Key Scriptures: Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43, Matthew 13:1-23, Colossians 3:2, Proverbs 4:25, Psalm 1:1-6, Matthew 6:24, Proverbs 2:2-5, Isaiah 26:3, Colossians 2:6-8, Hebrews 12:1-2, Matthew 24:13, 1 Peter 5:8, Hebrews 2:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Luke 9:62, Philippians 4:8, Proverbs 4:27
Guiding Question: How important is focus in living the Christian life and on what should we focus?
Opening Activity: Bring in seeds, dirt and plastic cups. Allow students to plant the seeds. As they work, ask them what the seeds need to grow. Ask them what will happen to the seeds if they get distracted and forget to water them. What are some things that might distract them from taking good care of their seeds so they will grow into plants?
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Read the parables found in Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43 and review the parable in Matthew 13:1-23. Why do you think Jesus compares people to seeds and plants in these parables? What are the lessons he wanted us to learn from each parable?
One of the lessons we can learn from these parables is that for our faith to grow and be strong, we have to do certain things…or avoid certain things. Doing that successfully requires focus. If we allow ourselves to become distracted, it can become easy to forget to take care of our faith. What should be strong, vibrant and producing fruit can quickly become anemic and even die.
The Bible doesn’t use the word “focus” in most translations, but it uses words and phrases that mean the same thing. Read the following verses and identify the word or phrase that implies “focus”. What does the passage tell us about focus – either on what we should focus or how we can focus. If the verse mentions a benefit of this focus, what is it?
- Colossians 3:2 – set your mind
- Proverbs 4:25 – gaze straight before you
- Psalm 1:1-6 – meditates night and day
- Matthew 6:24 – can’t serve two masters
- Proverbs 2:2-5 – seek like hidden treasure
- Isaiah 26:3 – mind is stayed
- Colossians 2:6-8 – rooted
- Hebrews 12:1-2 – endurance
- Matthew 24:13 – endures
- 1 Peter 5:8 – sober minded, watchful
- Hebrews 2:1 – pay much closer attention
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – without ceasing
- Luke 9:62 – looks back (loss of focus)
- Philippians 4:8 – think on
- Proverbs 4:27 – don’t turn to right or left
Combining the information from the parables and these passages, on what does God want us to focus? Why is it important for us to focus on those things?
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. The skills required for maintaining the focus that the Christian life needs, actually involves two skill sets – finding the things that help us stay focused on God and eliminating or minimizing distractions and the impact they can have on our faith. You will want to spend time addressing both skill sets, but some students may need more time on one than the other.
Have students create an action plan of things they can do to help them keep their focus on the things on which God wants them to focus. Some students may also need to review some of the skills learned in the lessons on setting goals and time management.
Here is a partial list in case students have trouble developing a plan.
- Daily quiet time
- Reading the Bible
- Occasional religious fasts (be careful discussing this if you have students with eating disorders – this fasting is not about losing weight, but spending extra time in scripture and prayer)
- Bible studies with other Christians
- In person worship services
- Memorizing scriptures
- Scripture art
- Bible journaling
- Faith sharing
- Serving others
- Teaching people about the Bible
- Prayer walks
- Reflecting on scripture
Ideas for minimizing or avoiding distractions.
- Time management – schedule time with God each day
- Pray and read at least one verse of scripture before getting out of bed in the morning and/or before going to sleep at night
- Visual cues – priorities (God comes first), reminders to do things on the previous list, etc.
- Accountability – check in regularly with someone who will help you stay focused, commit to post a daily scripture on social media, etc.
- Don’t overschedule your time with secular things
- Get plenty of rest, eat healthy, exercise
- Avoid things that wouldn’t meet the requirements of Philippians 4:8
Application Challenge: Review the scriptures from the lesson. How easy is it for you to stay focused on the things God on which God wants you to focus? What distracts you? How can you minimize or avoid those distractions. Develop a personal plan for increasing the amount of time you spend focused on God and minimizing or eliminating distractions – especially those that are sinful.