Depression, despair, anxiety, fear, and discouragement are rampant in our day. Even believers are often caught in their grip and live their lives in hopelessness and impotence. The Lord never assured us that we would find external circumstantial peace in the world. He promised a peace that exists in the midst of adversity, persecution, and suffering.
We are being told that there will come worse times ahead… but we can learn to live in supernatural victory and peace.
There are three places the Lord explicitly tells us not to focus if we are to walk in strength: We are not to focus on ourselves, we are not to focus on others, and we are not to focus on the circumstances. “Fix your eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2).
We are not to focus on ourselves. We look at Paul as a m an of unprecedented spiritual strength, but his strength was not in himself. To the brothers in Rome, he said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Paul abhorred his own inability to do right. If he had only looked to himself, he would have been depressed, anxious, fearful, and discouraged. But when he looked to the Lord, he could say, “I know whom I believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.” He could confidently proclaim that “He who began this good work in me will see it to completion.”
Looking in the mirror is the most discouraging place any of us can look. We know ourselves too well. We either have to walk in self-denial and pretend to be good, or we move quickly into guilt and despair. Paul says rather, “Forgetting what is behind and pressing forward.” Isaiah says, “forget the former things, do not dwell on the past.” The key here is”dwell on.” We look back to confess sins. We look back to forgive. We look back to mourn and grieve, but we do not dwell on the past.
We are not to focus on others. Even after his night of betrayal and the ensuing Galilee reinstatement, Peter did not have it all together. He was still looking around comparing himself to John when he asked the Lord, What about him?” Paul assured us that “those who compare themselves with themselves are not wise.” If we look at others and assess them to have it together, it will serve only to discourage us again. If on the other hand we concentrate on their failures we will tend to judge, condemn or criticize them. The Lord assured us that this will bring judgment into our own lives and compel Him to humble us. We need to fellowship with others, love them, forgive them, walk beside them and serve them, but they are not our strength. We are motivated by neither their failures nor their strengths.
We are not to focus on the circumstances. If there is one theme that runs throughout biblical history, it is that we face certain defeat if we look to the circumstances instead of the God Who intervenes and changes history. The lives of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Daniel and all the other host of godly heroes affirm the fallacy of looking at the circumstances and the need to look to the Lord. The catalog of the faithful kept for us in Hebrews 11 is God’s list of men and women through the centuries who looked to the Lord during difficult circumstances. Had they concentrated on the circumstances they would have gone down in certain defeat.
Noah lived with ridicule for a hundred years because he remembered the word of God and the God of the word. Abraham, though faltering at moments, still held so resolutely to the God of the promise that he could take the sword to the son of the promise. Looking at himself, at his son or at the circumstances would have paralyzed him and kept him from the obedient trust out of which further promises were to come. Joseph had heard from God through the dreams. That the relationship sustained him through slavery, false accusation, and imprisonment. The dreams alone could not have kept him, but the God of the dreams could. The biblical scribe tells us that Moses “persevered because he saw him who is invisible.”
Why should it be different for us? Paul tells us that all this is written down as warnings for us, “on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” What does this mean for me practically? It means that I shall never walk in victory and strength continually until I learn to rivet my eyes and my heart on Him Who has brought us victory and Who will continue to bring us to victory in every situation. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.” Jesus is our hope, our shield, our refuge, our joy, our strength.
I pray today that your eyes will move from you to Him, from others to Him, from circumstances to Him. I pray that you will spend time before Him, that you will listen to Him, that your ears and your eyes will be open to Him, that your heart will be enlarged to follow Him. I pray that you will be filled with confidence, with peace, with home, and with His indescribably joy in the midst of all circumstances.
Don Finto was Pastor of the Belmont Church in Nashville, Tennessee, for over 25 years. Presently he continues to serve as a pastor to pastors both in the Belmont Family and among other related congregations.
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