“Let your life be a stepping stone to Christ and not a stumbling block.” 1 Cor. 8:13 & 10:31
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify God who is in heaven." Matt. 5:16
By Jim Mathis
Some time ago I was struck by the insight of a comic strip that depicted someone having great difficulty focusing on a single task. The character was trying desperately – and failing miserably – to handle all of the demands screaming for his concentration at the same time.
It seems like it is becoming more difficult all the time to concentrate on one thing for very long. Modern society has definitely caused us all to have shorter attention spans. If we carefully watch any TV shows or view movies, we will notice how quickly things move and how fast-paced the drama is produced. A typical TV commercial shifts images every few seconds, sometimes more often than that. If we cannot capture an individual’s attention immediately, we reason, he or she will turn to something else.
With so many things competing for our mental energy, ranging from the Internet to text messages to e-mail, it is a wonder that we are able to focus on anything at all. Yet, the reality is that most of the great accomplishments in this world seem to have been achieved by people having the ability to stay focused on task until their goals were reached.
Today we are told “multi-tasking” – doing a number of things simultaneously – is good. However, multi-tasking simply means not truly paying attention to anything in particular for very long. It amounts to not giving 100 percent of your attention and energy to anything. Many accidents – whether driving a car, operating machinery or taking care of a child – occur when people become distracted or try to do more than one thing at a time. But even when calamity does not occur, allowing numerous demands to vie for our attention results in mediocre performance.
A few years ago I decided to intentionally narrow my professional focus. I would define myself as a photographer, writer, and musician. Those in themselves may seem like a lot, but what I left out was just as important. It meant I was not going to attempt to become a golfer, gardener, fisherman, or woodworker. Knowing I have a finite amount of time every day, I determined to concentrate on those things I enjoyed and did the best – ultimately, recognizing and pursuing my calling.
Since then I have found clearly defining who I am and what I do has gone a long way in helping me to maintain focus in my life. After all, unlike sophisticated cameras, most of us don't become equipped with "auto-focus" – or as I once heard someone express it, "ought-to-focus."
There is a strong spiritual principle that underlies this desire to maintain clear focus despite life’s myriad distractions. In the Bible’s New Testament, we are told, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:17, 23).
As we look around at God’s wondrous creation, we see that He never does things half-hearted or with mediocrity. Everything He does with excellence. So we should strive to do the same. Whether in conducting a business, serving a customer, building a marriage, or parenting a child, we need focus, making sure whatever we are doing at a given time is receiving our full attention and best effort.
Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and operates a school of photography. He formerly was executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.