Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV) Fix your eyes on Jesus
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
One of the great phenomenons of our time is watching elite athletes, who would normally be competing in front of tens of thousands, doing so in front of empty stands. Whether it is football, running, swimming or anything else, it’s is hard to perform, to your best ability without the crowd watching.
COVID or not, we don’t have that problem. According to this verse, all the heroes of faith mentioned in chapter 11 are now in the stands cheering us on. What an audience! What a thrill and an incentive to really go hard in our Christian life!
But at this time in history, I want to concentrate on verse 2, looking to Jesus or as some translations put it, fixing our eyes in Jesus. In Greek the word for looking to is APHORAO, which means “to look away from others things to fix your gaze intently upon something. It means to turn your eyes upon Jesus and let the things of earth grow strangely dim. Trouble is, we have…
A SHORT ATTENTION SPAN
Your attention span is how long you can focus on or attend to a task, and experts agree that as a society our attention span is decreasing.
There is no doubt that due to to rise of cell phones, tablets, the internet and TV remotes, the average human attention span is shrinking. We no longer concentrate on specific details, but we flit from one task to another. A recent Microsoft study concluded that human attention spans have dropped by over 25% in the last few years to less than 8 seconds. Goldfish are reported to have 9 seconds. Out attention span is less than a goldfish. Have you seen Dory on “Finding Nemo”?
And frankly, we as Christians can have as short an attention span as anyone. We rarely read any more, we scan. If we lose attention, we swipe or flip onto the next thing. So often things that are not important in eternity command our attention, and therefore divert our attention from important eternal things.
Psalms 101:3 (ESV)
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
If we allow non eternal issues, like COVID and the like to capture our attention we will never find the stability and power that setting your eyes on Christ alone yields, and we will fall, away. Paul writes,
Ephesians 4:14 (ESV)
so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
So many people are distracted by everything that’s happening around us. Sometimes even believers can be distracted, even by seemingly religious things. As Paul cautioned Timothy,
2 Timothy 2:23-25 (ESV)
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.
In this modern COVID world I am seeing a lot of arguments and controversies, and not a lot of gentleness. I believe God is calling us as a church and individuals to avoid taking part in the foolishness we are seeing being argued all around us, and to fix our eyes of Jesus.
Don’t let the noise of the world stop you from hearing the voice of the Lord. Don’t let the cares of this world distract you from the blessings of God. If you fix your gaze firmly on Jesus, problems become opportunities, and disappointments can change the first letter and become His Appointments.
And remember, God prepares our hearts for His Anointing and blessing in a croc pot, not a microwave! It is rarely instant and fast. He usually takes time, even frustrating, even uncomfortable time to develop us. If we don’t fix our eyes upon Him, we will be distracted and fall away before He has His way. Distractions cause divisions and destroy your destiny.
SMALL FOXES SPOILING THE VINE
Song of Songs 2:15 (ESV)
Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards
Many times the little foxes are the ones who actually spoil the vine. It’s not major things like persecution, facing martyrdom or out and out heresy, it’s the little things, the little distractions. People arguing over doctrines, opinions, mandates, styles of worship. How much time is wasted arguing over things that don’t really matter in eternity?
I believe this is a key strategy of the enemy right now… Distract and destroy. He doesn’t have to stop your quite times, cause you to fall in a big sin, or strike you down with a fatal disease to blunt your effectiveness for Jesus. He just has to distract you, and the job is as good as done.
If you catch a flight from Sunshine Coast to Sydney, and the pilot is only 1 degree off course, you will finish up landing over 19 km into the Pacific Ocean. Pilots need to be constantly concentrating and recorrecting small deviations in flight path, while they are still small! And so do we. We need to constantly be recorrecting, realigning what’s truly important in life, refocusing our priorities and re-fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ.
Psalms 119:15 (ESV)
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS
Remember the apostle Peter getting out of the boat…
Matthew 14:29-31 (ESV)
So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
While ever Peter focussed on Christ, miracles happened, but when he took his eyes off Jesus and focussed on the circumstances and what surrounded him, he failed. I believe this is a great lesson for us today.
Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
If we focus on Christ, everything else comes into perspective, and the world fades away. Want to know what’s important? Seek first His Kingdom. Want to step away from the mess that is our current world? Seek first His Kingdom.
SOMETIMES OUR VISION IS CLOUDED OR DULL
Let’s face it, at times, if we neglect our relationship with the Lord, our vision and sight for the things of God grows dull, clouded, misty. Jesus described the Pharisees who opposed Him like this
Matthew 13:14-15 (ESV)
You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
Neuschwanstein is the most beautiful castle in the world. I have seen it a couple of times, and was determined to take Fiona there. When we arrived it looked like this…
Does this mean the castle is not there? Has it somehow self destructed? Of course it is there. And sometimes when our eyes are not fixed on the Lord, sometimes when we feel we can’t even see God in our circumstances. But does that mean He isn’t there any more? Of course not, He is there all the time, our vision is just clouded, it’s distracted, it’s not fixed on Him. Something has got in the way. As we pray, we will see clearly, and we can fix our eyes on Jesus when we recognise that He is still there, no matter how we feel, how distracted we are or what we sense or don’t sense.
