My kids and I play a game when in the car called Skittle Punch Bug. It’s a game where you get a point for being the first to spot a yellow car and shout out, “Skittle!” or two points if you first spot the coveted yellow VW Bug. One day while we were playing, one of my boys remarked that there seems to be more yellow cars around when we play Skittle than when we don’t. To which my wife replied,
That’s because you are looking for them. You tend to find what you focus on.
We tend to find what we focus on. I’ve been chewing on this for the past week while I have been reading through the Gospel of John along with two other books: When I Saw Him by Roy Hession and Living in Victory by Steve Gallagher.
John 5 contains one of the greatest questions in all of literature. It’s the story of the paralytic man who for 38 years has suffered beside a pool called Bethesda, hoping to one day get a chance to bathe in it and thus be healed of his paralysis. Jesus sees him and asks him the glorious question: Do you want to be well?
Those of us who have long suffered under the paralysis of addiction will yearn to say yes to such a question but will quickly qualify what “well” must mean. Surely, we will insist, it can’t mean cured. Surely, we insist, it can’t mean free. We want that, to be sure, but experience has taught us that it’s not for us and we will settle for simple maintenance. I’ll settle for just not being miserable every day. The bar is very low for us addicts, isn’t it?
The truth, however, is that things like curing, freeing, saving, etc are the very things Jesus is most interested in doing for us. He doesn’t come to us offering a maintenance plan to make my life and yours less miserable than it has been. He comes offering life, and life abundantly! (And in case you were wondering, the Greek word for “well” in John 5:6 means “restored, whole, sound, healthy.” Sounds better than “not miserable,” right?)
Jesus is in the business of making us new, not better.
The books by Hession and Gallagher, which I mentioned above, echo this theme of being made whole, or new, by Jesus. When we see Jesus for whom he really is, and when we see ourselves as we really are, we can live the sort of life God desires for all of us. So what does that mean?
First, seeing ourselves as we really are. I need to see myself in relation to a holy God. There is for a me a profound shift in the atmosphere, so it would seem, when I call my habitual behavior what God calls it: sin. When I entertain lustful thoughts, look at porn, focus more on my desires than on God and others, I am not walking in the Spirit but in my flesh. God calls this sin. And of course, we can become enslaved to sin. Essentially that is what addiction is – enslavement to sin.
Agreeing with God that my primary issue is a sin issue opens the door to receive good news, because God is a master at dealing with sin. Jesus died on a cross to deliver us from sin. Seeing Jesus for whom he really is means I see him as my Healer, my Deliverer, my Savior. Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:8), promises that in Christ, sin shall no longer be our master (Rom. 6:12-14), declares that whomever the Son sets free they are truly free (John 8:36) and that in him we are new creations (2 Cor. 5:17).
I’ve discovered that I find what I focus on. There are times when I veer off track and focus too much on my “disease” and on my “program” that I forget that what I am really fighting against is sin, and this fight I do not fight alone, but with Christ who has already conquered all. When I remember that my battle is not with flesh and blood but “against spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12), then I have reason to hope that I can live victoriously because I have a victorious Savior.
It all comes down to what I am focused upon. Where is your focus?