The spirit is willing but the flesh, the old nature, is weak. One of the things that makes us weak is that we are easily distracted. We can lose focus on important things that are right before us than can result in serious injury or death to ourselves or others.
Here’s one example: there are about 1.6 million crashes in the US every year involving cell phone use, of which 500,000 cause injuries and 6,000 cause fatalities. Texting while driving is now the top cause of death among teenagers – texting and driving accounts for 11 teen deaths every day in the US. Texting is involved in about 25% of all car accidents in the US.
Distracted driving is dangerous. It can be deadly. In spite of that, many won’t put down their cell phones and focus on their driving.
It’s hard for people to stay focused on important things, even the most important things. After leaving Egypt and seeing great miracles, and while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Word of God, the Jewish people did not stay focused on God. We took our eyes off Him and made and worshiped a golden calf.
It’s crucial to stay focused on the most important thing of all – God Himself.
Psalm 25: Ay-nai ta-meed el Adonai. My eyes are continually toward the Lord.
Psalm 123: I lift up my eyes to You, to You who sit enthroned in Heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God.
We must focus on God and not take our eyes off Him and focus on worthless things. Psalm 101: Lo ah-seet l’neged ay-nai d’var b’lee-ya-al. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.
And now that the Messiah; the Son of God and our Lord and Savior has come into the world; lived a perfect life; died an atoning death to reconcile us to God; conquered death by rising from the dead; ascended to the right hand of God the Father and is ruling with Him over the universe; sent His Spirit to those who transfer their loyalties to Him; and knows how to help us overcome our greatest challenges – we need to fix our eyes on Yeshua.
The author of the letter to the Messianic Jews put it like this: 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 Yeshua, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
When I was in high school, I didn’t enter any races but I did some running. I remember building up my stamina and running for two or three miles at a time. Running that far wasn’t easy. There were times when it hurt and I wanted to quit.
The author of the letter to the Messianic Jews compares our lives to a race – not a 50 or a 100 yard dash, but a much longer race – more like a marathon – which is a little over 26 miles.
There will be times when life is hard and maintaining faith is hard and we will want to quit. We will want to stop believing; stop serving the Lord; not tell others the Good News to others; not stand for God and for the truth; not participate in the life of Messiah’s Community. We must not do that. We must not quit. We must endure to the end. We need to run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
How do we do that? The author to the Messianic Jews tells us to do three things. First: we throw off everything that hinders. And second, we throw off the sin that so easily entangles.
We throw off everything that hinders: that includes things that are a waste time; trivial things; unimportant things; things that are unworthy of a reward. And we may have to throw off good things, because the enemy of the best is the good. Good things can hinder us from the best things if the good things crowd out the best things. Are there good things in your life you should throw off in order to do the best things?
So first, we throw off everything that hinders; and then second, we throw off the sin that so easily entangles. Sin can be subtle, deceitful, deceptive, entangling. It can sneak up on us and entangle us, like an enemy sneaking up behind us and suddenly tying us up before we are aware of what is happening.
Or, imagine a man walking on a path in a forest. The path becomes narrower and the man continues walking. The trees and branches and vines on the sides of the path get thicker, and the man continues walking. Suddenly he is entangled in dense vines and branches and is unable to go forward.
Can you imagine running a race while wearing weights? Or dragging a heavy object behind you? Or trying to run if you are entangled with ropes? You are not going to do very well in that race. That’s what our faith journey will be like if we don’t throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
Let’s throw off those unimportant things, those trivial things, even those good things if they are the enemy of the best thing. Let’s forsake the sin that so easily entangles, those bad habits, those things that tempt us that we are allowing to be in our lives.
Then, the third thing we do to run with perseverance the race marked out for us is fix our eyes on Yeshua. Of course, right now He is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and we can see Him there with the eyes of faith and fix our eyes on Him who is full of power and glory and love for us.
