Jesus’s Remarkable Focus
I think we all feel the need for more focus and intentionality throughout our lives. In our careers in particular, we feel overcommitted, overwhelmed, and overstressed, spending too much time focused on minutiae rather than the work we believe God created us to do.
But here’s the truth: It’s not enough to know what you feel called to focus on professionally. In order to do our most exceptional work for the glory of God and the good of others, we must also get in the habit of saying “no” to the many things that attempt to distract us from our essential mission.
I don’t think anybody understood this better than Jesus who displayed a remarkable awareness of the natural limits time and attention place on our ability to fulfill our life’s calling, or what Jesus referred to as the work the Father gave Him to do (see John 17:4).
In Luke 9:51, we are told,
“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (NIV) (emphasis mine).
The picture here isn’t of Jesus scattering himself across a myriad of nonessential work. Jesus was laser-focused on a singular vocational mission: preaching the good news of redemption in word and ultimate deed.
Along the way to fulfilling that mission, Jesus stopped by the home of Mary and Martha in what has become a legendary biblical account. As Luke shared:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, NIV)
Jesus had the mind-set of an essentialist on his way to fulfilling the one thing the Father called him to do, and here he is teaching Mary and Martha to do the same. In that moment the one essential thing was not cooking another dish or cleaning up the house—it was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Commenting on this passage, Pastor Timothy Keller hit the nail on the head: “[Mary] decided what was important, and she did not let the day-to-day get her away from that. As a result, she was drawn into a greatness we don’t even dream of. Because we are more like Martha than Mary, we’re sinking in a sea of mediocrity.”
The world is constantly pressuring us to be more like Martha than Mary, convincing us that the path to happiness and impact is the path of more—more jobs, more commitments, more money, etc. But here, Jesus offers us a better, simpler, sanerway. He offers us the path of less but better.
In a world full of Marthas, let us allow Jesus’s words to permeate every aspect of our lives, especially our work. Instead of scattering our gifts and energy in a million directions, let us seek the one vocational thing we believe the Father has given us to do and then master that work for his glory and the good of others.
The Battle for the Unseen
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3 (ESV)
The doorbell rang at 1 a.m. Instantly, I knew something was wrong. Panic rose in my body as I fumbled to find my glasses and get to the door.
There stood my friend with a look of worry and a command to hurry.
I grabbed my keys and drove as quickly as I could to the hospital where someone I deeply love was in an emergency room bed. Choices they’d made led to bad decisions and an outcome that almost cost them their life.
They would be OK. They would pull through. They would wake up again.
But the next few hours — and even the next few days — were going to be hard.
There were two unseen things fighting for my attention in those moments. One, faith. The other, fear.
But the battle to believe one or the other would be mine.
Having fear is not a sin. It’s what we allow fear to become that leads us to turn away from God.
In fact, throughout Scripture, we see how God fights for our faith in the midst of our fears. As King David wrote in today’s key verse, Psalm 56:3, God longs for us to trust Him: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
I love this verse because it’s not just a promise I can hold on to, but a prayer I can pray when I feel afraid.
This verse is a verse of resolve when fear fights for our focus.
But is it as simple as praying a prayer and asking God to help us have faith instead of fear? Yes and no.
We can silence fear by giving steady focus to faith.
And so, over the next few hours in that hospital room and when we left the hospital, I had to give my faith the attention it needed in a crisis. I repeatedly had to remind my thoughts not to give way to fear. And I know God heard my prayer, “I’m afraid … but I’m putting my trust in You.”
I don’t know what’s fighting for your attention that stirs up fear in your life, but I hope you find the confidence to break through the unseen and hold on to faith. Because God is fighting for you, too.
Start with this prayer: “I’m afraid … but I’m putting my trust in You.” And then recognize the process.
You’re worthy of faith. And fear isn’t worth your attention.
Faith and fear both fight for you to believe in something you cannot see. Choose your battle wisely.
This says a lot to me, you being here. It says you are feeling what I sometimes feel — like there is more than this. Your “this” may look different from my “this,” but it’s true all the same.
I hope you will take this journal with you for the daily story you are writing about your life. These one hundred days are special to me, and I hope they will be to you as well. I’ve pulled together some of my favorite thoughts on courage and bravery and mixed them with lots of new ones that God and life and people have taught me over the last few years. And I think that together with whatever God is already doing in your life, this could be a really interesting journey for you.
The 100 Days to Brave Guided Journal can be used along with the 100 Days to Brave devotional or on its own. The journal will encourage you to take your thoughts deeper, helping you to uncover more of the why behind your journey toward courage. Mark it up, use it well, and at the end you’ll be 100 days braver, 100 days stronger, and 100 days closer to taking the next step into what God has for you.
I know I’m not really there beside you, but in my heart it feels like I am. Think of me as the friend who’s across the table from you at the local coffeehouse, just here to talk and process and think with you as you walk this road toward your most courageous self. I’m cheering for you.
Annie F. Downs
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. — Romans 8:28 NIV
I’ve gone through a lot of changes in my life. Geographical changes. Career changes. Relationship changes. And I’m someone who isn’t the biggest fan of change. It’s really just not my favorite… as you have probably gathered by now.
And, friend, they are still happening! Just when I think life is smooth sailing, here comes another change.
Listen. If you’ve learned nothing from this little section of the book, and if I’ve learned nothing from simply living through all the changes, let’s all hear this —
brave people are okay with change because they remember that change is for our good.
That doesn’t mean you have to love change or seek change or want change. That doesn’t mean that when something that seemed to be going awesome takes an unexpected turn, you have to throw a party. It means that if you’re brave, you can walk through change with grace and hope that God’s promises are true and all things really do work together for good.
Some changes are welcomed. They’re celebrated. They’re fun. Promotions! Pregnancies! Book deals! Engagements! New homes! Though even the good changes in life can be difficult or stressful.
But then there are those other changes. The bad ones. The ones that don’t seem to have any silver lining.
Often change hurts. Often change is painful. Devastating even.
Maybe you just lost your job and you’re bracing yourself for the conversation you’ll have with your spouse tonight. Maybe the results from your MRI came back, and normal, as you knew it, ends today. Just remember — a brave person’s joy isn’t dependent on circumstances. God has got this, whatever it is. Your family. Your career. Your relationships. He knows your pain. He cares about your pain. And He wants you to live bravely, in the strength and knowledge that He is working for your good and He is ultimately in control.