It was October 2001 and in a couple of weeks I would celebrate my 40th birthday. The thought of this had been nagging at me for most of the year. 40 years old. Life is slipping away…it was nearing the half way mark by most statistics. What had I done with my 40 years? What had I not done that I wished I had? What would become of me? My kids would soon be off to college and on with their own lives. Ugh. It went by so fast.
The summer of 2001 was epic. My parents, who lived in Florida, had bought a duplex in our hometown in Iowa where I lived with my teen-aged children. They lived in one apartment for the summer and rented out the other. It was so great to have them close by. We enjoyed Sunday meals together. We did things that families who live close to each other do.
My dad loved baseball. My son was very good at baseball. That summer, I had the privilege of attending every one of my son’s high school baseball games with my Dad. He knew every player’s number and probably their on base percentage. He was their biggest fan. When he had the chance to talk with them, he treated them as if they were major leaguers. I can still hear him when my son would come up to bat…”Give it a ride , Sam!” My son’s name is not Sam. Sam is the nickname Dad used for his son and grandsons.
Saturday, October 20 my phone rang unusually early. It was Mom. “Please come over, there’s something wrong with your Dad.” He was having a stoke. The next day, my Dad turned 79 in a hospital in Des Moines. The following week, I turned 40…sitting by his bedside in a hospital in Des Moines.
Suddenly, turning 40 held absolutely no significance. I hardly noticed it. My world had been turned upside down. Turning 40 was the least of my worries. My Dad was hanging on to life by a thread. My Mom was struggling to hold it together. My focus was on them and what I could do to make things better for them.
That’s what a crisis will do. It will shift your attention from all of life’s distractions and immediately put the focus on what is truly important.
It is easy to get caught up in things that add no value to our lives. Worry in itself is pointless. Worrying about something will not change it in the least. No matter how much I worried about turning 40, when that day rolled around, I was still another year older. The worry was a total waste of time.
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27 NIV
There is a valuable lesson to be learned in this. When our attention turns from ourselves to others, our problems fade into the background. In my case, a crisis shifted my attention. What if it didn’t take a crisis to make that shift? What if we could live so selflessly that our main focus is always making sure others have what they need to live well?
Oh, that is so much easier said than done! It takes conscious, continual effort. In fact, it is impossible without the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The world we live in is increasingly selfish. Political correctness, social media, all point to “looking out for number one.”. And “number one” is understood to be yourself. After all, if I don’t look out for myself, who will? I can’t let people walk all over me. No, you can’t and you shouldn’t, but there is a difference between standing up for yourself and consistently putting yourself first.
So, how then do we turn the focus from “me” to “thee”?
Step 1: Seek first the kingdom of God.
In Luke 12, Jesus is teaching his disciples. He tells them not to worry about things like what you’re going to eat and what you’re going to wear. He said, your father knows you need these things. Then in verse 31 He tells them “But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.” In other words, if we keep our focus on God and His way of doing things, follow His directions, use His Word as our guide, do our best to put Him first instead of putting OUR needs first – He will take care of the rest.
That does not mean that money will fall out of heaven or that food will magically appear on your doorstep…even though it could. But rather when we seek first His kingdom we learn His way. We learn who He is. We learn to hear his voice. And from that He will guide us to do things that will take care of our needs. If we obey.
Step 2: Trust God to do what He promised
Do you believe God will do what He promises in His word? Do you believe if you seek Him first, put Him first, make Him the priority in your life that He will take care of you? It all sounds good on paper…when you read it. But when the bill collectors are calling and your bank account is empty, will you trust that God will take care of you? When your parent is laying in a hospital bed and all you can do is pray, will you trust that God will take care of you? When your spouse has left you and you feel like you are all alone, will you trust that God will take care of you?
It is easy to say “oh yes, I trust God” but when life gets hard are you trusting Him or are you trying to carry the burden yourself? Remember, our part is to seek him. His part is to take care of “all these other things”.
“And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” Romans 4:21 KJV
Step 3: Above all else, walk in love
Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commandments hang on this one. In other words, if you walk in love you won’t want to commit murder, or adultery, or steal. If you walk in love you will not be envious or covetous. If you truly love others, you will not want to do anything that would hurt them or harm them…because you love them.
Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10 (NIV)
When circumstances overwhelm us, our focus turns to ourselves and to our circumstances. Turn your focus from yourself and your worries to someone else who needs encouragement. Do something to help someone. It will not only give them a boost, but it will take your mind off of your problems.
Step 4: Never Give Up
Maybe, like me, you feel like life is slipping away and you have little to show for it. You may feel like it is too late to see your dreams become reality. You may feel like you’ve messed things up so much you have no choice but to just ride it out. It’s not true. As long as you are still here and still breathing, you have a purpose.
It is easy to get discouraged and feel like your not making progress. But as long as you are doing SOMETHING every day to move you towards your goals, you are making progress. Don’t listen to the lies of Satan. Keep pressing on and never give up. Decide that quitting is not an option. God will honor your faithfulness. Just don’t quit.
“And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.” Galatians 6:9 AMPC
Stop worrying. Trust God. Love. Never Quit.