Why You Might Need a Focus Shift


In its advance estimate, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that fourth quarter inflation adjusted (or real) GDP grew at an annual of rate 2.6 percent (0.3 percent below pre-report expectations, 0.6 percent below the third quarter, and 0.8 percent above the 2016 fourth-quarter estimate). Positive contributions were made from personal consumption expenditures, nonresidential fixed investment, exports, residential fixed investment and government spending. Negatives were inventories and imports. Unadjusted for inflation, GDP grew by 5.0 percent to $19.7389 trillion.

BEA also released its advance estimate for 2017 annual GDP. During 2017, inflation adjusted GDP grew 2.3 percent compared to 1.5 percent the previous year. Non-Inflation adjusted GDP increased 4.1 percent for the year, compared to 2.8 percent in 2016.

Fourth quarter GDP growth was disappointing. But perspective is important. Strong consumer and business spending alleviate many concerns. Recent weakness in the U. S. dollar will reduce the trade deficit if it continues. Strong Christmas season sales are responsible for much of the drop in private inventory growth. BEA also indicated that the advance estimate is based on source data that is incomplete and subject to revision. There is no reason to lose hope for a strong economy in 2018. In support of this hope, all three major U. S. stock indices closed at all-time record highs after the report's release.

In the kingdom, we are called to focus on our King, and not the distractions of life. We are sons of God. Since our King is all-powerful and loves us with an unsurprising love, we have no need to fear. Whatever life throws at us, we are overcomers. We overcome with the word of our testimony and the blood of the lamb.

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"They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev. 12:11).

Jesus told his disciples that they would go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They all got into the boat. In obedience, the disciples started pulling on the oars while Jesus went to the rear of the boat to sleep. But a great storm arose. The waves stated breaking over the boat, and the boat started filling with water. The disciples were afraid. Finally, some of them thought of Jesus in the stern. They woke Him, and He rebuked the wind which immediately died down. Jesus then told them to have faith and not fear. When the disciples focused on Jesus, their perspective changed, and they saw victory.

That same day, when the evening came, He said to them, "Let us go cross to the other side." When they had sent the crowd away, they took Him in the boat just as He was. There were also other little boats with Him. A great wind storm arose, and the waves splashed into the boat, so that it was now filling the boat. He was in the stern asleep on a pillow. They woke Him and said, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?"

He rose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" Then the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

He said to them, "Why are you so fearful? How is that you have no faith?"

They feared greatly and said to one another, "What kind of Man is He, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" (Mark 4:35-41).

Jesus had just fed 5,000 men (maybe 20,000 total) with five loaves of bread and two fish. He commanded his disciples to get into the boat and to go to the other side of the sea of Galilee. Jesus sent the crowd away and then went to a mountain to pray. Early in the morning, he saw the disciples straining at the oars, for the wind was against them. (Jesus saw them even though it was night and they were in the middle of the sea of Galilee.)  The disciples were probably focused on the wind and the work before them.

Jesus started to cross the sea, by walking on water, and intended to pass by them. Could it have been because of their focus? The disciples saw Jesus on the water, thought He was a ghost, and cried out—their focus and perspective changed. Jesus calmed the disciples, and when He got into the boat, the wind stopped. Matthew adds the detail of how Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward the Lord. When he focused on the Lord, he walked on water, and when he focused on the waves, he sank (Matt. 14:28-33). When we focus on the Lord and who we are in Him, our perspective changes from a victim to a conqueror, and we see the victory.

When evening came, the boat was in the midst of the sea. And He was alone on the land. He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea and would have passed by them. But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out. For they all saw Him and were troubled.

Immediately He spoke to them and said, "Be of good cheer, it is I. Do not be afraid." Then He went up to them in the boat and the wind ceased. They were greatly astonished in themselves beyond measure, and wondered (Mark 6:47-51).

When we face disappointments, we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (see Rom. 8:28). When we face challenges, we know that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us (see Phil. 4:13). When we feel hopeless, we know that our God is able to do far more abundantly than we can ask or think according to the power that works in us (Eph. 3:20). Let us learn to focus on God, which will change our perspective, and lead us to victory.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.

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