I’m not sure why but it’s always a pleasant surprise to me when a biblical principle is found to be grounded in both common logic and based on the abstract concept of faith. When an idea is founded in these two realities; the physical world we see and that which is beyond our ability to fully comprehend, it helps build my own faith and reasserts my strong desire to not just speak it, but live it. I’ve been a Christian basically my whole life, but I’ve been a more active and vocal Christian for roughly 6 years. I’d like to think that my knowledge of God would prevent feeling surprised when His word is found to be true, but it’s just not true. Or maybe a more accurate way to say it is that I feel vindicated in my beliefs, especially because I am so vocal and outward about my faith. I mean, it’s my reputation on the line (sarcasm). Anyway, one of these concepts that I was recently reminded of is this idea that we need to keep our eyes fixed on God. For non-Christians, that sounds ludicrous. Even for Christians this is a task that is incredibly hard to maintain.
I was reminded of this idea when I was recently talking to a friend over a delicious burger who’s walking through a tougher time in life. Someone very close to him is walking through some even more serious struggles right now resulting in a lot of pain. I am always impressed with how his love is (I think) an accurate depiction of God’s love for me. It’s never failing. It’s steadfast. It’s unconditional. It’s unending and ever deepening. My friend may not appreciate wading through the mud right now, but I am so very proud of how he is allowing God to show through him even during his darkest time. Sadly, I don’t ever have the answers or peace he seeks and all I can ever do is encourage him to love like Christ does.
It was in this conversation that the state of our culture arose. In our culture, we tend to look to fill the immediate need and forsake the long lasting ones. We tend to solve deep seated issues with short term solutions. We cook our food in microwaves and order from fast food lines. We take medications for immediate relief instead of altering our lifestyle to prevent the problem. So how does this relate to a principle in the bible? That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked.
A long time ago on a continent far, far away there was a dude named Paul who wrote a letter to the church of Colossae. Colossae was a city-state in modern day Turkey and it was fairly affluent at the time. A radical new faith recently came to the city and rapidly caught fire when this letter was written, and Paul wrote the letter to encourage and help guide these new believers on their journey. In chapter 3 he says:
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
What was he saying there? He was warning the Colossians to keep their eyes fixed on what is permanent to avoid any unfortunate bad choices or accidents. So how does this apply to my everyday life? Well, in the aforementioned discussion with my friend, we realized that our culture has a tendency to focus on the short term solution and neglect the long term. Here’s the truth though: Whatever we look at, that’s what we’ll gravitate towards. It’s the reason why driver’s ed teachers warn when you’re being blinded by oncoming traffic’s headlights that you should stare at the outside, white line. When you can’t fully see where you’re going, it’s far better to gravitate AWAY from oncoming traffic than into it.
This same concept permeates through my entire life too. Whatever I am focused on, that is where my mind gravitates towards. I am generally a content person, so it’s not always an issue. I like my job and I love my wife. I like doing projects around the house and I have thus far enjoyed fostering. Unfortunately, the past few weeks I have been feeling like my life is in a bit of a rough patch though. I feel worn out and at the end of my rope (energy wise), stressed with work, pressed for time, living in a perpetual construction zone (we own a fixer upper, but lack Chip and Joanna’s knack for fixing a house in a clean 43 minutes), exhausted from fostering, and haven’t been on a date with my wife in quite some time. But mentally staring at these things serves no purpose other than to direct me into the proverbial oncoming traffic. Don’t get me wrong, I want to stare at them. I want to feel self pity. I want to be able to say “well my life is a mess because of something outside my control!” Or even worse complaining about my busy-ness and using it as a badge of self-righteousness. But the reality is that Paul warned us to do just the opposite. Staying focused on the eternal is the best way to avoid self pity. Just like staying focused on the white line is the best way to avoid an accident at night.
So what am I doing to ensure I stay focused on the eternal? I haven’t got it all figured out yet (obviously) because I’m struggling with it, but here’s what I know:
- Suck it up: Despite popular belief, Christians have just as many bumps in the road as non-Christians. The bible actually addresses this very thing by saying that sunshine and rain fall on both the just and the unjust alike. So carry an umbrella and suck it up when it rains.
- Struggles build character: Much like exercising builds physical muscle, intangible resistance creates intangible “muscles”. A lack of resistance causes atrophy, like astronauts on the space station.
- Nothing in life is permanent: A dude named Job had a pretty crappy go-around. He lost his house, his wife, his kids, his herds, his money, his health, his friends, and his membership at the yacht club. Through it all though he understood that the only way his pain makes sense is if God somehow uses it for something good. Remember this and keep it in focus that although God doesn’t cause your pain, He will always try and use it for some sort of good outcome.
- Choose Love: When painted into a corner by the religious elite of his day, Jesus gave a new commandment to cover the 600 some odd old ones. Love one another. No asterisks, no comments, no exemptions. Choose love.
So to sum it all up, we all have struggles. We all face resistance in life. The God I serve does not exist to make my life happy and I all too often forget that small point. The God I serve is focused more on my eternity and of those around me than the traffic on the dreaded Don Holt Bridge that I’m stuck in, or the 13 unfinished DIY projects I have at home. So maybe that’s where my focus should be too.