I’ve talked with friends before about how they knew when God was communicating something specific to them, and many times, they would receive the same message in a multitude of little ways, and from different people who would unknowingly speak the very same thing aloud what they’d been feeling God tell them.
At the beginning of September, after finding myself completely derailed emotionally and mentally, and drawn off a path that was beneficial to my husband, family and general purpose in doing God’s will, I felt God plainly show me that He wanted me to “stay focus.” Here is an excerpt from what I was learning at that time,
With every choice we make, we are saying “yes” to something, and then also “no” to something else.
When I choose to say “Yes” to reading something ugly or passive aggressive, I’m saying “No” to something that is positive or uplifting, something righteous and from God that could have helped me on my path. When I travel down that road of entertaining things that stem from other people’s unrighteousness, I’m straying off the course that I’m supposed to be on, that God desires me to stay on.
When I was finally convicted of this constant temptation to stray off the path of being focused on the purpose of my life, God’s Will for my life, it came after a long, wonderful evening with my parents when I was driving home on a long stretch of open highway as the sun was setting and dusk was appearing. The wonder of the peaceful silence, the lack of cars around me, and the speed of the highway suddenly propelled my thoughts as God pricked my conscience that this was what He wanted me to do at this time. To stay focus.
There were many exits I was passing that could lead me to places other than my purposed destination, but they would only distract me from getting to my goal (home), and finding rest and sleep – renewal and rejuvenation. These off-roads would delay me in my journey, and pro-long my eventual arrival. And so it is with distractions and temptations to stray off onto tangents in our spiritual journey, or to go down roads we were never meant to travel.
When I got home, I drew out the picture I saw in my head of a road going straight that was my purpose and God’s Will for my life, and little roads that led off of it in different directions. I named each of these little roads that led me down unrighteous paths, and each one, as I drew it out and named it, suddenly became so convicting to me how wrong it actually was, and how much of a sinful distraction it was to living a righteous, purposeful, and productive life! The beauty of it’s clarity was breathtaking, and this picture has been burned into my mind ever since.
About a month after focusing on this idea, I felt God telling me and convicting me to “stay focus,” and to look up verses in His Word that talk about exactly that, meditate and really internalize all that it means, I suddenly heard a sermon series by an awesome black preacher my husband used to listen to in the early mornings when driving to work. My husband just loved this man, and he looked forward to learning from him every morning, but since it was earlier than I was in the car (back when I was working) I never had the chance to be in the car to hear him when he was preaching. Now that I hear him at a certain time in the afternoon, this message suddenly pricked my conscience and alligned with exactly what God was telling me called Unrecognizable (you can listen to it here, it’s divided into parts 1-4). The message from the pastor was so shockingly similar to what God had already been telling me, and came on air the day after I wrote my first post sharing what God had already been showing me for the past month; it was either a strange (very strange) coincidence, or God trying to expand on this lesson in my life.
Either way, some of the notes I got from the sermons were just incredible in aligning with the verses I’d already looked up and started applying to my daily life. Here are some take aways from the sermon series that I found helpful in staying focused:
-When in a changing Season of Metamorphosis – God is working on changing you from the inside out… the Pastor talks about Joseph, and how through the years he went through different trials, He became unrecognizable to his brothers who had been his enemies and had spent the first 17 years of his life with him. When you just follow God, and do what He is leading you to do right now, where you are, no matter how dire your circumstances, He will still be with you.
-God is transforming me during this season, and God calls me to become focused during this time, focused on what really matters to Him, and in my life right now, where I am serving in my family and community
-God will bless and transform me so much that I will be unrecognizable to those who sought to destroy me, were against me, falsely testified against me to try to ruin my reputation, or tried to discount any wisdom I have from God.
-God called me before my condition was taken into account. God doesn’t call us to disciple people who are “pretty good” in the first place, it is God’s calling that is going to bring about His purpose in our life. God will take us from wherever we are, to where we need to be (we obviously help this process by obeying and staying focused).
