Seth Meyers, host of the Late Show, recently joked, “Now that some economic sanctions are being lifted, Iranian citizens are apparently clamoring for Western products like iPhones. We should have just sent them iPhones in the first place. Then they’d never get any work done on a nuclear weapon.”
Keeping our focus isn’t as easy as it used to be—unless of course what we’re focused on is a problem. We’re still pretty darn good at getting caught up in a problem we’re having.
Problems we can focus on to our heart’s discontent, unfortunately.
The thing is when we focus on something we don’t just keep it front and center. What we focus on we magnify. Focusing on the problem makes it bigger than it really is.
Of course, we’re not changing its actual size. We’re simply making it bigger in our own mind. A small coin held close enough to your eye will seem large enough to block out the sun. Pull that coin back away and the sun comes back out and the coin recedes in size, relevance and importance.
All of you, of course, are familiar with binoculars. When you put the lenses to your eyes and focus them, you magnify and in effect bring closer all within your field of vision. But if you turn them around and look through the other end, you diminish and make more distant that which you see.
If you stay focused on your problems, you will end up making it bigger than it really is. Focus instead on your faith, not your problem.
If you focus on something you don’t like about yourself, it will block what you should like about yourself. Don’t magnify what’s wrong. Focus on what scriptures says: You are fearfully and wonderfully made. There’s a lot right with you.
The truth is it takes the same amount of energy to believe as it does to worry. Giving something negative all your time and attention only makes it worse. You can worry about things or you can thank God for the good stuff coming your way.
In our scripture we heard the psalmist invite us to magnify the Lord with him. You should take this verb magnify in both of its senses. The first is in relation to the word magnificent. The second is to make something bigger. The first means let the Lord out from the cage of mediocrity and irrelevance
where some have put God while going about their lives. The second means to make big what we’ve made small, to bring up close what’s far away.
It isn’t much faith if the object of your faith is a de-fanged, de-clawed, long in the tooth, nap-happy, droopy-tailed tiger of a God. We pat the Lord on the head and push him out to pasture, telling him to go, run, and be a good boy. We do this by how we think about God, by what we think God is or isn’t.
Faith in a less than magnificent God isn’t faith in the true God.
I know it isn’t easy to get everything straight when it comes to the Lord, when it comes to what he can and can’t do, will or won’t do. We can’t quite keep it straight why things happen to this person and why not to that. But just because we can’t keep score on the Almighty Creator of the universe and the Lord our God who is and was and shall always be, doesn’t mean we should just write the whole thing off.
The truth is you’re never going to get to the bottom of why and when and where and who and how about God in your life or in the life of someone you know or in this world. Ain’t gonna happen.
Which means you’re left with a question: Is God working things out or isn’t the Lord working things out?
You’re left with the question whether you’re going to magnify the Lord in your heart and mind as magnificent and relevant and incredible, and because this is so you’re going to be grateful and in love with God your God.
Or, you’re not going to join in on making the Lord magnificent in the thoughts of your mind and the feelings of your heart. And you put to the side the old thoughts and hopes that God had something to do with your life. Perhaps they were like fairy tales or old wives stories or like superheroes when you were a kid. But now you know so much more—you know such a God can’t be real.
I say magnify the Lord.
Psalm 34, verse 4 says, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Either this is true or it isn’t. Either God is the Lord who works things out in your life or he isn’t?
I say magnify the Lord.
When David faced Goliath he never called him a giant. He called him an uncircumcised Philistine. Didn’t even give him credit for being big. Now, David’s brothers and the other Israelites were intimidated and afraid. They told David he didn’t have a chance. To them, Goliath was too big to mess
with, too big to hit. David knew he was strong in the Lord and not going out there alone. David thought the opposite, ‘No, he’s too big to miss.’
David magnified the Lord, and his fears slipped away.
I say magnify the Lord.
Know that God is fighting your battles. The Lord is making the crooked places straight. As Paul said in Philippians be “in no way intimidated by your enemies.”
The thing is if you don’t talk to your giants, if you don’t tell your enemies they’re not all that, then your enemies will talk to you and tell you you’re not all that. Learn to stay focused on God’s goodness and promise to work things out and you’ll find God is bigger and other things are smaller.
The truth is we can’t talk up our smallness and troubles and dwell on how big the problem is and how easy for things to go wrong and how much has to happen for things to go well and how little is going right, and then expect victory, success, growth, transformation, a new day, a better mindset, deeper faith, a more joyful attitude, peace of mind.
Magnify the good things.
An information technology (IT) guy tells us this about his life at his job: The other week at work, we had some issues with our email provider. As the first line of defense before getting our IT department involved, I get the brunt of everyone’s frustrations.
The problem itself was intermittent, which for anyone that knows IT this is the worst type of problem to have. You have to figure out what is happening exactly at the time that causes the issue. Needless to say, it can be very difficult to solve the problem.
In my position, I never hear congratulations when things are going right, because well, they’re supposed to be running smoothly. But if something goes wrong, alarms, bells, whistles and people screaming my name happen constantly. While I understand my co-workers frustrations with the issues, too many times they focus intently on the problem, magnifying the issue.
Eventually we figured out the issue with our email provider after a few days. But during these couple of days, I had to remind my co-workers that the issue wasn’t as bad as they were making it out to be. I had to de-magnify the problem.
You ever do that? Unfortunately, we all tend to magnify the bad things in our lives. We’re so good at this. It’s so easy to do, and so convenient. It’s
not even second nature any longer for many people. It’s like breathing, or sleeping. It feels right. But it’s so defeating.
But not for everyone. King Jehoshaphat was facing major enemies. Outnumbered ten to one, he had a right to be discouraged. Instead of building up how much trouble he was in, he gathered everyone together and prayed. He talked about the greatness of God. “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 2 Chr 20:6
He lassoed God and brought God up close so that everyone including himself could feel and believe that the Lord was weighing in on their destiny and direction. Jehoshaphat kept his focus where it belonged: the Lord God was working things out.
When you start feeling your thoughts and sentiment set and darken drop that old bag of tricks and praise the Lord, tell yourself about how blessed you are, remind yourself how close God is, talk to the Lord for a moment or two. In the original AA Big Book, a resentful alcoholic who blamed his wife for his problems changed his life and their marriage by focusing his mind and thoughts on all the things he liked about her or at least didn’t dislike. He magnified in his mind what she did for him, and in turn he genuinely began to appreciate her and be grateful for her.
His sincere new attitude in turn led to her opening back up to him and recognizing all his good qualities and why she married him in the first place. They fell in love again.
Magnify the Lord in your mind. Set before God your fears and dreams. God’s in your corner, working things out. Thank the Lord for changing things to bless you, for making his face to shine upon you, to give you joy, to grant you peace.
Can the church say Amen?