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Food for Thought - Musings

"What are you looking at?"

“What are you looking at?” is a question often asked by someone who is perturbed, annoyed or up to no good. The question really means stop looking, mind your own business, butt out! However, in this musing I am choosing to use the phrase as a wake up call for our spiritual life rather than a pejorative phrase.

We live in a world that is full of distractions and fears, each of which screams at us, “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!” These distractions and fears steal us away from our first Love and can even send us into place of deep discouragement, disillusionment and despair. And it seems that the media delights in parading these things before us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is no stopping the relentless march of the dire news, the evil acts, and the dismal projections. But just because these things are ubiquitous by nature does not mean they need to be the focal point of our lives. Thus, the question: “What are you looking at?” It is our focus (what we are looking at) that determines to a large degree what our emotional response will be.

Two biblical examples of this truth readily come to mind. The first is the Old Testament story of the spies Moses sent to check out the Promised Land. Moses sent 40 men to spy out the land. Each of these 40 men returned, having witnessed firsthand the same thing: bountiful crops, fortified cities and a rather imposing enemy. But upon their return, the reports they gave where very different from one another because each had a different focus. The first group was looking at things that fed their fear. Their report was as follows: “…and the land we explored is carnivorous and all the inhabitants are giants.” The other spies, two of the 40, who were looking at God stated, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them." (Numbers 13:25- 14:12) Two groups of people who saw the very same thing but gave entirely different reports because of what they were looking at; what they were focusing on.

The second example is from the Gospels and is portrayed in the account of Peter walking on the water. Peter, in response to Jesus’ invitation (which was prompted by Peter’s request), got out of the boat and began to enjoy a leisurely stroll upon the Sea of Galilee. However, his carefree walk suddenly turned quite dangerous and Peter feared for his life. What transformed this leisurely stroll into a life and death struggle was as simple as Peter changing what he was looking at. When Peter got out of the boat he was initially looking at Jesus, but soon he began focusing on the wind and the waves and, as a result, immediately began to sink. (Matthew 14:29-31) These two stories illustrate the importance of paying attention to what we are looking at. The ramifications can be staggering.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that the Bible has a couple things to say about what we should be looking at. In Luke 9:62, Jesus reminds us, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Once we have entered into the kingdom of God we need to be looking in the right direction; it suddenly matters what we are looking at. Paul reminds us to, “Fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4:18) We are to look at the unseen, the eternal, that which is only seen with the eyes of faith, for it is the unseen that is our source of hope, joy and life everlasting.

The writer of Hebrews drives home this same point with much vim and vigor: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3) If asked the question, “What are you to be looking at” the writer of Hebrew would categorically state, “Jesus, fix your eyes on Jesus.” But the writer goes farther. Not only are you to look at Jesus, you are also to remember what Jesus endured and this will help you to not grow weary and lose heart.

I believe fixing our eyes on Jesus is great advice anytime, but especially now in this uncertain economic climate in which the fire of fear is being continually fanned. Today more than ever the question, “What are you looking at?” is critically important to keep at the forefront of our mind and heart. The circumstances around us are real, the situation is tenuous at best but there is also a greater reality, a reality of love, care, wisdom and power: there is Jesus. Jesus will not necessarily change our circumstances nor rescue us from the calamities of life, but Jesus will be with us through them. And as we fix our eyes on Jesus, recalling to mind what he himself endured, this will fortify us and enable us to not grow weary and lose heart . This doesn’t mean you don’t feel the pain of what you are going through but even in that, you bring your focus to Jesus. In these troubled days when the wind and waves of fear and uncertainty are all around, asking ourselves, “What are you looking at?” throughout the day can be a life-giving spiritual discipline. And an honest answer to that question may very well save us from a lot of heartache, fear and worry, for it can provide us the opportunity to refocus on the things that are unseen and once again fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Take some time to explore those things in your life that make it difficult to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus:

What tends to draw your eyes away from Jesus?

What things are currently causing the wind and waves of doubt and fear to rise within you and take your eyes off Jesus? Bring these one by one to Jesus.

What are the giants in your life that seem too big to tackle? Share these with Jesus.

Why is it difficult for you to trust Jesus when it comes to the winds and waves in your life? Take time to share your struggle with Jesus.

What is something you can put into your day that may help you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and/or call you back to fixing your eyes on Jesus when your attention begins to focus on the winds and the waves?

One simple thing to do through out your day to help keep your focus on Jesus is to ask yourself the question:
“What am I looking at?”

This is a ministry of b. If you were forwarded this email and would like to sign up to automatically receive our musings please visit our website www.b-ing.org and click on the 'food for thought' tab. b is a nonprofit organization working with pastors, staffs, seminarians and pastors in the area of spiritual formation providing retreats, workshops and spiritual direction.

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