This time of year, as the temperatures rise earlier in the day, getting some walking in means, I need to go early. So, I don my walking shoes and head out as the sun is coming up! (Go ahead, call me crazy…. I already know!) It is still crisp and cool then, and there’s very little traffic and very few people out then. It’s a peaceful time to walk and think.
Recently I decided to start challenging myself, and I began to jog. Little spurts at first, and then longer spurts. I continued to do this repeatedly until I could go a fair distance jogging before returning to walking. I like to look ahead on my path and choose an object as a goal, a place to stop jogging. I tell myself, “I won’t stop until I get to that car up ahead.” I keep pushing myself to go a bit further each time I do this. I try not to stop until my heart is racing, and my breathing is heavy, and then I return to walking. By doing this, I am able to build up endurance and to go farther before I stop. It feels amazing!
On a recent walk/jog, I was feeling particularly good. So, I decided to see how far I could go without stopping. I kept my eyes down, watched my feet so I didn’t trip, and forged ahead. At one point, I thought I should be pretty close to the end of the street I was on, and almost to the corner (my goal). So, I kept jogging. But the sun was in my eyes, and I couldn’t see that corner up ahead, so I kept going. And going. And going.
Each time I looked up to see how close I was to that corner; it didn’t seem to be any nearer at all. The early morning sun was shining brightly in my eyes and kept me from seeing where that next corner was. All I could see was that sunshine. I kept jogging forward, knowing that the corner would come up eventually. But because the sun was shining so brightly, I ended up jogging farther than I thought I could. Seeing only that sunshine, kept me from only seeing my struggle. When the sun was in my eyes, I wasn’t focused on the hardship. I was focused on the finish line, that corner, my resting place.
Having that sun in my eyes was a gift!
The words of Hebrews 12:2 help to shape a fitness goal into a spiritual one. “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…”
Jesus came to earth with one goal. To provide a way of redemption for mankind. He did that through his death on the cross, burial and resurrection three days later. But while He was fulfilling His earthly ministry, He had trials. Trials that he completed without sin, and to the glory of God the Father. But He suffered. And Hebrews 12:2b tells us, of Jesus, “for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross….” He knew the corner was ahead and He kept going. He focused on the joy, or rest, that was coming.
Maybe you feel that’s an unfair comparison, since after all He is Jesus, and we are not.
Okay then, how about Peter?
In Mathew 14:22-31, we read the account of Peter walking on the water to Jesus.
At this time in history, John the Baptist had just been beheaded, and there was much anguish and grief amongst the disciples. They were broken in spirit and undoubtedly fearing for their lives. But there was always work to be done. They must keep going. Jesus was teaching and performing miracles, and they had just witnessed the feeding of the 5000. Jesus then wanted some time to be alone and pray, so He sent the disciples ahead to the other side of the lake in their boat. Then during the night, Jesus wanted to join them. Now the fastest way to do that (if you’re Jesus) is to just go ahead and walk out on the water.
Can you just imagine the disciples sitting in the dark, on the lake in their small boat? Here they are grieving the impact and loss of their friend John. They have just witnessed another miracle, and their heads are spinning from it all. And here comes Jesus. WALKING ON TOP of the water.
But Peter, after seeing that it was Jesus, wants a try. Peter wants to emulate Jesus by walking on top of the water too. So, Jesus invites him out. And as long as Peter kept his eyes steadied on Jesus, he was able to stay on top of the water. He was able to avoid fear and avoid sinking underneath the dark waters. As long as he kept his eyes on the Son.
But the very second that Peter begins to shift his focus away from Jesus and onto the wind that is causing the waves to lap against the side of the boat, he sinks. Peter lost focus and that made his problem seem bigger than it was.
All Peter could see was his struggle, not his solution.
Peter called out to Jesus for help, and immediately Jesus reached out and grabbed him. Jesus pulled Peter back into the safety of the boat. But first Peter had to shift his eyes back to Jesus.
When I think of Peter, I think of me. I too, tend to easily focus on my problems instead of remembering that Jesus wants me to focus on Him. He wants me to embrace the fact that He is the “sun in my eyes”, and He is jogging alongside me toward the goal.
I know how it happens.
Life presents a challenge, an issue, a trial. And for a time, the natural thing to do is to try to fix it ourselves. To worry about all the difficulties we will face because of the issue we are up against. It may even feel overwhelming. But I want to encourage you today to shift your focus.
Take your eyes off your struggle and to look toward the Solution.
Hebrews 12:1b-2a “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Keeping my eyes on Jesus, acknowledging my need for Him, and asking for His direction in my life, will make running this race of life joyful. When the Son is in front of me, encouraging me forward, I can go farther! When I choose to place my attention on where He is leading me, I am less aware of the hardship and more focused on the finish line.
No matter what we face, we have help in Jesus. But we must choose to have “The Son in our eyes” (see what I did there)? This will help us to have the courage to get to the next corner. It will take our attention off our burning lungs and tired feet. Purposefully pointing our eyes at Jesus will help us see the solution and not just the struggle! And it will grow our endurance in the faith.
James 1:3 says of trials, “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”
Lord, thank you for the truth of scripture that tells me that you are always with me. Your word continually points out Your desire to have a relationship with me. I always want my endurance in faith to grow, and I always want to walk on top of the water with You. But often I forget that you are ready and waiting to guide me as I step. I forget how big You are, and I let the size of my struggle shrink the size of my solution, which is You. Help me when I worry, to remember Peter. Lord, I want to choose to trust you, especially when the waters of my life are a bit choppy, and the corner ahead seems far off. I know you are with me always. Amen.