List-focused vs Jesus-focused

Thanks to those of you who have already responded to my last post, Back to the Basics. This is a response to one of the comments on that blog. Someone asked “How exactly do you intend to shift your focus from your to do list to Jesus? What do you intend to do differently?” Thanks for responding and that is a great question!

I first want to mention that I don’t think to-do lists are bad in and of themselves. I think writing out a list of things that need to get done is a helpful tool and very useful. I don’t think I will ever stop doing that as a way to stay organized and on task. But like any good thing can, my to-do lists often take the place of Jesus in my life.

It sounds funny to think I could make a to-do list an idol in my life, but it happens regularly. Here are some lyrics from the song “Clear the Stage” by a friend of ours, Ross King:

Anything I put before my God is an idol.
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol.
Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol.
Anything that I give all my love is an idol.
We must not worship something that’s not even worth it.
Clear the stage and make some space for the one who deserves it.



(Wow do I love that song!) “Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol…” Often that is all I am thinking about in a day: what’s next on my to do list. How can I get more done? When is Lively going to sleep so I can get things 2,3, and 5 done on my list. I will choose to be productive rather than sit with God. And I often long to get everything done way more than I long to get to know God more. Unfortunately, all these things point to my list being an idol in my life.

This doesn’t mean I can’t ever make a list ever again. Jimmy has also been an idol in my life, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be married to him. It just means I have to always to make sure that God is still on the throne of my life and my number one priority because everything else is always trying to take His place.

So, how does a list-a-holic keep Jesus the focus of her day? Before I write out some practical ways that I do this, I wanted to mention that first and foremost it is a heart attitude that keeps Jesus central, not a step-by-step program.

The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 is the best picture of what it looks like to be focused on Jesus rather than focused on doing. Mary is sitting and listening to Jesus and Martha is busy getting her home ready for Jesus. Martha had great intentions in all her busyness, but the Bible says she was “distracted.” Distracted from what? From Jesus! But Mary had her whole attention on Him and was resting at His feet. The question for list-a-holics like me is always this: “Well then, does that mean I sit around and do nothing all day but pray and read the Bible? Practically I can’t do that. There are actually things that have to get done.”

The book “Grace Walk” by Steve McVey gave me great insight into this. Here is a quote from the book:

Jesus could have said to Martha, “Now calm down. What you are doing is good, but what Mary is doing is important too. Both serving and resting have their proper place. Martha, you need to learn balance.” Yet that isn’t what He said. Instead, He said, “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” How many things? One thing is needed–resting in Him. Does this statement minimize the importance of serving Jesus? Not at all. How do you suppose Mary would have responded if Jesus had asked her to bring Him a glass of water? She would have immediately have spring into action. On the other hand, if He had asked Martha for a glass of water, she might not have even heard Him because she was too busy making His bed–and He wasn’t even sleepy! Do you see the point? Resting in Christ is the sole responsibility of the Christian. Everything else flows out of that.

The point is this: when you choose to daily keep your focus on Jesus, He will clearly lead you in everything else. And instead of wasting your time on frivolous things that won’t matter in the end, you will spend all your time on important things that do matter because you are being directed by Jesus. I don’t want to be so distracted with my to-do list that I can’t hear the direction Jesus is giving me. I want to rest in Him and in His peace, knowing that as I do that, He will help me accomplish everything that actually needs to get done. It might not be everything I wanted to get done, but it will be exactly what He wanted for me that day. And after all, Jesus knows way better than me the best way to spend my day.

So in light of that, here are a few things that I do to try and stay seated at Jesus’s feet all day and keep myself from being a frantic Martha:

SET APART TIME WITH GOD AND HIS WORD FIRST
This is by far the most important thing for me. If I just start my day doing, doing, doing, it will be 4pm before I know it and I haven’t thought of God once. But if I dedicate some time for reading my Bible and journaling in the first part of my day, even if only for 15 minutes, that makes a huge difference. This time is a refocusing time. Every morning I wake up with my default set on myself and the things of this world, which is a product of living with indwelling sin and in a world that doesn’t revolve around Jesus. So I have to intentionally change my default setting in my mind by refocusing on more eternal things that I can’t see. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corin 4:18) It is very unnatural to focus on things that are unseen. It doesn’t happen by accident, it takes effort. That’s why it’s so important for me to have time to refocus my mind on my unseen God. Reading the Bible is key because it is 100% truth (2 Tim 3:16) that I can count it. It is also living and active (Heb 4:12) and gives me ammunition for the day to fight off things that threaten to take my focus off of Jesus. Then spending time communicating with God through writing helps me to not just gain head knowledge but communicate with Him about what is on my heart and mind and ask for help in those situations.

Side note: Being a mom now has caused me to have to rethink when I spend my time with God. My days often start out with a crying baby that needs my attention which doesn’t always allow for the very first part of my day to be dedicated to reading the Bible. So I have been setting apart her morning nap time for my time with God. It is still pretty early in the day and allows me some time to myself to really refocus and connect with God. Whatever your situation is, if it is unreasonable for you to spend the first part of your day in the Bible, get creative and find a solution that works for you. Do anything you can that helps to refocus and reset your default to Jesus instead of self in the early part of your day.

STOP AND PRAY
I need little check-points throughout my day to help me keep my focus on Jesus. It could be an alarm on my phone that just reminds me to spend 3-5 minutes reconnected with God or singing a worship song or re-reading a favorite verse from what I read that morning. It’s amazing how 2 or 3 check-points in a day keep my eyes fixed on Him. It is also important for me to pray about things as they are happening. Just having an attitude of prayer about all the menial tasks in my day reminds me that life is ultimately about sitting and listening to Jesus as He directs my day.

USING MY SCHEDULE TO MY ADVANTAGE
Currently, I am still nursing my 8 month old daughter. This means that there are times in my day when I am sitting in silence in her room nursing her. I will often use this time to my advantage to pray for others, sing worship songs to myself, or memorize scripture. It is built in down time in my day that I can use! Maybe for you it is a morning and evening commute you can use to stay focused on Jesus. Listen to worship music or a Christian podcast while you shower and get ready. Again find creative ways to use time that is already built in to your schedule.

PODCASTS: REVIVE OUR HEARTS
This is a personal favorite of mine. While doing a task that is somewhat mindless in my day (laundry, dishes, unpacking boxes, etc), I will listen to my favorite podcast, Revive Our Hearts. These are 28 minute episodes of a radio program run by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Not only are they fun to listen to, but give me spiritual food for thought in my day. It is another tool for keeping my focus in the right place. There are many great podcasts out there and radio programs that could serve this function, and they are all free!

WRITING MY TO DO LISTS IN MY JOURNAL
I have started doing this in the last few months. Instead of using a separate piece of paper for my lists, I will write them in my prayer journal. This way, I can have an attitude of prayer when trying to decide how to spend my day. I can also write out everything I think needs to get done or that I want to do, and then ask God what He thinks is and isn’t important. I admit, I don’t hear a voice from heaven saying do this and don’t do that. But doing this has definitely given me more sensitivity to God’s Spirit inside me to be more discerning about how I should spend my day. It also helps me to hold my list more loosely knowing that God might have other plans for me that day.

I would love to hear what you do to keep Jesus your focus throughout the day. Feel free to add your comment to this post and let me and everyone else know. Here’s to keeping Jesus our focus today! Nothing else is more important!

8 Comments

  1. Santha Kumar

    Very good site.Thanks.

  2. Dang, needed that. So good!!

  3. Kimberly

    Another song I love that speaks a similar message is one by Meredith Andrews called “Only To Be Yours” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7Df6ZRdGw0).

    Keeping Jesus my focus throughout the day has been something I’ve been learning in “head knowledge” over the last several months, but up to this point, I haven’t seriously applied the theoretical knowledge to the practical. God convicted me of this, and I know that I need to not ignore what He’s been teaching me. Your ideas for practical application are *great*! Thank you so much for sharing them.

    One thing I’m beginning to implement is to refrain from using facebook/email/google reader/texting or talking with friends/etc. until after I’ve spent some time with Him. I’m one who falls into idolatry *very* quickly, so putting these limits on myself is helpful in reminding me where my priorities need to be. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of those things by themselves! But if I let myself do any of those things *before* I sit at His feet, I let myself be easily distracted, and then find myself not really wanting to spend time with Him and wanting to do those things instead.

    I’ve also been keeping a “gratitude journal” – it’s been a really good way for me to stop and process the day’s events before I go to bed, and reflect on the blessings God has gifted me with throughout the day (and many times they are blessings in disguise). Purposeful thanksgiving turns my heart towards Him and reminds me who really is the One “from Whom all blessings flow”! And it teaches me to seek Him in every situation. I’m often surprised at the end of a stressful or discouraging day to look back and see how God loved us through it.

  4. Kait

    I have been trying to do more things to remind myself to think and talk to God more through out my day. I LOVED this post because it gave me so many ideas that I didn’t think about. Recently I started listening to christian music throughout the day while I am driving or cleaning. It surprises me how much my attitude can change in just a few minutes by just listening to a few songs. It really helps me think about God throughout my day and makes me realize how AMAZING he really is. Sometimes in our busy schedules we forget that along the way.

  5. Felicia

    Wow! What are really good post! Thank you so much for the encouragement and reminder where my focus should be! I am really looking forward to reading your upcoming posts! =)

  6. Maggie

    As a university student lugging books to and from campus each day, I’ve taken to keeping a tiny notepad of my favorite Scripture passages with me in my purse or backpack, which I’ll read and reflect on periodically between classes. It’s a great way for me to remember to put Jesus first and to refocus my heart on Him.

    1. Kimberly

      That’s a great idea, Maggie! I think I’ll start doing the same thing (I’m a college student too) – I really need to refocus on Him before each class, and remind myself to use whatever opportunities I’m given in class to glorify Him.

  7. I just started following your blog today. I love it! Please keep it up.

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