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When Suffering, Focus Your Faith (Part 2)

This is part two in a three part series.  If you didn’t get a chance to read last week’s blog on dealing with suffering, you can do so by clicking here.  I would recommend it since these thoughts build on top of each other.

The question is how did those witnesses come out on the other side? The answer: their focus was on their promise. I’m not saying there weren’t times they lost focus; they did. We all do. Those are the moments they and we begin to stumble in the run. Yet there is a place for our focus: Jesus. He is our focus. “Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus,” (Heb 12.1c-2, HCSB).

“Keeping our eyes on Jesus,” putting our focus on Him. What we like to do in our lives is look at everything and everyone but Jesus. Maybe like is the wrong word. Most people don’t like to look at the problems, but we are drawn toward the looking at our problems. My brother used to be in the army and he, for whatever reason, wanted to jump out of planes so he went to airborne school at Fort Benning, GA. He trained relentlessly
for weeks. One of the main instructions that they give time and again is to never look down. Which seems counterintuitive. Why would he not look at the ground? He was on a collision course with the ground. But he was told never look at the ground; always look at the horizon. He graduated. He was now one of an elite class of soldiers. On his first official jump, as he neared the ground his mind told him to look toward the horizon, but his eyes told him to look down. He looked down, anticipated the fall, and broke his ankle. He had to have plates and screws put in.  His jumping days were over nearly before they began.

Here’s the thing, Gene would have hit the ground no matter what. It would have been painful no matter what. But because he took his eyes off the target (the horizon), and put his eyes on the obstacle (the ground) he broke his ankle. It’s so easy for us to focus on the object right in front of us. It’s so easy for us to focus on that which we are headed straight for. And yet our focus, as the writer of Hebrews wrote, must be on Jesus. “Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus,” (Heb 12.1c-2, HCSB).

It is when your focus is on Jesus that you are able to shed the rucksack. Do you know what ruck sacks are for? They are for supplies. Hikers or soldiers or whoever that goes around with rucksacks use them to carry supplies because they want to be able to handle whatever comes upon them. While they have a destination in mind, their focus is on what lies between them and the destination. So they fill that rucksack with a flashlight, a canteen, a bedroll, a change of clothes and boots, a knife, and so on.

You never see a marathoner running with a rucksack. You never see a mudder running the obstacle course with a rucksack. They have a goal in mind. They want to finish the race as best they can, and not let anyone or anything slow them down. Often though what slows our race down is sin. John wrote in his first epistle: “Everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of one’s
lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world,” (1 John 2.16, HCSB). Those are the three main categories of sin.

The lust of the flesh: It will feel so good to have this. The lust of the eyes: that looks too good not to have. The pride of one’s lifestyle: keeping up with the Jones, keeping the image up, wanting more, more, more. That’s the issue. Sometimes these desires aren’t necessarily bad desires, but when we want them too much that we start focusing on them rather than Jesus, they become idols. That’s why the writer of Hebrews wrote, “Let us lay aside every weight and sin that so easily ensnares us,” (Heb 12.1b, HCSB). Some of you are carrying around rucksacks filled with the cares of this world, and those cares inevitably bring suffering.  They tell you and your body that you need them, that you can’t live without them.  When you try to live without them, the yearnings become nearly too great to bear.  But the truth is that they are weighing you down and you’re moving at a snail’s pace. Those things have to be laid aside.

How do we lay those weights and sins aside? You give them the place they deserve. Keep Jesus as your focus. We simply stop looking to them. Turn our focus away. That’s hard to do. What I’m asking you to do is harder than asking you to stop looking at your smart phone, and we all know that seems impossible. I’ve heard that if you walk the length of the Appalachian Trail you will find a bunch of stuff: clothes, pots, pans, etc. That’s because newbies will start their hike with a rucksack filled with items they think they will need. Before long they are shedding their gear and just leaving it on the side of the
trail. Within a few weeks, they have gotten down to the bare necessities. They either bought or brought their things for the trip. Imagine how difficult it would be mentally to let go of those items. Their hard-earned money was spent on those things.  But the only way to successfully complete the journey they have embarked on is to let them go. Not easy, but necessary. After all, Jesus is “the source and perfecter of our faith,”

(Heb 12.2b, HCSB). He is the one who put that faith in you. He is the source of your faith, but He is also the perfecter of it. He is taking it all the way to completion. By the time Jesus gets done with you, there will be no more work to be done. It will be complete and perfect. Or as Paul told the Colossians, “Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory,” (Col 3.2-4, HCSB).

When tempted to look at the things this world has to offer, ask yourself these two simple questions: will this bring me to perfection? Will this bring me to glory?