-Joseph was called to be a Difference Maker. The fact that he was spoiled or bratty didn’t matter, God made His mind up about Him long before he was even in existence. Nothing in earth or hell can prevent God’s purpose in your life.
-The message is basically to not focus on people who are against you, lying about you, opposing you for whatever reason they come up with in their minds. We shouldn’t focus on what they’re doing or what they did, backstabbing, betrayal, twisting your words, publicly trying to smear my reputation. These things are painful, yes, but don’t spend so much time thinking on them.
-You don’t want to engage with “little people” – which are actually people who cannot rejoice with you when you’re succeeding beyond what they ever did. You can’t tell big dreams to little people. They don’t have the emotional, relational, or spiritual maturity to handle God blessing you more than what He’s blessing them, they can only mourn with you when you mourn, not rejoice with you when you succeed beyond what they’re comfortable with.
-Little people will act supportive of you when you fail, but will not rejoice with you when you are succeeding more than them. They are people who are FAIR WEATHER FRIENDS. They can only support you under certain conditions. All of us must learn not to get close to these kinds of people… they will turn hurtful and will become treacherous for you.
-They cannot bring themselves to be in your life for your own good, they can only be in your life when it serves their own purpose. We need to be able to let these kinds of people go, not have them in our inner circle of people we trust. Little people will backstabb or even betray you when it benefits them… you don’t need this in your life, not only will it draw you off your focus, it is unnecessary and painful.
-You’ve never shocked God – the things that happen in your life don’t ever shock Him. Just because something horrible happens to you, your reputation is tarnished by someone else’s lies about you, it doesn’t mean that God throws up His hands and says, “Well, that’s it! Can’t use them anymore!” He is never shocked by what happens to you, especially when it comes by the hand of treacherous fair-weather friends or even family members like what Joseph had.
-Shake off the shock of someone you liked or admired suddenly becoming treacherous to you (betraying you), trying to falsely testify against you or twist your words, being shown to be a deceitful person. Some people are treacherous or crazy, and that’s normal, you can’t change them or hope that they’ll do the right thing by you. They are dysfunctional.
-When you try to make sense of what they did – when they seemed like a good person or smart or a good friend, you are not “staying focused.” When you do this, you take your eye off of what God wants you to be focusing on, so that He can develop you and transform you.
-The pastor relates it constantly to Joseph’s trials and how he never let his circumstances or the way evil people treated him distract him from doing the right thing and from staying focused on being godly. God blessed his faithfulness and focus, with giving Him favor.
-Get your eyes and your mind off of people and the devil… off of your circumstances that are unjust and don’t belly-ache about what’s going on in your life.
-It’s a time to get focused.
-When you’re going through a season where everything is brand new, you’re realizing things you hadn’t before, part of the process of God taking you to an unfamiliar place is so that He can transform you.
-This pastor had the “urge” and the “nudgings” that this message was a prophetic utterance and will be meant for some specific people who are listening.
-It’s time to get serious about letting God bless you right where you are – even if you feel like what you’re doing has little importance or is little noticed. Honor God right where you are. Just be faithful where you are – doing what you are doing in your life – being a mom, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, and a woman giving in the community.
-Focus on doing the best where you are placed. Even when Joseph was a slave, he obeyed and God had favor on him that even Potiphar was able to spot.
-Serve where you are in a Spirit of Excellence. Do everything that you are doing like you are doing it for God, because you are!
–Avoid pitfalls at all costs. For me this means to stay on the path God wants me to stay on – not traveling down into areas that distract me from goodness or what I should be doing. Don’t engage with people who have proven themselves to be treacherous or deceitful. Don’t even communicate with them.
