Where you look matters. I found this to be true at a boy scout camp family night where I tried out the slackline. (For any of you, who like me, might wonder what a slackline is, it is like a tightrope, just not so high from the ground. The line is fastened between two trees. It seemed tight, not slack, so I’m not sure where the name comes from. Brave or crazy or young people try to walk from one end to the other without falling off.) The key to crossing the slackline is to pick a point in front of you and focus on that. When you are looking straight ahead, you tend to walk straight ahead and keep your balance.
I guess the same thing is true when you are riding a bike or driving a car. If you look to the right or left, you will tend to veer toward the direction you are looking.
The analogy to walking through life is obvious. Where you look matters. It affects your direction and your balance and your likelihood of falling or crashing.
This advice from Solomon in Proverbs could have been written to slackline walkers as easily as to those of us on life’s journey: “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” (Proverbs 4:25-27)
Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, repeatedly used a Greek word for “look” that does not appear anywhere else in the Bible except twice in the book of 2 Corinthians, written by Paul. The word is atenizo. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, it’s meaning is to stretch or strain; to be completely fixated; to stare at because fully occupied with or taken by; to observe with great intent and a fastened (fixed) gaze; to fix one’s eyes on some object continually and intensely; to look straight at, to stare at, to keep one’s eyes fixed on. A study of the twelve time Luke pens this word in his recounting of the life of Jesus and the beginnings of the church, while important and instructive, is beyond the scope of today’s post. The definition of the word alone is enough to catch our attention. Is that a description of how we “look” at Jesus? Do we gaze at Him, or just glance at Him? And how can we move from glancing to gazing? I am convinced that the degree of our fixation on Jesus Christ is directly related to our ability to live our lives well.
It starts with that first real look, at who Jesus is and at His invitation to follow Him.
Here is Charles Spurgeon’s account of his first life-changing look at Jesus.
“I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair now, had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm one Sunday morning, when I was going to a place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a court and came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there might be a dozen or fifteen people.
The minister did not come that morning: snowed up, I suppose. A poor man, a shoemaker, a tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had nothing else to say. The text was, ‘Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth’ [Isa 45:22]. He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter.
There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in the text.
He began thus: ‘My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, “Look.” Now that does not take a deal of effort. It ain’t lifting your foot or your finger; it is just “look.” Well, a man need not go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man need not be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; a child can look. But this is what the text says.
Then it says, “Look unto Me.” ‘Ay,’ said he, in broad Essex, ‘many of ye are looking to yourselves. No use looking there. You’ll never find comfort in yourselves.’
Then the good man followed up his text in this way:
‘Look unto Me: I am sweating great drops of blood.
Look unto Me; I am hanging on the Cross.
Look: I am dead and buried.
Look unto Me; I rise again.
Look unto Me; I ascend; I am sitting at the Father’s right hand.
O, look to Me! Look to Me!’
When he had got about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes, he was at the length of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. He then said, ‘Young man, you look very miserable.’
Well, I did; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made on my personal appearance from the pulpit before. However, it was a good blow struck.
He continued: ‘And you will always be miserable—miserable in life and miserable in death—if you do not obey my text. But if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.’ Then he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist can, ‘Young man, look to Jesus Christ.’
There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that moment and sung with the most enthusiastic of them of the Precious Blood of Christ.”
Jesus Himself reminded Nicodemus of a time when looking had saved people. When the people of Israel had been impatient and complaining and spoke against God and against Moses, God sent poisonous snakes among them. The poison was killing them, so they turned back to Moses and God. God’s remedy was for Moses to make a serpent of bronze and set it on a pole. Everyone who was bitten would look at the serpent of bronze and live. This is recorded in Numbers 21:4-9.
Jesus told Nicodemus, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15). Jesus compared Himself to the serpent. He became a symbol of God’s punishment. He became the poison of our sin that was killing us, and looking at Him is our path to healing and to life.
If you haven’t already, take a look at Jesus. Not just a glance. Consider Him. Stretch and strain to see Him and to understand His love. He wants to change how you walk through life.
And once you have looked, keep looking. Fix your eyes and your attention on Jesus and His way. If you get distracted and your eyes wander, look back. He is light and peace.
“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:5
“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he 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 sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3
Jesus, it’s when we look to You that we really see. Nothing compares to You. There is no path we want to walk other than the one following You. Please help us to keep our eyes and our attention on You and on Your kingdom. Forgive us for being focused on things that don’t matter much and being distracted from Your plan for us. Remind us to point others to Your beauty and Your truth. When we feel darkness slipping in, remind us that gazing at You covers us with light. When we grow weary and lose heart, turn our eyes back to You. Thank You for being the remedy for the poison of sin in our lives. Thank You for Your patience with us. It is because of You and Your name that we can pray these things. Amen.