiful, those pursuits will never be our focus.
What does a God-focused life look like practically? Think back to Matthew 25.
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’“
When God is the focus of our lives, we will show it by loving others and obeying Him. Maybe it means washing the dishes even though you don’t want to or skipping your screen time to play with your siblings. Maybe it means sharing the gospel even though you’ll be mocked. Maybe you have to be careful about COVID-19 so that you don’t bring it home to someone at higher risk. Full obedience to God will require a lot of self denial. We can only consistently obey God if He matters more to us than ourselves.
God doesn’t require us to do it all or be the best. He reaches out and puts desires and actions into us that we never thought possible. God will help us to obey and follow Him. He will take away our selfish ambition when we ask in faith.
God loves you, friend. Don’t try to do this life for yourself or by yourself. Ask Him today to be the focus and love of your life.