–Satan often uses Christians to speak his lies to or about other Christians (hence Peter when he tried to rebuke Christ, and Jesus called him “Satan”). You’ve got to quit looking at a Christian giving them the benefit of the doubt, and trusting that they’re saying something right when it’s obvious that they’re wrong. You have to realize that there is a demon force that uses even Christians. If they aren’t walking in the spirit, aren’t discerning what they’re doing, can open their mouths and speak what the enemy wants to say to you – to destroy you.
–You have to have enough discernment that when you are talking to a Christian, to know if the enemy is using them to accomplish his evil will in your life. We have to learn to watch who we talk to. Because these people wanted to kill Joseph, and then see what would come of his dreams… you have to be discerning.
-When you find someone who can only hang with you in private, but can’t go on the record to support you in public, who won’t let you be slandered in public, they have no business in your inner circle. You have to discern who you have with you. Do not associate with people who bait you in private only to use your own words against you (twisting it to mean what they want it to mean), in order to ruin your reputation.
–You can’t use fair-weather friends, you need friends that will stand with you in public – that will speak out for you when you’re being slandered against. You need people who will stand with you through thick or thin.
-God requires us to become more discerning about the people who we have in our life. You have to decide that you are through with folk who say they are “behind” you, they are often so far back behind you that you can’t see them. They’ll let and even watch the enemy beat you down, torture you, or have a parade before they ever jump in.
-You have to learn to be discerning because you’re in a spiritual battle. God is making a trophy out of you, that he might declare through you His praises. And the enemy is trying to mock that. You are in a season of Metamorphosis. He has cocooned you – not everyone can come into a cocoon. A cocoon is where God is doing a work that is so intimate in your life, because He’s transforming things, and when you come out, the Enemy won’t even know who you are.
-Joseph had to become focused because he had to discern that God didn’t want him to focus on other people. He could have spent years focused on what happened to him with his brothers. But he wouldn’t have been successful that way – focusing on the wrong thing, would have led him off course of where God wanted him to be traveling.
-We need to quit romanticizing Christians. Just because someone says they’re saved doesn’t mean that they’re safe, they’re non-toxic, that they don’t slander others. You have to watch what they say to you, how they treat you as their brother or sister in Christ. Are they trying to make you better or say horrible things to you that are words from Satan? Are they acting godly toward you or allowing Satan to use them? If you want to meet Satan, hang around Christians, he uses them sometimes more often than he uses regular people!
Staying Focused in the Valley
-God is with you, even when you don’t like where you are, and He will protect you while you’re here. He will protect you and even help you get to where you’re going, even when it looks like you’re traveling backward.
-You can prosper even when people are trying to ruin your reputation. You can prosper in a trial or personal trouble, God is with you right where you are. Like Joseph, you can prosper in a place you don’t like to be in. You can prosper being overlooked and disrespected. You can prosper while folk are taking credit for things you did. You can prosper raising your kids through their different seasons of life. God will give you grace to accomplish these things and prosper.
-Joseph didn’t just prosper when you see him up in the palace, Joseph prospered as a slave. Because he wanted to be an excellent servant, God had favor on him that was visible to everyone. The Lord showed Himself through Joseph’s excellence.
-When you have God’s favor on your life, in your life, people won’t be able to stand it. You will see haters rise up – that’s what they do – they don’t like seeing somebody prosper. Don’t even try to explain it or explain yourself to them. Joseph was focused enough where the favor of the Lord came over him. We need to understand the importance of “focus” because I’m convinced some of us are focused on the wrong things and wrong people.
-We need to be focused on serving God and doing His will, on pleasing God right where we are, taking care of the matters that He wants us to take care of, and leave the results with Him.
-We need to have the single-minded pursuit of that goal, of wanting to please God.
Staying Focus: Guarding Against Despair
-Joseph had to be focused on becoming an excellent servant, because he couldn’t do anything about many of the circumstances he was in, he couldn’t change them – so he allowed God to develop in him a spirit of excellence.
-In order to stay focused, there are many things we have to avoid – there are some people that we just can’t spend any more time with because it takes us away from our focus. They might be distracting us or tempting us to sin, or being used by Satan, so they become pitfalls for us. Avoiding them is the right thing to do, but ignoring them or avoiding them actually makes those kinds of people angry, and even more likely to attack using false accusations like Potiphar’s wife did to Joseph. They will be even more likely to try to ruin our reputation, because we won’t give them the time of day.
-It was harder for Potiphar to realize the evil influence of his wife, than to get rid of the good, godly influence of Joseph. You have to realize that for some people who are close to evil Christians, it will be harder for them to acknowledge their evil than to shun your good influence in that place. Where evil rules the day – where evil Christians are allowed to be leaders or in positions of authority, your good influence will not be tolerated, they will ban you because you’re speaking truth about the evil person that they don’t want to get rid of. They’d rather keep the evil person, than keep you and your good words and good influence.
-Accept all of the above and be ok with it. That’s also part of staying focused. Joseph could have been upset for years after having been thrown out of Potiphar’s house even though he did nothing wrong, instead, he excelled as a prisoner. God’s favor didn’t leave him, just because Potiphar (a good man) wanted to hold on to the evil person more than he wanted to hold on to a godly one. How do you think Potiphar fared though, after letting go of Joseph? All he had after that was his evil, adulterous wife. Let Christians who want to hold on to evil influences, have their evil influences. They are rejecting what is right, rejecting what is good and pure, and God sees it all, it doesn’t escape His notice that they are calling evil good, and what is good (your influence) evil.
-Joseph had to also guard against despair. Sometimes we think the end-all – the most important thing in life – is justice. Finding yourself punished or your reputation destroyed because of something you didn’t do, Injustice is wrong… however, God can still take you, place you in an unjust situation, still get glory from it, and still get you to where you are going.
-When folks are wrong, you can tell them they’re wrong, this is not about being weak or wimpy Christians. Where you have the ability, use your power and your ability to bring about justice for you and for others. But in this world, you’re not always going to get justice – people will do wrong by you, and they will get away with it or at least appear to. Justice will not always be your reality.
-Instead of Potiphar’s wife getting in trouble for lying about Joseph, Joseph got in trouble. And he stayed in jail not for weeks, not for months, but for years – and God allowed that. God can work through injustice, to bring His purpose to pass.
-Make sure you’re guarding against despair – don’t look at all the injustice in your life, the people who did wrong to you, etc. I’d rather have favor from God than fairness from man. Joseph stayed focused and didn’t give in to despair when he was wronged, he continued on and the Lord was with him. He practiced the presence of God.
-You need to trust in God, and every morning wake up and trust that His Will will be done in our life. No time for despair, there are people to serve and work to be done. Even though things aren’t the way we wished it was in our life – we’re still alright. We’re still alive and ok. We may not have all the opportunities we want, all the money we want, but God hasn’t forsaken me. I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken by God.
-We can spend all our time about how unfair things are, but that’s getting off focus. Give it over to God, He knows what they did, He knows what they said, He knows who’s plotted against you – keep giving it over to God. Despair is something that can keep coming back, you have to keep warding it off. Despair can envelop you if you let it, but that is a major distraction from your purpose. Depression, bitterness and anger, loneliness, and fear are all emotions of despair that are going down a horrible road leading you far off from your purpose.
-Joseph didn’t feel like being in jail… for years… but he had to learn to practice the presence of God even in jail. The Spirit of the Lord will still be with you, and you can praise your way through unjust circumstances.
-How could Joseph get Potiphar’s wife punished for what she did to him? He couldn’t. There was no way for him to get justice, he wasn’t even Egyptian, he had no rights at all. There are some circumstances where you have no control at all over the injustice that will happen to you, evil people will get away with looking like victims or like righteous Christians. Evil Christians will get away with slandering you to others, lying about what really happened, and there will be no way for you to even remotely defend yourself or have a fair chance.