A 737 at 39,000 feet and 70 degrees below zero outside. Not quite hell. In near panic, with people I hardly know, going somewhere I have never been - to do what? I can’t remember tropical medicine, what do I know about malnutrition, scabies, parasite infested water, gastroenteritis, poverty and physical suffering beyond my experience? Here I am - a senior, respected doctor – totally out of my depth. I don’t speak the language, I have nothing to offer, my hands are empty. Maybe they will let me mix concrete. Surely, I will look like a useless fool. It will be hot, sweaty and uncomfortable, and I’ll probably get malaria or dengue. Foolish. I have far better things to do with my valuable time – what am I doing here? What a mistake! I am cut off. God, why am I here? What can I do – what can I do… I do?
And the answer came from that not so reassuring, still, small voice: “Nothing.” “Apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).”
In fact, apart from Him “all of my righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isa 64:6).”
“What can I do?”, to which the answer is often - not much, is the wrong question, especially when I am focused on me. If the focus is on what I can do, I end up crying as the Psalmist:
Why are you downcast, O my soul
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God (Ps 43:5)
Yet again, He teaches me this lesson. When the focus is on me, when I worry about myself, what others may think of me, focus on my abilities, my possessions, when I ask – ‘what can I do,’ who am I, or give into unhealthy self-focus with thoughts like: ‘I can’t do it,’ ‘I have nothing to give,’ ‘I am useless,’ then I continually fall short, miss the mark, transgress His plans for me. Then, by my self- focus:
I am cut off from His sight
Yet He hears my cry for Mercy when I call to Him for help (Praise God!) (Ps 31:22)
So the question is not ‘what can I do?’ – but rather what will Christ do through me? How will He choose to use me? The focus isn't on what I can do, but on Him and the plan He has for me. Not what I can do, but what he will do. Much better to just follow Peter’s advice: “Cast all your fears on him for he cares for you.” (1 Pet 5:7)
Remember what that great cloud of witnesses reminds us to do in the 12th chapter of Hebrews: “Let us focus our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”. But how? How do we see Christ more clearly? By loving Him more dearly, and following Him more nearly – day by day. And focus by first and last knowing Him through His revealed word; “ if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him (I John 2:5).” Focus through praise; “May the praise of God be ever in my mouth (Ps 149)”, and focus by remembering, with constant thanksgiving, ‘that we have been set free from sin and have become slaves of good, the benefit to reap is holiness (Rom 6: 22).’ Focus on His hope and mercy as in the Psalms above. Remember that, since we have been raised with Christ, we can focus our hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. We can focus our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col 3:1-2). Thus hope, gratitude, praise, being in the word, focusing on heavenly things and prayer are all disciplines of focusing on Jesus. May we keep our focus on the One who said:
I am the light of the world. (John 8:8)
Before Abraham was born, I am. (John 8:58)
Somewhere between Miami and Santo Domingo, being reminded that I can do everything only through Him who gives me strength, I said to Him: “I have no idea why you have me on this plane, but it is entirely up to you. I am yours; this must be your idea because I don’t understand; nevertheless, I will keep my focus on you by serving you in whatever way you enable me to do. Please Lord, keep my focus on you; this is all up to you. I have nothing to bring except a desire to see you more clearly. Make me an instrument of your love Lord; bless me by allowing me to serve and then maybe I will be so bold as to hope that you may allow others to see You through me. Keep my focus on You lest I fall. Cause my eyes and thoughts to be so intently focused on you that I see nothing else and therefore see you everywhere I look, in every face I see, in every place I go. “ Focus. Peace.