By Heather Cox
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith…
Last week, I had the opportunity to run along the Pacific Crest Trail in the shadows of Mt. Hood. Everything about it was amazing: the people, the weather, the grit and determination required to complete the race. I should add the scenery to this list, yet I found myself barely even taking in my surroundings because I was so focused on the trail in front of me that I hardly even lifted my eyes to check out what was going on around me! I was so intent on keeping my gaze down that I very nearly missed this glorious view were it not for the exclamation of a runner near me saying “Woah, look at that!”
After that near miss, I made an effort to look around as I was completing the event. After all, my goal was to finish and enjoy the day, not to win. If I didn’t get to see all of the cool stuff due to looking down the whole time, what fun is that?! I needed to adjust my gaze. Then I started thinking about how this could apply to the Christian life (this was a long race and I had plenty of time to think…10 hours and 21 minutes of time, to be exact!).
When I first became more serious about following Christ, I was super fixated on the rules. While I wouldn’t have explicitly stated it this way, I wanted to be obedient because I thought that would make God love me more. Clearly, this is anti-gospel and I failed miserably. As I grew in my knowledge of the holiness of God, my sin also grew more and more apparent. Ideally, my view of the cross and forgiveness would have grown as well but it was slower to come into view. Instead, my gaze became fixated on my sin and failure, leading to guilt and shame taking over my life.
Then I shifted my gaze to a white-knuckling, self-help, try-harder effort. This worked for about 3 minutes and during those 3 minutes of victory, I congratulated myself for nailing the Christian life, meaning my eyes continued to be fixed on my broken self. As my old sinful patterns re-emerged and continued on, despair and the lie of the enemy that I would never change began to set it.
It wasn’t until God used teaching from Matt Chandler’s book and sermon series Recovering Redemption that I realized my eyes were set on the wrong thing. Rather than navel gaze and focus on my problems of sin and brokenness, I needed to shift my eyes upwards to the One who has resolved those problems through the grace and mercy found in the death and resurrection of His Son. This reality was there the whole time but I was missing it because my eyes were stuck on something else – just like Mt. Hood was there the whole time but I almost missed it because my eyes were fixated on the ground!
Last week, it was the reminder from a stranger to look up that allowed me to marvel at God’s creation. Today, it is my delight to remind others that are struggling with their sin to look up at God, marveling at His love and forgiveness of sinners. He specializes in transforming hearts and minds into the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29) and it is only through abiding in Him that true change can happen as we can do nothing apart from Him (John 15:5).
Is there someone you could encourage this week that might need to change their gaze? Perhaps it’s focused on the outrage found on social media or in the news, which is impacting their joy and outlook on life. Perhaps you have a loved one that is tangled up in addiction and believing the lie that they can never change. Or maybe a co-worker is obsessed with cultivating a certain image that it is to the detriment of everyone around them. Maybe you find yourself struggling with a misplaced gaze. Together, let’s meditate on Hebrews 12:2 as we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith!