Faith is about moving forward. Sometimes fast, sometimes more slowly, but always moving forward in a progression toward becoming that which we have already become in Christ. It’s about moving forward, under the transformational guidance of the Holy Spirit, into a greater intimacy, a greater understanding of love, a greater obedience, a greater trust – all the while knowing that the whole reason we can move forward at all is because of what Jesus has already done for us at the cross. We are, in Paul’s words, to:
… make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:12-14).
We are always pressing on. Always moving forward. Always putting one step in front of the other. And as we do, what is of great importance in that progression is where we have our attention and focus. For there is a fixed point on the horizon, one that doesn’t waver or wane, that will provide the motivation, energy, stamina, and calibrating effect we need as we continue on:
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:1).
The passage tells us that in keeping our eyes on Jesus, we should lay aside two things – hindrances, and sin. The sin part is obvious to some measure, for what would cause us to take our eyes of Jesus more readily than sinful thoughts and actions? Sin, after all, begins with a look, then progresses to a thought, then eventually moves into an action. But it’s important to notice that it’s not only sin that might cause our glance to move from Jesus; there are also “hindrances” that must be pushed aside as well. So what might some of hindrances that are less obvious than overt sin which cause us to lose focus? Here are three examples:
1. Our sin.
Let me clarify, because I’m not specifically talking about present time temptation and sin as one of these hindrances. Instead, I’m referring to our past. Our regrets. Our actions that have wronged both God and others that we still call to mind, sometimes on a daily basis. These are things which we have confronted, admitted, and confessed before God and others, and yet they still linger. Perhaps they always will because sin has a long lasting effect. But at the same time, the extreme focus on sins of the past can indeed be a hindrance moving forward. We can find ourselves focusing again and again on that which has already been forgiven, and while it might seem like the humble thing to do, it’s actually the opposite.
At a base level, a focus on our sin is a focus on something other than Jesus. Specifically, it’s a focus on ourselves. True enough, Jesus calls us to confront the sin in our lives and to repent of it. And then He calls us to move forward. To go and sin no more.
2. Other people.
Again, a word of clarification here, because love of God and love of others is inseparable. Moving forward with a focus on Jesus, then, requires us also to love and serve others. No, that’s not a hindrance. What is a hindrance, though, is the spirit of comparison that so quickly and easily infects our spiritual lives. When we are seeking to follow Jesus, we have the tendency to just take the casual look around and see if anyone else is following at the same pace we are. And then to feel either a sense of superiority or a sense of resentment if someone seems to be running at either a slower or faster pace than we are.
And suddenly, there you have it – we no longer have our eyes focused on Christ. Instead, we are measuring ourselves by the pace of other people, which is exactly where our focus has fallen.
3. Our calling.
It is a good and right thing to ask the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” It’s a good thing, that is, until it’s not. That’s because a question like that can be paralyzing. We can devolve into running scenarios, looking for messages in the clouds, and second guessing every feeling we have in our stomachs. And before you know it, you have lost your focus in the most ironic of ways – in an attempt to follow Jesus, you have lost your focus on Jesus.
Better than obsessing over one’s specific calling is to obey what we know all our callings to be – to be faithful. To pursue holiness. To love our neighbors. To make the most of every opportunity for the gospel. And all the while, to trust that God is moving us where He wants us to be. Let’s not lose our focus on Jesus by overly focusing on what Jesus might or might want us to do; let’s instead major on what we already know He wants us to do.
Fix your eyes, friends. Fix your eyes, and your steps will follow.