Focus or Refocus?

For followers of Christ, depth, not appearances or superficial spirituality, is important. It is not how flashy the talk is but the substance of the talk. It is not how flowery and eloquent one may sound, but how sincere and truthful one is.

A memorable example of this truth occurred in the month of July at the place we all know as Gettysburg. It was during the first days of that month that over 50,000 men were killed, wounded, or missing in what proved to be the decisive battle of the Civil War. The rolling hillsides groaned with the anguish of maimed and dying men. One nurse described the scene in her journal, "For seven days the tables literally ran with blood."

In the aftermath of this battle, a national cemetery was proposed. November 19th was set as the day for a consecration service. The commission invited Edward Everett, a silver-tongued orator, to deliver the dedication speech. Everett, the former congressman and governor of Massachusetts, was known for his cultured words, patriotic fervor, and public appeal. He accepted the invitation.

In October, President Lincoln announced his intentions to attend the ceremonies. This startled the commissioners, who did not expect the President to leave theCapital during wartime. This put the commissioners in a difficult position. How could they not ask him to speak? They wrote him back and asked him to give "a few appropriate remarks."

Lincoln left the White House for Gettysburg the day before the service with his ten-year-old son, Tadd, sick...and I might add, against the wishes of his wife. Lincoln struggled over what he would say. At one point the day before, he told a friend that his talk was not going well. At about nine o'clock the next morning Lincoln copied his address onto two small pages, tucked them in his coat pocket, and joined the dignitaries in the procession. 

Lincoln was introduced that afternoon at two o'clock. As he stood to his feet, he turned nervously to Secretary Seward and mumbled, "They won't like it." He began with, "The world will little note nor long remember..." He almost lost it at that point but composed himself as he continued.  No more than two minutes after he had begun he sat back down, finished. His talk had felt so reverential that it seemed inappropriate to applaud.

Over 150 years have passed since that historic event. No one recalls one line from Everett's two-hour address. However, Lincoln's two-minute address has become one of the most memorable speeches in human history - certainly the most memorable two minutes in the history of our nation. 

What was it that made such an indelible impression? Was it his oratorical skill? Not really. In fact, he never moved his feet. He stood completely erect without ever changing his posture. His voice, in the beginning, was high-pitched, almost squeaky. No, what made this speech so memorable was that it had such depth.

Today we have a whole generation of Christians who are so used to pressing buttons and eating fast food that they expect instant spirituality. Never mind long, extended times of prayer and significant times of Bible study - just expose yourself to Christian TV shows or meetings with dynamic music and personalities that excite. Never mind disciplines which place felt-needs as a lesser priority. Just praise the Lord and hug somebody. Has there ever been a time when there is so much enthusiastic talk about God and so little true spirituality?

Ray Ortlund said it well, "Because we have no deep individual roots, we copy each other - and all our music sounds pleasantly alike, and all our sermons and books sound pleasantly alike, and all our Christian conversations sound like pleasant tapes played over and over. To God we must be boring!" 

The Apostle Paul got it right, "Live in vital union with Him. Let your roots grow down into Him and draw up nourishment from Him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught." (Col. 2:6,7 TLB)

God's renewal in our lives begins with a wrenching break with ourselves...our selfish wills, desires, and agendas. Then it goes on in lifestyle-changing disciplines that choose His life for our life...a life of humility, brokenness, and selflessness. A life that has spiritual depth. 

And here is the deal. When our souls are fully arrested by His grace, love, forgiveness, and truth we will start the process immediately.  We will choose the life that hungers to know Christ deeply!

This raises some imposing questions. What will be my hunger and focus in these days where there is a multiplicity of distractions?  Will I hunger to go deeper with know Him more fully? Will I have an incessant desire to see others come to Christ?  What will be the driving force of my life?  Is it time to focus or refocus my priorities?