Good morning, faithful friends. I just want to say, "Thank you, Lord, that you are so faithful to me, even when I am not faithful to you." You see, I have been discouraged lately, and discouragement has a way of drawing us away from the course God has set for us. I just want to publicly admit my sin in this area, receive God's forgiveness and move forward.
Psalm 42:5 says this: Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.
I wish I didn't have to circle around this mountain of discouragement again and again, but I do. I never seem to learn the lesson; to put my hope in God and not dwell on the circumstances. How many of you are guilty too? The sad thing is that the enemy of our souls has us right where he wants us. We take our eyes off of Jesus and are overcome with self-pity or anger or frustration or a myriad of emotions to distract us from the path God gave us to fulfill.
I don't know where you may be right now, but I recognize in myself that winter can sometimes pose an added weight to me if I am already sinking in despair. Things just look bleak, and we can easily lose our focus. It grieves the heart of God.
Hebrews 11 talks about all the saints who have gone on before us who lived by faith. It tells us the heroic deeds done by those who were steadfast in following God. (Please read it.)
Hebrews 12, then, starts like this: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Do you get it, friends? God is telling us that there is nothing we go through that is so bad we should allow it to take our eyes off of Him. We need to focus on what Jesus did for us on the cross, securing our eternal destiny, and be so thankful. We should realize that Jesus, too, suffered. He suffered so that you and I could be healed of our sinful ways.
So, why do we struggle so? The Bible says we are like dogs who return to their vomit. Yuck! And ouch! I don't want to live like that. Do you? There's a better way.
When I was a young girl in fifth grade, I had an amazing ability to run fast. That sounds hilarious to me now! I don't think I could beat a turtle today. Back then, I could outrun any boy in my class, and those boys loved the challenge. Every recess, we lined up, all the boys and me, and raced. I had a strategy for winning. I had seen a movie with Patti Duke where she would crouch down before running and repeat to herself, "Got the beat, got the beat," as she fixed her eyes on the finish line. Guess you can picture that! And that is how I won every race; with my eyes fixed on the finish line.
You know, that's what God is asking of us; to not get so distracted with all the pain and frustrations surrounding us, but to keep our eyes on the "finish line," and we will be winners.
If we allow it, we will always have reason in this life to wallow in self-pity because of conditions around us. In our Bible study at church right now, we have been talking about having a dislocated heart - one that feels deeply for those around us and moves us to do something about it. (We are studying "Holy Ambition" by Chip Ingram. Having an attitude that propels us out of our own comfort zone to help others in need will definitely take our eyes off of ourselves and our own problems. Helping others also lifts us out of the pit in which we find ourselves.
So, we fix our eyes on Jesus. How is it accomplished? I believe if we are in the Word daily and spend time in prayer, our focus is changed. I am amazed of the lack of Bible reading and prayer when talking to Christians. I know for God to speak to my heart, I need to spend precious time with Him, speaking to Him and listening to His response. In those close times of fellowship, the cares of the world often dissipate. It's called faith - believing what we cannot yet see. Then God gives me the grace, his undeserved favor, to follow Him even when I feel least like obeying. Then He and I, together, can win the race.
Fix your eyes on Jesus! God bless you, as you do!
Debby Renninger is a free-lance writer and inspirational speaker. She is the leader of the women's ministry at Pine Glen Church of the Brethren and also leads a weekly Bible study, "Beauty for Ashes," in her home in McVeytown. Renninger may be reached at 250-7086.