This is the generation of multi—hold on a second, I need to check this notification—wait, another email—okay, where was I? Oh, yeah, multitasking. It is something that many of us do, and maybe we even do it well, but it does impede our ability to do things as well as we could if we were more focused. So let’s focus on how to stay focused on what we should be focused on in order to not lose our focus. Sound good? These truths find their foundation in Mark 1:35-39, if you would like to reference this passage, it may be helpful.
How to get focused—v. 35. Simple: By preserving in prayer.
The main reason that many of us cannot focus on the things of the day is because we were never focused in the first place. The foundation of our day should be established in our time of prayer. There is no specific prayer length, but the focus on God during that time is crucial. Jesus prayed. In fact, he prayed a lot! Let’s focus on the specifics that we have here in verse 35: Jesus got up in the morning, a long time before day. To understand this, we need to know when a Jewish day begins. The fourth watch of the night is most probable here, which would end at the rising of the sun. He may have been in prayer for the duration of the three hours.
We know Jesus prayed for extended periods of time, as seen in the fact that Jesus rebuked his inner circle, which consisted of Peter, James, and John, on one occasion for not even being able to stay awake to pray with him for one hour (Mark 14:37). How else could Jesus have been prepared for the cross? We know he was in the Garden praying just prior to his arrest (Mark 14:32-42). What is your first response when an overwhelming task is on the horizon? Do you pout? Do you procrastinate? Do you pray?
Another way to focus is to have the proper surroundings. It is very hard for me to have quality prayer time if my phone is right beside me, because I cannot help but allow the stress of the day to cause me to check on things: emails, reminders, and social media, among other things. We can take this teaching of Jesus from his actions and duplicate it in our own lives. We get focused by getting away from distractions and getting in tune with the Father. This doesn’t take a special skill; only discipline.
How we become unfocused—vv. 36-38. Simple: By not dealing with distractions.
Although Jesus never pursued fame, we would be in denial if we failed to acknowledge the fact that he was very well known. In fact, we see it in the verses preceding our text. Mark 1:27-28 gives us the fact that Jesus’ fame was spreading throughout the region. The reason I even bring this up is to confirm the fact that Jesus would have had every tool at his disposal to pursue fame; but he did not want that. In fact, we know from Mark 10:45 that Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve others and give his life as a ransom for many. The propensity for us to get distracted by life is very real and very strong.
So Jesus went to a solitary place to pray. What happened when his disciples found him? Mark 1:37 tells us that they told him, “All men are seeking you.” Look what he did not do: he did not say, “Okay boys, tell them to line up and I’ll sign their scrolls and posters of me. For three dollars, I will take a photo with them.” That is what we would have the tendency to do if we are being honest.
He did just the opposite: he got out of the place where he was in order to carry out the very thing he was praying about—strength to preach and heal. So Jesus told his disciples that they were going to move on to other towns, not so he could greet the paparazzi, but in order to preach to them. He told them what they needed to hear, not necessarily what they wanted to hear.
We get unfocused when we take our eyes off of the mission and follow after things that please us. James 1:13-15 gives us this principle in relation to sinning. The way we see less sin is through more prayer. When we feel ourselves losing focus, I pray we will be quick to run to the Lord for help.
How to stay focused—v. 39. Simple: By concentrating on our calling.
Jesus went into the Jewish houses of worship, called synagogues, and signed autographs and took selfies, right? Nope. He preached and cast out devils. Although he was and is God and we are not, the calling is the same: to proclaim the good news that healing and forgiveness are available by trusting and believing in him. When we fail to point all the glory to him, we lose our focus and become less effective in our calling.
Let me give it to you in a very easy to remember format:
1. Pray for focus;
2. Put aside distractions;
3. Proclaim the truth we have all been called to give to the world. Don’t lose your focus!