Looking to Jesus

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who or the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

–Hebrews 12:1-2

 

The Bible tells us life is like a marathon. Even though it often seems so short in retrospect, in the moment life can feel long and difficult. The things we want most can seem so far away and long in coming. The path can seem so long, and the goal so far away and we hate to wait. To make things more difficult, our path is sometimes fraught with danger and obstacles that threaten to throw us off course.

When the distance and waiting and hardships all converge, life can seem like more than we can handle. So Hebrews reminds us of a great cloud of witnesses. In Chapter 11, we read about a long list of witnesses who lived by faith in Jesus. These witnesses faced unimaginable hardship and pain in their journey, yet they endured. They faced the kinds of hardships we face and others that I hope none of us ever face and they overcame. They not only survived but lived with joy. And Hebrews tells us how they were able to do this: They fixed their eyes on Jesus.

People like Abraham, Rahab and Samson were able to endure because they saw in advance what God was going to do. They endured because they saw Jesus, the Savior who would bring healing to the world. This knowledge enabled them to trust in God, even when the whole world was against them, because they knew Jesus would be victorious in the end and healing would come.

Like all of them, we all inevitably face hardship and pain in life. When that happens we are often acutely aware of our need for Jesus, for his healing and salvation. We turn our eyes to him because we have no other option and endure.

But much of the time life is just normal. We may deal with frustrations and annoyances, but life is relatively easy. In these good times, like in the easy stretches of a marathon, we begin to feel strong. The race seems easy, and we can endure it just fine on our own. So our eyes drift away from Jesus. We may still go to church when we have a chance; we may pray before meals, but our hearts and minds are focused on our lives, ourselves, and other things that seem more pressing in the moment.

But the hills and valleys of life eventually return. Difficulty comes again and if our eyes are on ourselves, it can overwhelm us. The only way to truly endure whatever may come is with our eyes focused on Jesus, the author of salvation, because when our hearts aren’t focused on Him we’re missing out on His strength to endure.

But that’s not all. When we look away from Jesus we’re missing out on joy. It was for the joy that awaited him that Jesus endured the cross. Through his death and resurrection Jesus brought the joy of new life and healing into the world. He offers this joy to us; joy that can endure anything that may come. But to experience his joy we have to keep our eyes fixed on him, not just on Sunday, but every moment of every day.

So let us all turn our eyes to Jesus; let us come to him day after day and remember that he is alive and that he hears us and that he is with us. Let us remind ourselves and each other continually that healing has come through Jesus, and that he has given us life and joy that can endure whatever may come.