So today if God seems far away, I’m telling you that He hasn’t moved. He is right here waiting for you to see.. If you struggle to even see Jesus, let alone fix your gaze upon Him, then you are in the right place. Let us learn to fix our eyes upon Jesus together.
So let’s finish by looking at 3 steps to focussing your eyes on Jesus
1. REMOVE DISTRACTING OBSTACLES
The enemy loves to distract us from the truth. And as I said, the devil doesn’t have to kill you or make you fall in sin to neutralise you, He just has to distract you. And so many Christians walk straight into his trap. Paul writes,
Romans 16:17 (ESV)
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
Don’t bait them, don’t take them on and don’t argue, just avoid them, stop letting the leaches of your mind suck you dry with stuff that simply does not matter in eternity. If anything distracts you from focussing on Jesus, get rid of it!
What are these leaches? For some it might be Facebook. For some it’s TV, or computer games. It could be a habitual sin, a lifestyle you pursue or failing to forgive someone. Anything that doesn’t point you to Christ can distract you from what’s important in eternity. The thing is, the Bible says you only get one life…
Hebrews 9:27 (ESV)
it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
CT Studd the famous cricketer said, “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” It’s time for us to get rid of distractions and focus on joining together in unity and serving Christ! Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.
Don’t waste your one life pursuing anything that turns you aside from the Kingdom of God.
2. READ GOD’S WORD
You cannot grow as a Christian if you never read the Word of God. I start every day reading the Bible, and over time this grows my walk with Jesus. There is incredible power in God’s Word. It’s not just a book, it is a living phenomenon.
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit (mind, will and emotions and your spirit), of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
God’s Word discerns or judges the thoughts and attitudes of your heart. Without God’s Word, your standards slip, your thoughts wander and your spiritual walk falters.
I remember being astonished, when we had the plebiscite on gay marriage, hearing Christians say, “I’m not sure how to vote.” The basic problem here is that they listen to the world and don’t read their Bibles.
So once again I want to challenge you to join us in the Bible reading plan. The whole church is doing it together 2 chapters a day. I promise you that you will never be the same if you try this plan and see it through.
And when you read, you can also add to the experience using commentaries. Study Bibles, concordance, etc. I would encourage you to write down an applications from the passage, some way the passage speaks to you. Perhaps a warning, or an example to follow, or not follow.
I find Bible reading fun, challenging and most importantly, God speaks to me nearly every day, and sometimes quite specifically.
I mentioned last week that prayer is a 2 way street, where you talk to God and God talks to you. Some of you commented that you struggled to hear His voice, but if you removed distractions it is a whole lot easier to hear the voice of God. And it will help if we do this together too.
John 10:27 (ESV)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Don’t get disheartened if you struggle to hear the still, small voice of God. Very often God’s speaks not in headlines but in fine print.
1 Kings 19:11-12 (ESV)
And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
The Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts in a number of ways, very often that gentle whisper. He might speak using Visions, dreams, words, sometimes preaching, sometimes circumstances, sometimes godly advice. For me, the ultimate voice of the Lord is His Word, because He will never contradict the Bible.
I believe prayer is a sensational way for us to fix our eyes on Jesus. When you pray, the enemy tries everything he can to distract you, but as you push through I believe you can and will see miracles.
WHY PRAY TOGETHER?
Prayer is a powerful weapon in spiritual warfare. Pray builds your faith and focusses your will so it conforms to the will of God. And as powerful as prayer in your personal space might be, praying together opens an even greater flow of power.
Matthew 18:18-20 (ESV)
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Praying together gives us the chance to join our hearts and our faith, because God loves unity, and it also brings a unique sense of God’s presence. I believe at this week’s prayer on Tuesday night we will see the start of a phenomenal move of God, maybe one that will sweep the entire nation!
IT’S TIME TO FIX OUR EYES ON JESUS
But we have to fix our eyes on Jesus. We must focus on what is truly important, and focus on Him. “A knife cuts because it has a narrow focus” (Cleddie Keith)
If we as a church fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, I believe we will see miracles happen. As I said last week, I am not after gold dust, oil or angel feathers, but I do believe that when we humble ourselves and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways then when we pray we will see miracles following. The miracles I am looking for is transformed lives, salvations, families restored, financial miracles, healings and spiritual breakthroughs.
I want to finish this morning by asking us to form small groups, maybe 4 or 5. The question I want you to ask or each other is, “What’s distracting me from focussing on Jesus.” Then I’m going to ask you to pray together. Pray for unity, pray for power and pray to fix your eyes on Jesus. If you are uncomfortable praying out loud, that’s OK, just let others pray… no one is forced to do anything. But let us pray one for another, and may this same Spirit continue on Tuesday night. Then prioritise to Come join us on Tuesday at pm.