Even though Yeshua is at the right hand of God, I also imagine Him at the goal-line of the race marked out for me, encouraging me, cheering me on, saying things like: “Loren, I know things are hard right now, but you can do it. Things were hard for Me, but never quit. I persevered. I made it to the goal. I won My race. Follow My example. And know that I’m here for you. I’ll help you. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Don’t be discouraged by opposition. Keep proclaiming the Good News. Keep building My Community. Looking to Me and My example, and having My Spirit and the grace that comes from Me, you will persevere to the end and be saved.”
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Yeshua.
Living in a fallen world that is satanically controlled and in rebellion against God and under a curse isn’t easy. Being a follower of Messiah isn’t easy. There will be trials. There will be opposition. There will be discouragements. There will be times when we will want to throw in the towel. Don’t do that. Don’t quit. Don’t give up.
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Yeshua, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. He had perfect faith from start to finish. He is the preeminent example of faith. He is the perfect model of faith. His life is the greatest expression of what faith looks like. No one ever had faith like Him. He was greater in faith than those with the greatest faith who came before Him. And no one who comes after Him will ever have faith like Him. We see Him and we see perfect faith in action.
Salvation is initiated by God, not us. Yeshua is the One who enables us to have faith, and Yeshua is the One who keep us in faith and Yeshua is the One who enables us to remain faithful to the end. Therefore, let us fix our eyes on Yeshua, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
When we fix our eyes on Yeshua, we are able to have faith that enables us to rise above the most challenging circumstances. Matthew recorded an amazing instance when Yeshua walked on water.
After teaching a large crowd on the eastern side of the Kinneret, the lake of Galilee, and miraculously feeding 5,000 men, not including women and children, Yeshua made the disciples get into a boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side. After He dismissed the crowd, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. Later that night, He was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Yeshua went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Yeshua immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Then another miracle occurred. “Lord, if it’s You,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to You on the water.” “Come,” He said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Yeshua. As Peter came toward Yeshua, which means Peter was looking at Yeshua, he was able to walk on the water. Amazing. But when he took his eyes off of Yeshua, and looked at the difficulties of his situation, and saw the wind and waves, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, Peter cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Yeshua, however, was never overwhelmed by any of the difficulties He encountered. He had perfect faith. And when Peter refocused on Yeshua, and cried out for His help, Yeshua reached out His hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?”
When he fixed his eyes on Yeshua, who is the focus of our faith, Peter’s faith enabled him to walk on water.
When Peter took his eyes off of Yeshua, his faith got weak and he began to doubt and he began to sink.
When we fix our eyes on Yeshua, we are strong in faith and are able to overcome life’s challenges, like Peter did when he walked on water.
When we fix our eyes on Yeshua, we are able to run the race marked out before us and not grow weary and lose heart.
People are influenced by what they see. If we spend time watching a TV show with a character we admire, we might start talking like, acting like, thinking like, responding like that character. There were quite a few times while I was watching Star Trek – The Next Generation that I found myself thinking about how Captain Jean Luc Picard would respond if he was in my situation.
When we fix our eyes on Yeshua, we become more like Yeshua, act and think and respond to life’s challenges more like Yeshua.
How do we fix our eyes on Yeshua? We wake up and ask God to help us fix our eyes on Yeshua that day.
We make ourselves think about Yeshua – a lot. We focus our minds on Him and His life and teachings, His miracles, His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, the giving of His Spirit.
We read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John on a regular basis.
We talk with others about Yeshua.
We listen to good messages about Yeshua.
Heavenly Father, the saying is true: out of sight – out of mind. We don’t want Yeshua to ever be out of mind, so help us fix our sight on Yeshua.
Lord, help us to be like Peter, who, surrounded by wind and waves, was able to walk on water by looking at Yeshua.
Father, help us keep in mind the race marked out for Yeshua, and the amazing way He ran His race and how He persevered to the end and succeeded in spite of the opposition and suffering He experienced; and how He is alive now and able and wanting to help us in the race marked out for us.
Lord, when we have an important decision to make, teach us to
ask ourselves: what would Yeshua do.
Avinu Malkaynu, help us understand that it’s not the one who starts the race well who will be saved, but the one who perseveres to the end who will be saved. Help us persevere to the end and be saved – by throwing off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and running with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Yeshua, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.