Friday, July 3, 2015

finding focus

I have watched events in our world unfold over the last couple of weeks and have found myself fighting to keep from getting overwhelmed … and fighting not to get caught up in the fray.  When I do think about it, the thing that bothers me most is the world that my children will inherit.  I believe it was Solomon who said that there is nothing new under the sun … this world is filled with evil and it isn’t likely to get any better.  You can take down flags and call sin a fundamental right, but that won’t change the truth.  The problem isn’t going to be fixed by a bullying news media or by government legislation … but that is a soapbox for another day.

As downright terrifying as the thought of what kind of world my kids will be forced to deal with can be, it isn’t the only thing that threatens to send my thoughts and my mood into a downward spiral.  Life in general can get pretty discouraging.  I have spent the better part of this week giving in to despair – partly due to things outside of my control and partly due to mistakes I have made - I could spend the next ten minutes (at least) outlining all the negative things in which I have allowed myself to get caught up. However, that wouldn’t do me, or anyone reading this, any good.

The fact is that no matter what is going on in life, the thing that matters most is where we find our focus.  When my focus is on myself, I find myself bogged down in self-pity and despair.  Fortunately for me, I have a Father who loves me enough to remind me that this is not who I am.  All week the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee keeps coming to my mind.  I know the story well; it is one of my favorites … and, not just as a holdover from my childhood.  I have loved this story as an adult who knows what it means to find myself drowning in my circumstances. 

The background of the story is that Jesus has just fed well over 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  The disciples not only witnessed the miracle, they participated in the distribution of the food.  They saw thousands of hungry people fed with what should have satisfied only a small boy.  These men saw needs met in a way that could only be accomplished by Almighty God.  I’ve often wondered if the people in the crowd understood the miracle that occurred that day.

After the crowds dispersed, Jesus sent His disciples ahead on the Sea of Galilee as He went to pray. (This is, of course, an entire lesson unto itself, but it isn’t where I’m heading today.)  As the story goes, the disciples were on the sea, being “tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.”  Out of the night, in the midst of the wind and waves, “Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.”  I have tried to imagine what it must have been like to see this dark figure coming out of a dark night, when the waves were high and the wind was blowing; the disciples were understandably terrified … I would probably have fainted.  Immediately, Jesus spoke words of comfort to his disciples – His closest friends, the people who knew Him best – but they must not have been sure it was Him because Peter said: “Lord, if it be thou, bid me to come unto thee on the water.”

How many times have I done just that?  Times when I am beginning to feel overwhelmed and before I even ask, Jesus comes to me with words of comfort – a familiar scripture that “pops” into my head or the words of a hymn that I begin to sing without even knowing why – and yet I question, “Lord, is this you?”

While my questions are usually filled with questions, Peter’s question was filled with faith (or maybe it was impulsiveness).  He wasn’t sure if it was Jesus, but he desperately wanted to know, and he was willing to step out of the boat to find out.  This is one of the things I love about Peter … he didn’t play it safe.  He didn’t discuss it with a committee, he didn’t sit back to wait and see, no, he just said “Lord, give me the word and I’ll jump out of the boat!”  And that is just what he did.
But, straightway, Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.  And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me to come unto thee on the water.  And he said, Come.  And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, same me.  And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship, came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. Matthew 14:27-33
For those of us who have spent a lifetime in Sunday School, we may be tempted to see this story in the warm light of crafts and coloring pages.  In reality, there is so much truth that we need to embrace packed into these few verses.  The one word that keeps coming to my mind is FOCUS.  Peter had enough faith to step out of the boat – which is huge.  I want that kind of faith.  I don’t want to play it safe in my walk with Jesus.  But, even in his faith, Peter faltered when he was surrounded by the waves and the wind and suddenly he forgot where he was going.  His focus shifted to the storm around him rather than the peace he could find in the face of Jesus. 

The reason that I spent several days wallowing in doubt and fear earlier this week is because I took my eyes off of the Savior and focused on the situation.  This is never a good idea, no matter what is going on. There is no doubt that we are living in grave times as a nation.  However, as Christians, we have been commanded not to fear and promised that fear does not come from God (2 Timothy 1:7).  Jesus never promised us an easy life, as a matter of fact, He promised us just the opposite.  We shouldn’t be surprised when we face real hardship or when the world doesn’t like us.  All of the terrible things going on in the world can’t change who we are in Christ. 
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27
Jesus didn’t call us to get caught up in the things of the world; He called us to be set apart and to point the world to Him.  We can’t do that if we are focusing on the storm around us.  This leads me to two final passages of scripture.  The first was one of my Mama’s favorites and the second is one of mine.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  Romans 8:18
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35-39
I am so thankful that I serve a Savior who will not give up on me, even when I take my eyes off of Him and get caught up in the fray.   I am also thankful for a friend who will remind me of one very important point.  “He didn’t let Peter drown, did He?”

No comments: