Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set out before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
When I ponder what it means to fully focus on something, to fix my eyes in an intentional way, two scenarios come to mind. One is the way our baby granddaughter looks with such studied concentration at a small toy when I dangle it in front of her eyes, taking in every minute detail. Another image is that of a stargazer peering through a telescope, intently scanning the inky night sky for a particular comet or constellation. Focus is needed for such tasks, an intentional still-point and a setting aside of distractions for a time.
In the letter to the Hebrews, the author’s repeated focus is not on an object, but on a person - Jesus Christ, whose supremacy and centrality is pivotal, God’s own son who “reflects God’s own glory” and who “sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command” (1:3, NLT). From the very beginning of this letter there’s a strong sense of movement, spotlighting the importance of remembering biblical truths and the interweaving of faith and hope, as the writer traces a path through the great sweep of God’s salvation history, culminating in the long-awaited Messiah whose life, death and resurrection brilliantly transform everything.
The way the Holy Spirit illuminates our thinking when we hear and read the Scriptures can serve to lift us up as though we’re floating aloft in a hot-air balloon, able to glance behind to where we’ve come from as well as being able to glimpse what lies ahead, recalibrating our clouded perspective on where we are now as we’re reminded of God’s wider plans. Hebrews 12 invites us to picture our lives as disciples of Christ not as a lonely pointless slog, but as a fully focused sprint as we “run with endurance” (v.1) towards the finish line with the roar of the “huge crowd of witnesses” ringing in our ears, eyes fully fixed on the goal, our Prince of Peace. And we run in good company, not in isolation!
So what are the pitfalls as we run this “race that God has set before us”? Just as a watchful parent dashes to save an over-confident toddler from dangers of which she’s blissfully unaware, so we’re asked to submit with humility to God’s correction, reaping what is described in Hebrews 12:11 as “a quiet harvest of right living”, strengthened and refined by God to become more Christlike. We’re urged to avoid becoming tangled up in our own wrongdoing, with an open-eyed awareness of the need to ‘strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress’ in Hebrews 12:1. How often we need to climb down from our personal thrones and the rebellions that pin us there, once again allowing our Redeemer and King to resume his rightful place.
The raw honesty of the Psalms also pinpoints our constant need for God’s guidance as to where we direct our gaze, as we see in the psalmist’s plea in to “turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word” (Psalm 119:37). We humans have a remarkable capacity for self-deception, as the author of this same psalm is aware, as he asks God to ‘keep me from lying to myself’ (v.29) in his quest for wisdom and deeper understanding.
So, be encouraged as you fix your eyes on Jesus ‘on whom our faith depends from start to finish’ (Heb 12:2), for we do so in great company and it’s eternity we’re heading for. Not only are we bolstered by the solid weight of numberless believers who have gone before us, we live in our time-sphere woven into the very Body of Christ. We also need our contemporary storytellers to keep the ‘relay’ going, stories to share of the myriad ways God is building his kingdom through his richly diverse people worldwide; perhaps you are being called in this way?
Let’s persevere together in lives of obedience and love, recalling all that Jesus endured, “so that you don’t become weary and give up” (v.3), and with our eyes fixed clearly on him, our Bright Morning Star (Rev.22:16).
Fiona has a background in teaching and administration, as well as long-time involvement in parish ministry and pastoral care. Based in Adelaide, she is married to Tim, is a mother and a grandmother, and a full-time carer for their son who has an intellectual disability. Fiona is passionate about art and theology and combines the two in the spiritual retreats she regularly leads for women.