One of the greater weaknesses in my Olympic lifting that has plagued me from the very beginning of my weightlifting career is a tight, upright torso when I land in the bottom of the clean. Furthermore, I often will lose focus on a strong upper back when I front squat. This happens when I get caught up in lifting the most amount of weight rather than the quality of the lift. I lose focus on the point of the exercise and let my desire for more weight ruin the squats or cleans. It often ruins workouts and wastes effort.
The same failure to focus can happen in our daily lives. In Nehemiah 13 we read of Nehemiah’s final reforms for Jerusalem after having led them back to a position of stability and righteousness. However, Nehemiah traveled back to serve King Artaxerxes after much work in Jerusalem. When he returned in chapter 13 he found that many of his reforms and much of his work has faded back to prior idolatry. The people, whom Nehemiah had led so well back to right-standing before the Lord, had lost focus and drifted back to their previous place of sin. They lost focus on who is most valuable and lost focus on the reality that their relationship with the Lord will ALWAYS have greater weight than their own personal glory, popularity, contentment, or possessions. Their loss of focus caused Nehemiah to come back with a vengeance. Literally priceeded to reform Jerusalem with such anger that chapter 13 details his laying hands on people, pulling their hair out, and literally throwing household furniture out of the temple chambers.
“And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.” (Nehemiah 13:8-9, ESV)
Nehemiah discovered a truth in the people of Jerusalem that we often leave undiscovered in our own lives. We lose focus on what matters most at the cost of an idol. Christ willingly gave His life on the Cross that we might have freedom from sin in exchange for life in Christ. Yet we often choose sin. We often desire our own popularity, acceptance by others, personal glory, or greater wealth at the expense of intimacy with Christ. We lose focus on what matters most and in reality what brings greater joy. Intimacy with the God of the universe far outweighs any acceptance we can gain from friends or cars we can buy.
This is personally convicting for me as I often will allow myself to drift from the truths that I hold so dear for the sake of a good time or personal popularity. Nehemiah 13 is a personally convicting chapter as it reminds of how easily I can allow myself to lose focus and waste my life in fleeting pleasure. Just like I lose focus in my squats and cleans and often defeat the point of the exercise, I can lose focus in my daily decisions and actions and waste the years God has given me.
Don’t lose focus. Keep your eyes on what is ultimately valuable and will never lose its worth.
“And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, ESV)