You will get whatever you focus on. That's a promise and a warning.

“Aim small, miss small.” So said Mel Gibson’s character to his son in The Patriot as they are waiting to ambush a group of British soldiers. I have found this principle true in many areas of my life. The farther and narrower I set my sights, even when I’m doing something as simple as running, the more stability it brings to my current position. You can imagine the opposite quite easily. Try walking in a straight line while wildly shaking your head left and right. We get wobblier the more near-sighted and distracted we are.

Have you ever tried to avoid sin by focusing on avoiding sin? It doesn’t work. Because whatever our imaginations are fixated on, even if it’s to deny or avoid it, will inevitably steer us toward the thing we’re thinking about. The safest way to drive a car is with your eyes on the road in front of you, not on avoiding the trees in the median. To use a cruder example, I do not wake up in the morning and say, “My goal today is to avoid committing adultery.” Rather, I focus my heart and my mind on enjoying and loving my wife.

Why is this a thing? What is going on here? Why is it that we pull whatever we focus on as if by tractor beams from our imaginations? I believe it has to do with the power of our God-given ability to create the future with our internal vision. It is basically faith—negative or positive—in action. Consider the following Scriptures:

By faith, Abraham “looked to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”…By faith, Moses “saw him who is invisible.”…We "walk by faith and not by sight."…Faith is being certain of things that can't be seen with the physical eyes.

It appears that the biblical authors saw faith as a way of seeing—a way of envisioning the future with hope-inspired imagination. God has given us this incredible gift of being able to shape the world into the vision we have for it. The tools we use—a pen, a hammer, a guitar, a wok—are all different, but the effect is the same: our feet and fingers translate what we see (or hear) in our imaginations to physically manifest in the form of art, food, music, architecture, or economic and political solutions. Faith is our ability to see and shape the future into whatever vision we foster on the inside, good or bad, negative or positive—the gate swings both ways.

If we allow external signals to inform our imaginations and control the narrative, our gate swings inward and we become "tossed to and fro" by fear and anxiety. "But greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world!" We can connect with the greater kingdom on the inside and make an impact on the world through an outward flow of divine imagination, springing forth from that invisible kingdom that cannot be shaken. We will either be flooded with fear or explode on the world with the opposite spirit—love. The Father has given us the true kingdom, and in that kingdom we are royalty with authority!

Nothing has ever been made without someone having seen it first in their imagination. This world, by God’s design, runs on the imaginations of his image-bearers. We get to make it into whatever we dream up. When Disney World opened after the death of its visionary Walt Disney, someone bemoaned to his wife Lillian, “if only Walt were here to see this.” She replied, “If Walt didn’t see this, it wouldn’t be here now.”

Dreaming is not enough. You have to go a step further and use your imagination to visualize, with intent! Forget everything you’ve been taught, and believe it will happen, just as you imagined it. That is the secret. That is the mystery of life.”
— Christine Anderson

This is so important to get. For most of my Christian life, I thought “having faith” was a bit like “walking carefully in the dark,” going slowly making sure not to trip over anything while walking in a generally positive direction. But the Bible defines faith as an intensity of imagination, a laser-beam, hammer-and-chisel, carving the future out of a block of undetermined stone. If we truly understood this principle, I believe we would not only shake off the things that so easily derail us, we would become unstoppable forces for good in the world. Want to avoid the mistakes of your parents or mentors? Focus on doing what they neglected, not on neglecting what they did. We have an incredible weight of glory on each of our lives. The world is desperate to see what we do with that glory.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
— Philipians 4:8,9