Keeping Your Focus on Jesus

Posted by Naomi Vacaro on

A Discipline of Praise
Katie Gutierrez

Have you ever been on a Zoom or FaceTime call and found yourself spending most of the conversation staring at the little square with your face? 
Unfortunately, my quiet time has looked similar to that video call many days. I’m spending time with Jesus but I’m more preoccupied with myself than with Him. I read my Bible and miss His miraculous power because I’m distracted by my to-do list. I pray and miss His voice because I’m only talking about my problems. 
My friend might not notice if I spend half our FaceTime conversation looking at my own face, but God knows the preoccupation of my heart. And no matter how natural it is for me to think about myself constantly, self-preoccupation will keep me from growing in intimacy with Christ.
The Bible has a word to describe this self-focus: pride. It also tells us that God resists the proud but draws near and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). If our aim in having a quiet time is to grow in our relationship with Jesus and receive more of His grace, we must exchange our self-focused pride for Christ-focused humility.  
As you’ve probably discovered, this is easier said than done! We need a strategy powerful enough to keep our hearts humble. 

A Discipline of Praise
Recently, I had a conversation with someone who shared the strategy they use to resist pride. They praise God
Over the last few years, I’ve been learning to incorporate praise into my quiet time, and I can confirm that praise is an incredibly effective way to keep me humble. Why? Because it reminds me of the truth. 
Pride often sneaks up when we subconsciously forget the truth about God and ourselves.
When we feel strong, we can begin to think we have enough wisdom, strength, and time to accomplish our daily tasks and forget that our intellect, energy, and moments are gifts of God’s grace. We need Him.
When we feel weak, we easily believe our problems and trials are too big and complicated and forget that nothing happens outside of God’s authority, and nothing is too hard for Him to overcome. We can trust Him. 
To combat the self-focused pride that disrupts our quiet time, we must remind ourselves of the truth about God and the truth about ourselves. 
Praise—the act of declaring the character and works of God—is a powerful way to do just this. Here are four reasons why.

  1. Praise reminds us what is true about God’s character
    “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.” (Psalm 18:1-2, NKJV)
    When we slip into thinking about our own strengths and goodness a little too much it’s helpful to praise God for His strength and goodness. Our own strength falls radically short compared to the character of God! 
    Praise reminds us that our abilities are gifts from God. He is our creator, provider, and protector and He alone deserves the glory. 
  1. Praise reminds us what is true about God’s promises
    “I am God, and there is none like Me, [...] Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:9-11, NKJV)
    When life is hard, we can easily become self-focused. I’m most tempted to spend my prayer time exclusively on my problems during seasons of difficulty. But that’s when I must remember the promises of God.  
    Praise reminds us that God has not forgotten His word. This helps us pray with confidence in God’s goodness and greatness instead of praying from a place of fear or despair. 
  1. Praise reminds us what is true about God’s actions
    “Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” (Jeremiah 32:17, NKJV)
    Praise reminds us that God has always been good, He has proved His power over and over, and there is nothing too hard for Him.
    When we find ourselves focused on our problems during our quiet time, we need to be reminded of what God has already done. He has always been faithful, and He hasn’t changed. 
  1. Praise reminds us what is true about ourselves
    “We all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh [...] and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:1-5, NKJV)
    Praise reminds us that we were great sinners who deserved God’s wrath, but He is a great Savior who is rich in mercy. Whether you tend to brush your sin aside as insignificant or carry the burden of sin Jesus paid for, praising Him for His salvation reminds us what is true about ourselves and our sin.
    The truth is my sin alone was enough to send Jesus to the cross. But He is a powerful Savior, and His sacrifice has made me righteous before God. 

Practical Ways to Incorporate Praise
Practically, there are many ways we can praise God during our quiet time: Turn on worship music and sing along to set your heart on Jesus. Speak the names of God out loud in prayer or spend a few minutes giving thanks for His blessings. Or simply pray something like, “Jesus, I feel very distracted right now, but I know that I need You. You are my source of strength, life, and wisdom.” 
It’s important to remember: the power that combats pride isn’t a specific method; it is Jesus. Only Jesus can keep us humble, which is why we praise Him. Praise is a reminder that Jesus is God, and we are not. And that’s a good thing. 
So, when your quiet time starts to feel like a video call where you can’t stop looking at yourself, try praising Jesus for His character, His promises, and His works.

  Katie Gutierrez loves an urban cafe as much as the smell of campfire and pine. She works in communications while studying business and non-fiction writing, and is most happy when leading worship and discipling others.

 

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