Faith has a focus. The focus of faith is honoring Jesus Christ. When I gave my life to Jesus and chose to follow Him, that decision involved living for Jesus. It is far more than forgiveness for my past. Faith in Jesus means focusing on becoming more like Him.
In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul uses three illustrations of people who live focused lives - a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer.
The Roman army did not have a National Guard that included soldiers who had day jobs and served in the army on the weekends with intermittent deployments. A Roman soldier was all in. Soldiering was his life. His one purpose in life was to serve his commander.
Athletes competed in the public games. The modern equivalent would be an Olympic athlete. An athlete who competes at the highest level must train long and arduous years. Hours of strain and sweat are put into gaining strength or speed or specific skills needed to have a chance to win a medal. And athletes know they must compete within the rules or be disqualified. An athlete's one purpose is to win the prize.
Farm life is never-ending work. There are always chores to do, equipment to maintain, animals to tend, and crops to plant or weed or fertilize or harvest. Farming involves long, strenuous days of work. And there is no guarantee flooding or drought or a disease sweeping through the herd will not destroy what the farmer has worked so hard to grow. A farmer's one purpose is to produce a crop or herd to feed the world.
Paul urges Timothy to "Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 2:3) Paul lived a life that was all in for Jesus Christ. His faith was focused on bringing people to Jesus, no matter the cost. When Paul writes, "Join me in suffering..." he is writing from a Roman dungeon, in shackles, awaiting execution. The focus of his life was not his profession - the making of tents. The focus of his life was serving Jesus with all he had. And Paul challenges Timothy - and us - to live just such a life, all in for Jesus.
If the purpose of life is survival, everything will be focused on making sure we have sufficient food, clothing, shelter, employment, etc. If the focus of life is being comfortable, we will be sure to avoid suffering and sacrifice in order to be happy. But if the purpose of life is to serve Jesus Christ, these things give way to the greater work of growing in faith, serving others, honoring Christ, and living for eternity.
And the beautiful thing is, when we live with focused faith - making the most important thing in life to honor Jesus - we become better people, better spouses, better parents, better employers/employees, better neighbors.
Jesus said it this way: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33) I may not be perfect, but I am focused on pleasing Christ. I may have worldly concerns and fears, but I am first of all seeking Jesus. And growing to be more like Him is the thing I long for most. Like the singular focus of a soldier, an athlete, or a farmer, I focus on loving God and loving others and growing in holiness. Whatever it costs. Wherever it leads. To God be the glory.