Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?John 21:20-23 KJV
At the start of every year whether people follow through with it or not it has become accustomed to setting out resolutions what we will accomplish in the new year. One of the greater challenges of following through with these resolutions is that oftentimes we pick things that will require greater changes than we are really prepared to do. We have not really learned that smaller changes over a longer period of time can provide lasting changes for the rest of our lives.
One of the struggles that we will have as we strive to leave a mark in this year is to seek a renewed focus for our lives. If we are not deliberate in our actions we can run the risk of missing what God has in store for us. Today I want to talk with you about regaining focus in an unclear world.
There are so many mixed messages being sent by the world in which we live. We have to do a better job of figuring out how to live our lives in a Christ-like way in a world that doesn’t want to have any part in that. How do we regain focus? How do we get our lives back on a road that will bring us closer to God?
Obey what Jesus has said
The first commitment we should make is Christians in this new year is to obey what Jesus said. I will grant it is not always easy to do what Jesus says. It isn’t easy because doing what Jesus says requires that we acknowledge that He has spoken. We are all on a journey to find meaning and significance. We all are looking for ways of making our lives count. So we make friends and we start families. We get involved in the community and we look for careers that will be fulfilling. We tell ourselves that if we do these things we will find happiness.
But no matter what we do doubt will linger in our minds. “Is this enough?” It is so hard to see what we need to do most of the time, but God desires to be a part of that process. God is looking for you and me to turn to Him and say, “God, I want to have a life filled with meaning and purpose. But I need you if I’m going to get there.” And do you know what He did? He sent Jesus.
Jesus was and is God’s way of saying I want to be a part of your life if you will let me. I find myself rededicating my life to Christ on a regular basis. Why? I do it because I make mistakes. I let people down. I let myself down. I’m not perfect. And it is only when I turn my life over to Him that I know I will be all right? Do you need to give your life to him today? Do you need to recommit your life to Jesus today?
When I look at the story here at the end of John I am reminded that we have to obey what Jesus says. We can’t go and do what we think that Jesus has said. If we do what we think He said we will get hurt and we will hurt others in the process. Our good intentions go wrong when we don’t follow the instructions. Peter had not been restored to fellowship long before he was concerned about somebody else’s status with God. When we fail to obey what Jesus has said we go and do foolish things. This is not something new. It’s something that has been going on from the very first moment that God breathed life into Adam.
Don’t underestimate your own struggles
The second commitment we should make is that we should not underestimate our own struggles. If we want to regain focus we have to be willing to admit that we have struggles. I don’t like to admit it, but if I want to have a chance at enjoying my life I can’t go and stick my head in the sand. Life is hard. We have to account for other people, what they say, what they do, what they mean. I have to account for my actions and how I will react in those situations when I deal with other people.
We have mortgages to pay, jobs to deal with, bosses to please, families to maintain, cars to fix, recitals to go to, students to teach, children to rear, and churches to build. Life is complicated. Because of this, we can’t afford to underestimate our struggles, because any wrench could bring the whole thing to a halt.
I don’t know about you, but some days are a real struggle. Trying to make the right choices, trying to live a good life. I really don’t have the time to be focusing my energy and effort on making sure other people are doing what they are supposed to be doing. If I were to spend my time trying to do this I would go insane.
Not everyone sees things the way that I do. Not everyone is interested in what I am interested in. Not everyone that I come in contact with on a daily basis holds the same things dear that I do. This is all part of the struggle that I must deal with. And yet I find myself in the same situation as Peter. I start looking around wondering, “What about Him?” I have to seek to do the best that I can with what God has given me. And I should do this with the sincere prayer that God would use what I give for His glory.
The comparison game is such a dangerous way to live our lives. God does not compare us to anyone else except Jesus. And that the standard is difficult enough on its own.
Compare yourself to Christ, Not to “John”
The third commitment we should make is to compare ourselves to Jesus and not to “John”. One of the most harmful decisions you can make is to try and compare yourself to someone else. When we compare ourselves to those around us we make assumptions about the other person that may not be true. But the assumptions that could be the most troublesome are the ones that you make about yourself. It doesn’t matter whether the comparison is positive or negative. Whether we are making ourselves better or worse. Do you know what the biggest problem with comparing ourselves to “John” is? We are comparing ourselves to the wrong person.
We too often get caught up in what is going on in other people’s lives at the expense of what is happening in our own. Peter wanted to know what was going to happen to John because he did not want to get any less than what John was getting. We are not here to compete with one another. We are not here to best one another and try to see who can do more for the church than the person next to us.
I think that this boils down to the way that we are taught about success. We are taught and told that success is competition. We have to do better than the person next to us if we want to get that promotion. We have to work harder if we want to get ahead. And what ends up happening is that we all have to maintain where we are just so we don’t fall behind. If we try to keep up with those that are around we will lose sight of something much more important, keeping up with Jesus.
There is a chorus that helps me to put aside that tendency to want to look across the aisle to see how I’m doing against so and so. The chorus says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the life of His glory and grace.”
If you need to give your life to Jesus for the first time or if you need to give your life again do it today. You can pray something like this:
Jesus, I am not perfect. I need you to come into my life and help me to regain the right focus in my life. Help me to obey your word, help me to identify the areas of my life where I struggle, and let me look to you to see how I’m doing. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.
Originally Delivered in 2004. It has been edited and expanded.