This blog focuses on the quest to know and please God in a constantly increasing way. The upward journey never ends. My prayer is that this blog will reflect a heart that seeks God and that it will encourage others who share the same heart desire.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Looking Where?

It is very important where a Christian looks as he goes throughout life. In the midst of difficulty, the importance of a Christ-ward look is heightened. I have friends who use this reminder: "Keep the Son in your eyes." Looking at Jesus has many benefits.

1. The Christian can look to Jesus for an example.
"For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps" (I Peter 2:21).

The book of First Peter speaks much about suffering, and in that context the believer's eyes are directed toward Jesus as an example. Jesus suffered, and He did so with all the right responses. While it is clearly a tremendous challenge for any Christian to remotely approach the divine character of Jesus, each believer does find in Christ a pattern to follow.

This pattern is not given primarily for encouragement, but for instruction. The example of Jesus shows a believer what to do. In the context of suffering, often the correct responses are actually failures to respond. A Christ-imitating believer does not respond by reviling or threatening those who are mistreating him. Instead, he simply trusts himself to the righteous oversight of God, knowing that God will do right by him (v. 23). Studying Jesus' life on earth provides an example for many other areas of life and service.

2. The Christian can look to Jesus for help.
"Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession" (Hebrews 3:1).

The believer is encouraged to look to Jesus based on truth that had been shared in the preceding verses. Hebrews 3:1 directs the gaze toward the High Priest, and Hebrews 2:14-18 tell what the High Priest has done and what He continues to do. This High Priest has already won the victory over death, freeing believers from the bondage to sin. His help does not stop with that past victory, but continues into the present.

Jesus, the High Priest, learned about the frailty and temptation of mankind, and He is therefore a "merciful and faithful high priest" on behalf of believers (2:17). Because of Jesus' experience, knowledge, and power, He is able to render effective help to believers when they are tested. Specifically, He provides "mercy and . . . grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

3. The Christian can look to Jesus for peace.
"The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You" (Isaiah 26:3).

In the midst of trouble, thoughts and emotions can rage out of control, and man can be powerless to control them. A focus on Jesus provides help in the quest for peace. When a believer's thoughts are resolutely fixed on God, he naturally begins to trust the amazing God he is pondering. Reflection on God's character and past actions stabilizes a believer and leads him to peace.

One man who followed this pattern was Asaph in Psalm 77. "In the day of trouble," when his "soul refused to be comforted," when he was "disturbed" and sighing with a faint spirit (vs. 2-3), Asaph chose to "remember the deeds of the LORD" (v. 11). As he meditated on God's works and character, he came to this peaceful conclusion: "Your way, O God, is holy; what god is great like our God?" (v. 13).

4. The Christian can look to Jesus for encouragement.
"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).

Christians are engaged in the marathon of life, a great race that demands faith in the midst of the challenges and obstacles. That race is not easy and requires great endurance. Looking at Jesus is intended to bring encouragement in the midst of this demanding race. Jesus has already laid the foundation for faith. He has already successfully lived it out. Jesus looked past the pain to achieve the joy of redemption. He has completed the job.

A look at this successful conqueror of death and provider of eternal life brings encouragement. "He endured such hostility," far greater than any man can face, and He made it through victoriously. Seeing the One who suffered far more, and who did so victoriously and joyfully, helps the believer not to "grow weary and lose heart" (v. 3).

5. The Christian can look to Jesus for hope.
"Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus" (Titus 2:13).

No matter how bad life gets, and sometimes it is pretty bad, the Christian can find great hope in knowing that better days are coming. This life is temporary. Its trials and troubles will one day be swallowed up, and every believer will enjoy the blessings of heaven for all eternity. Yes, this life is hard and discouraging, but it is not the end. The believer can look for the return of Jesus, the Savior who is coming back to "receive" him so he can be forever with Him (John 14:3).

Someday "the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord" (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).

O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace. (Helen Lemmel)

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