Baby red panda looking down from his perch at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Focus doesn’t happen on its own

This is the time of year when I get really busy. My brain races. It’s so full of information and things I need to do, and then I get stressed out. Well, I don’t want to do that this year. I want to manage my stress instead of letting it control me, and to do that I need focus.

Baby red panda looking down from his perch at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Baby red panda looking down from his perch at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Romans 12:21.

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

When I first read this verse today, I didn’t think it had anything to do with focus. So I almost skipped over it. But if you think about it, it has everything to do with focus.

It takes focus and perseverance (and God’s help) to overcome anything, especially our default settings. And as human beings, let’s face it, our default setting is evil. Left on our own to our own devices we will do the opposite of what God has called us to do, and whatever is opposite God is evil.

It’s easy to do what’s wrong. And I’m not just talking about what culture defines as wrong because our culture is screwed up and we shouldn’t use it as a basis for anything. I’m talking about what the Bible calls wrong. Lying. Stealing. Hurting others. Being selfish. Those things are easy because they’re hard wired into us. But as Christ-followers, we have a choice. We don’t have to live that way. We can choose to take a different path. But choices don’t happen by accident and they never happen on their own.

No one can choose for you. Maybe they think they can. Maybe they try to. But choice is personal. Choice is something in your own heart and spirit. Choice goes beyond mere behavior and is a reflection of your attitude toward life, toward others, toward God.

And if you’re going to choose to do what the Bible says is right, you aren’t going to be able to do it without some level of focus. First, you have to identify what evil is. I think our culture has taught us to believe that evil is easy to spot. We expect to see devils in red suits with pitchforks. We expect the antagonists in our lives to look and act like bad guys. But the truth is that evil blends in, and oftentimes the only way to know what is evil is to know what the Bible says. And if you don’t know what the Bible says, you’ll be deceived.

But beyond even recognizing evil, our response to it requires purposeful effort. Like a grass fire. You can’t just sit back and wish that it will go out on its own. You have to get in there and put it out. It takes effort. Responding to evil is the same, but we try to do it in our own strength. We preach, we protest, we march, we shake Bibles at it while we stand at a distance. Standing at a distance and condemning evil is easy because you don’t have to get your hands dirty.

But what did Jesus do? When He was faced with evil, did He stand on a street corner with a sign and shout at people? No. He went and found the worst of them and took them to lunch. He hung out with the worst kinds of people. He spent His time with thieves and liars. He expended His energy loving the unlovable. He didn’t run away from evil. He didn’t condone it. He didn’t accept it. But He sure wasn’t afraid of it. So we shouldn’t be either. But you can’t face evil in your own strength. You have to face it like Christ did, with God’s power and grace and love.

We are all going to face evil in our lives. Every day. So choose now how you’re going to handle it. You can accept it but if you’re a Christ-follower, that’s going to cause some trouble for you down the road. You can fight it with protests and and Bible verses shoved down other people’s throats, but I wouldn’t say that’s very effective. Or you can identify it and love the people who are trapped in it.

It takes effort. It takes time. It takes risk. It takes focus, friends. So focus on what’s good and then do it, especially to those who are bound by evil. You never know how God is going to use you and your choices to help someone else.