Therefore, since we are surrounded by such 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, 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 12:1-3
Why look to Christ?Hebrews 12 encourages us to look to Christ so that we do not lose heart our grow weary. It seems like nothing will break you down faster than anxiety and depression. It is well known that anxiety and depression adversely affect our physical health and our interpersonal relationships, as well as our careers.
So how is it that looking to Christ and considering what he went through, such as shame and opposition, help us not get worn down by anxiety and depression? The verse above also tells us that we look to Christ so that we don’t lose heart. This means that we won’t become disillusioned, discouraged, or despair.
The why question has been answered. We look to Christ so that we won’t be discouraged and that we won’t just be exhausted by our own emotional and psychological conditions. Now we can answer the how question.. How do we fix our eyes on Jesus?
How do we fix our eyes on Jesus? (It’s all about focus.)
Last week I was visiting Point Defiance in Tacoma, Washington. I really should have taken a picture of what I saw. As a means of engaging the children in learning about the area, placed on an outcropping by the water there must have been twenty telescopes pointing in twenty different directions.
These weren’t sophisticated devices, just painted PVC pipe placed on poles. and each pipe had a name of the object that it was pointed at. If you look through the pipe that said “Mount Rainier,” you would only see Mount Rainier. If you looked through the pipe that said “Fairy Landing,” you only saw the Fairy Landing at Vashon Island.
The scene made me smile, and the memory came to me as I sat down to write this blog. I think in my mind’s eye, I need to have a PVC pipe that has the name Jesus written on it. That way when I’m anxious and my mind is going in so many different directions at once, I can just look through the telescope and only see Jesus.
When I’m depressed and I don’t have the energy to focus my thoughts, I can look through the little PVC pipe and only see Jesus. Fixing our eyes on Jesus is a matter of focus. When we are feeling anxious or depressed, our thoughts are all over place, making it really difficult to focus on one thing. Or the opposite occurs where we focus on thought that we have blown out of proportion.
When we narrow our focus on Jesus, we are looking at just one thing, Jesus, and that one thing is true. No overgeneralizing, no catastrophizing, just Jesus. When I think about Jesus, I like to focus on what Jesus says about himself. I find it interesting that Jesus uses a few metaphor to describe himself.
In John 10 Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd. in that same chapter he also refers to himself as the gate. and John 15 Jesus uses the metaphor of a vine to describe his relationship with us. This last metaphor is the one that we are going to focus on next.
The metaphor of the vine – how Jesus referred to himself.
I am the Vine; and you are the branches. if you remain in me and I in you, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5
Sitting among wine enthusiasts is fodder for good stories. Especially if you like to hear about grapes. It doesn’t take long for the conversation to turn from what is in the glass to what it takes to grow the grapes. The stories include the elements of the soil, the slope the vineyard is planted on, , the amounts of rain that fall and of course the fog.
Yet nothing would happen, if someone didn’t get out there and trim the vines. With everything that it takes to grow grapes, I find it interesting that Jesus focused on the relationship between the Vine and the branches. The metaphor is so simple to understand. We abide in Jesus, and Jesus abides in us.
A different way to say this might be, we only have life when Jesus’s spirit is flowing through us. If the spirit of Jesus is not flowing through us then we don’t have life. Focusing on Jesus we realize that everything we need comes through Him.
This truth begins to change our perspective. Instead of focusing on our problems as a way to fix them, instead of focusing on those things that are making us anxious, and trying to extinguish them, instead of focusing on those things that make us depressed and trying to change them, we focus on Jesus.
I find it interesting that the Bible doesn’t tell us to focus on our problems as way of fixing our problems. instead the Bible encourages us to focus on Jesus. Placing our focus on Jesus puts our problems and perspective.
A problem cannot be fixed by the same mind that created it. – Albert Einstein
You looking at your own problems will never fix them. As my dear old granny used to say to me “Honey, sometimes you’re just too close to the forest to see the trees.” How right she was. The problem of depression and anxiety is not something created outside of us. This may be a new concept for many of you. However, it is true.If you are in a room with a hungry tiger, please feel free to be anxious. If someone you loved just passed away, please feel depressed. However, those types of anxiety and depression come and go. It is the anxiety and depression that gets stuck in us that becomes the problem. We feel anxious or depressed and we tend to look around us for the cause.
However, the truth is that the feeling is just part of our human condition. Focusing on the problem of depression and anxiety won’t cure it. Ever! However, when we focus on Jesus, we begin to see our problems from a different perspective.
The process of focusing on Jesus tends to lift us out of our own patterns that cause the problems in the first place and allows for us to see ourselves in a different light. Through focusing on Jesus we create new patterns of relating to God, ourselves, and those around us. For no effort of our own, the life, the spirit, and the joy of Jesus just flow through us. Much like the life of the Vine flows through the branches.
Once again Jesus inverts things. To become an adult human being we become more independent. We might conclude that to be a mature Christian we become more independent. It is the opposite that is true.
To become more mature as a Christian correlates with understanding the depth of our dependence on Jesus. Our circumstances haven’t changed, our problems haven’t disappeared, but we can feel joy through the process of living a life embedded in Christ.
A living relationship – a joyful life and a joyful heart.
Nicely something this up, is a quote from a sermon given by Dr John Piper:
“When I say abide in me, I mean: keep on enjoying with my joy. Don’t disconnect and start enjoying with your joy. You are in me as your source of all, and I am in you as your all. Receive me and my enjoying as your joy. Welcome me and my enjoying as your joy. Thirst for me and my enjoying as your joy. Hunger for me and my enjoying as your joy. Eat me and my enjoying as your joy. Drink me and my enjoying as your joy. This is what it is to abide, to remain, to be in me and I in you.“ (See John 14:27 on Christ’s peace as ours.)
Three things you can do to help you focus on Christ.
Get to know God. You can only know God is deeply as you know yourself, and you can only know yourself is deeply as you know God. The encouragement here is for you to get to know God. Dane Ortlund wrote a book called Deeper. It is a good book to read if you would like to know Jesus a little bit better.
A.W. Tozer wrote The Knowledge of The Holy. This book contains essays on the attributes of God. It’s hard to trust somebody you don’t know, therefore the more you know about Jesus and the more you know about God the more you will trust Him.
Fellowship with other Christians.
Encouraging each other through sharing life’s challenges and how Christ has revealed himself through those experiences helps us to not lose heart. It is also a blessing when we can encourage others. (Hebrews 10:25)
Talking to a therapist who knows how to integrate scripture with psychological principles is an invaluable gift. Our vision gets a little murky at times, and we often get stuck in our understanding of life. A Christian therapist works as a guide to help you get unstuck. Reaching out for help is often the first step on the path to healing.
“Cross”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Open Bible”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Vinyard”, Courtesy of Jonathan Farber, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Alone,” courtesy of Benedicto de Jesus, unsplash.com, CC0 Licens
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