Today's Little Lift
by Jim Bullington
Visualization techniques are modern methods used by athletes and other performers to enhance the outcomes of their efforts. These techniques vary in details but the basics are the same. The performer “sees” himself in a particular desired outcome (as the winner of a race, a star of a show, etc., etc.) and then mentally places himself into that role (including all the feelings and sensations that he might expect and intend to experience). Although these methods produce enhanced performances in the physical realm, there is another visualization technique that God requires in the spiritual realm. This is the focus of today's message. Ironically, the imagery is of a race and of an intended outcome. I beg your attention.
The book of Hebrews appears to have been written during a time of intense persecution, a time when many were turning away from the faith and returning to the ways of the world. There were scores of others who had endured hardships in the Old Testament and it is to these that the writer directs the attention of his contemporaries in Hebrews 11, The Hall of Faith. Immediately following this history lesson, he then switches to the imagery just mentioned; we now let him speak: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12.1-2).
While there are great lessons to be learned from the Old Testament worthies in Hebrews 11, the greatest lessons can only be learned from Jesus. For this reason, the writer challenges his readers to begin and continue “...looking to Jesus.” The tense of the verb here is one which we recognize in English as present and ongoing action; it contains the familiar ...ing ending. It is far more than a glance; in fact it is a fixed stare. The particular word chosen by inspiration (translated as looking) is used only here in all of the Bible. It literally means to “...turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something.” Of course the “something” that is to be the object of our fixed eyes is specified; we are to look to Jesus. In so doing, our sole focus is upon Him and no other person or thing.
Why is He to be the sole focus of the believer's eyes? The writer continues by stating that He is “...the author and finisher of our faith.” To say that He is the author is like saying that He is the chief leader, the pioneer, the predecessor, and hence the example of our faith. To state that He is the finisher of our faith is to say that He is the perfecter of it; He not only began the race, ran the race in an exemplary way, but He also completed the race. To put it succinctly, no one could have done it better, not even Jesus Himself. Each and every part of His work was perfect in each and every way. If He had it to do over, He would do it exactly as He did it the first time! No mortal can make that claim of his life, but it was and is a reality of the life and ministry of Jesus. That is why He is worthy of our lifelong focus. He deserves far more than a fleeting glance; He deserves our undivided attention and allegiance.
At a time in our culture when it is popular to worship our heroes (athletes, politicians, singers, actors, etc., etc.) we would do well to examine our priorities. What are the things that really matter? Or to put it as the author and finisher of our faith did, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16.26). When we look to Jesus and keep on looking, our eyes can only see that which is of real worth.
2. List some characteristics of the word looking in Hebrews 12.2.
3. Is Jesus worthy of our continued focus? Why or why not?
4. Answer the question that Jesus asked. What will a man give in exchange for his soul?
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