Focus and Intensity
1. The Recipe for Happiness
“If your eye is single,
focused on one thing
your whole body will be full of light.
creativity, enthusiasm, stamina
But if your eye is unclear,
torn between two choices
your whole body shall be full of darkness.
confusion and discouragement
If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
– Jesus, in Matthew chapter 6
Choose. Commit. Decide. Focus will follow. Clarity will accompany. Serendipity will delight. Providence will provide. Darkness and discouragement sweep in to fill the void left by a lack of commitment.
2. “Cast your bread…
Sow your Seed…
Strike the Ground…”
Activities, Intensity and Improvisation.
The Advice of Solomon, a world-renowned wise-ard.
1 Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.
Invest your energies blindly, not seeking to know when or how or if you’ll benefit from your investment. Do the right thing every day and it will all work out… someday.
4 Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
Don’t talk yourself out of taking action.
5 As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.
You’re not big enough to see all the forces at work. Just trust that it will all work out.
6 Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.
Do something. Do it now. Don’t talk yourself out of it. You’re not big enough to see the future. Sow morning, noon and night.
3. More About Sowing Seed…
1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
Some people will steal your advice and pretend they thought of it themselves.
5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
Some people will get all excited and then wimp out.
7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.
Some people will have good intentions and then get distracted.
8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”
Some people will hear, and do, and you will be richly rewarded. But don’t worry about targeting “the good soil.” Just sow morning, noon, and night. The seed will land where it lands. It will do what it does. Your job is only to sow.
9 Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
4. Strike the Ground!
Elisha, a great prophet, talks about intensity.
2nd Kings 13:
14 Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. “My father! My father!” he cried. “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” 15 Elisha said, “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. 16 “Take the bow in your hands,” he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. 17 “Open the east window,” he said, and he opened it. “Shoot!” Elisha said, and he shot. “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declared. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.” 18 Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. 19 The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.”
“You halfhearted little wuss! You weak-wristed little whiner! You’re much too tentative to succeed.”
20 Elisha died and was buried.
Elisha’s admonition that we should reveal intensity through our actions was his final bit of advice at the end of his extremely important and successful life.
5. Expect God to Guide…
105 Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
I have enough light to see only one step, but I trust that when I have taken that step I will have light enough to see the next.
106 I have sworn, and I will perform it…
I have said it. Now it is time for me to do the thing I said.
6. Be Plain. Be Forceful.
7 Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written: ” ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it…
7. When Everyone is Afraid…
David, a soon-to-be-great king, meets Goliath, a currently-great problem
1st Samuel 17:
3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
A problem is staring you in the face.
4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing one hundred and twenty-five pounds. 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed fifteen pounds.
Goliath isn’t just a problem. He’s a VERY BIG problem.
His shield bearer went ahead of him.
Public opinion is on his side.
8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
No one believes we can win.
12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons…The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
David is the least qualified to solve the problem.
16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.
Traditional wisdom says, “Wait. Delay. Do nothing. You can’t win.”
17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take these 22 liters of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.” 20 Early in the morning David left the flock with a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry.
David finds himself in an interesting place.
21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and greeted his brothers. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear.
David observes a situation into which he has not been invited.
25 Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his father’s family from taxes in Israel.”
David hears about the reward. Imagines the upside. Sees the potential loot.
26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
David clarifies exactly what his compensation will be.
27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”
Utterly unqualified, David is obviously about to do something stupid.
28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”
Traditional wisdom said, “Don’t go there. Your alligator mouth is about to overload your mockingbird butt.”
29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before.
David ignores traditional wisdom.
31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.
Serendipity! David’s confidence and ideas are noted by someone in authority.
32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”
David again opens his alligator mouth, trusting that it won’t overload his mockingbird butt.
33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.”
The people in authority don’t have confidence in David.
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.
David tells the truth about his limited experience in battle.
36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
David explains his plan and why he has confidence in it.
Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”
The people in authority reluctantly agree, but mostly because they have no better option.
38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
The people in authority try to teach David what to do.
“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.
David says, “My plan is to trust my own experience and my own ideas.”
40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
David puts his mockingbird butt on the line.
41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David.
It would make a lot of sense to be very afraid right now. But we’re already in it, so what’s the point?
42 He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”
David is obviously in over his head. Just ask anyone who’s watching from a distance.
45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.
His alligator mouth finally throws his mockingbird butt completely under the bus.
Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
Here’s my plan. I’ve told only the truth from the beginning. And my butt is now on the line.
48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.
Let’s get this thing done.
49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. 50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
The alligator mouth wins! A mockingbird butt and a lot of courage prove to be enough.
51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. 52 Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron. 53 When the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp.
A previously discouraged team now finds new enthusiasm and confidence.
54 David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, and he put the Philistine’s weapons in his own tent.
David takes memories from the battle.
Easter Eggs: Things hidden for the purpose of being found by the diligent.