T. PIERCE BROWN
Did you ever have an experience of trying to see, when your eyes would not focus properly? Things get “fuzzy,” don’t they? On the other hand, did you ever take a magnifying glass and bring the sun’s rays to a focus on a piece of paper? You may know that you can even burn a hole in a piece of steel by that process if you have a powerful magnifying glass! Having the right focus is tremendously important.
It is no less true in teaching and preaching — and living. Getting things out of focus may cause the message to be blurred. A man may become a “radical” or “crackpot” or a “hobby rider” in the eyes of his listeners if he focuses too long on the same things, even if they need to be in the center of attention at some time.
For example, in our preaching and teaching, we need, at some time and for some time, to focus attention on the needs, failures, shortcomings and sins of our audience or students so they can recognize, repent of, and correct them. We also need at times to focus on our strengths and abilities, in order to develop them properly for the glory of God and the good of mankind. But there is a danger in this, and there must be a balance, for if we are not very careful, we may focus UNDUE attention on ourselves and/or others. This may cause us to do what Paul mentions in 2 Cor. 10:12, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.”
Actually, if one focuses his attention TOO MUCH on himself, at least three bad things may happen. First, he may make the mistake Paul mentions and simply use the wrong standard. Second, this may lead to arrogance and pride as he looks at CERTAIN others and finds he is better in some respect than they are. Third, this may lead to frustration and defeat as he looks at certain others and finds he is so much worse than they are. In fact, these last two dangers may happen even if he does not compare himself with OTHERS, but merely examines himself in the light of some preconceived standard by which he is measuring himself.
When Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:28, “Let a man examine himself and so let him eat” the Lord’s Supper, he does not mean a man should FOCUS HIS ATTENTION on himself to see if he is “worthy” or if his brother has something against him. He means that a man should examine himself to see that he is focusing his mind on Christ — that he is partaking in a “worthy manner.” Notice: He has to focus on himself long enough to see that the center of attention is NOT himself, but on CHRIST!
All of the Christian life should be like that. Perhaps an illustration may help. When I learned to type some 50 years ago, I learned that the fingers of my left hand should rest on the keys, “a, s, d, f, g.” Although I am now at the keyboard, I do not know without looking, where the fingers of my right hand are resting! But THEY know! MY focus is not on where my fingers are, but on the message I am trying to communicate to you. When a person STARTS the Christian way of life, he must focus on some rules and techniques. But if he CONTINUES to keep and focus his attention on rules and techniques instead of on Christ, his Christianity is emasculated, and defeat and disaster is the result!
Each devoted Christian who is reading this will know immediately what I mean. When you got up Sunday morning and began to get ready to attend the services of the church where you worship, you did not think, “I had better do this, for I may go to hell if I do not,” or even, “If I do this, I will have a better chance of going to heaven.” Your focus was NOT on either what you would get or lose, but on CHRIST to such an extent that you did not even give a conscious thought to making a decision as to whether or not you would go. You just went!
The public speaker whose attention is on himself and the mechanics of gesticulation, articulation and/or obfuscation will be a tragic failure, no matter how artfully he puts words together and uses his hands or body. But if his focus is on the MESSAGE, the other things will fall into their proper place, provided he learned them right in the first place!
Perhaps the “bottom line” is this: We should so focus our hearts and minds on Christ, that even if we are called on to walk on the water, we only see the waves and the wind peripherally. Then we might not sink!