Keeping Your Life out of the Hay Bales

You know those concrete barriers you see on the highway that divide one side from the other? The ones with the skid marks on them from people who got too close? And you know that guy who thinks he can drive in the fast lane until he sees how close the barriers seem to be? Then, he gets panicky and realizes he’s not Speed Racer and you’re lucky if he even gets to minimum highway speeds.

You know, those barriers don’t move. Usually if a vehicle hits one of them it’s because the car hit the barrier and not because the barrier hit the car. So, why do people get so squeamish about them? It’s matter of focus.

I remember watching an interview of a guy who had the opportunity to go to a Formula One school. The school trained amateur drivers how to drive a Formula One car. Students would get several hours of instruction and simulation training and then they’d get to drive an actual Formula One car on a practice track. To keep the cars and drivers safe, the track was lined with hay bales and I’m pretty sure the cars were set up not to go full racing speed, but fast, nonetheless. This student said that every time he came to a turn, he’d worry about hitting the hay bales, and every time that’s exactly what he did. The course crew would get him back on track, he’d go to the next turn and again he’d hit the bales. Finally, the instructor took him aside and said: “You need to look where you want the car to go, not at the hay bales. If you look at the hay bales, that’s where you’ll go. Watch the road.” Thankfully, this student was a teachable one. He said, “I did what the instructor said, and I didn’t hit the hay bales anymore!”

When we dealt with addicts who were struggling to overcome an addiction, we always told them, “Don’t let your focus be on fighting the addiction. Take the Philippians 4:8 approach. Put your focus on praising God. It’s hard to sin when you’re busy praising Him.” Think about it. If you’re trying to quit smoking, you can tell yourself: “Must quit smoking! Must resist cigarettes!” If you keep telling yourself that, what is the focus of your thoughts? Smoking and cigarettes! Those thoughts act like magnets and draw you straight into the hay bales. But if you’re doing Philippians 4:8, what is the focus of your thoughts?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  (Philippians 4:8, ESV)

These thoughts put your focus on the things of God. Those other things begin to lose their grip and before you know it, you’re cruising past the hay bales. They may still be there as a warning, but they cease to be obstacles.

Now before you write this off and think: “Well, I’m not addicted to drugs or alcohol, so I’m not an addict.” There are lots of socially acceptable addictions out there even in Christian circles. An addiction is any coping method that we use to deal with the stresses of life that is harmful to ourselves and/or others and that is not God. An addiction could be eating a box (or more) of chocolates when we’re worried, or binge-watching Star Trek to escape our troubles. An addiction doesn’t have to be drugs or alcohol. It can be anything that we use to cope with life that isn’t God.

Does success over an addiction happen overnight? No. But taking the Philippians 4:8 approach – even when we fail – will make overcoming a life-dominating sin much easier because it puts you in the presence of God in your heart and mind. Your life will stay out of the hay bales if you’re looking instead to the Author and Finisher of your faith. ?

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