Gaze vs. Glance

When you drive your car…wouldn’t you say that you gaze out the front window and glance occasionally in your rear and side view mirrors? Sounds logical…right? Sounds like the instructions you were given in driving school…right?

Well, what would happen if you did the opposite? What if you glanced out the front window and gazed in your rear and side view mirrors? You would most likely find yourself headed down a disastrous road! …and most probably crash! Right?

And that’s what many of us do when we face problems in our lives…We tend to gaze at our problems…we tend to focus on our problems…which consequently results in us heading down a disastrous and sometimes deadly road…a road more often than not characterized by intense worry…fear…anxiety…and stress!

And have you ever found yourself while driving…glancing just a little too long in the rear or side view mirrors and when you finally look in front of you again…you see the car in front of you with their brakes on…and then you slam on your breaks?

That’s usually when we realize that we need to refocus our focus and keep our eyes on the road in front of us!

And that’s what some of us may need to do today…refocus our focus on God.

To gaze” is defined…“to look or fix your eyes steadily or intently at someone or something.”

“To glance” is defined…“to look at someone or something very quickly”.

Many of us have the tendency to gaze at our problems…and only glance at God. When we need to gaze at God…and only glance at our problems!

I was inspired this week by the popular devotional “Jesus Today” by Sarah Young and by our current women’s bible study called “Choose Joy” by Kay Warren…which by the way…I highly recommend both in encouraging you in your relationship with Jesus!

I thought I would share Sarah Young’s short devotion…. And if you aren’t familiar with Sarah’s writing style you will quickly notice she writes as if Jesus is speaking to you.

Gaze at Me; Glance at problems – THIS is the secret of living victoriously. Your tendency is to gaze at problems for prolonged periods of time, glancing at Me for help. This is natural for someone with a fallen mind living in a fallen world. However, I have called you to live supernaturally, and I have empowered you to do so. The Holy Spirit, who lives in all my followers, enables you to live beyond yourself – to transcend your natural tendencies. Ask My Spirit to help you fix your gaze on Me. Invite him to alert you whenever you get overly focused on your problems so you can redirect your attention to Me. This is hard work, because it is not only unnatural but also countercultural. Moreover, the evil one and his demons seek to distract you from My Presence. All these influences working together put massive pressure on you to pay attention to your problems – or else! So you need the assistance of My Spirit continually. Ask Him to help you deal with difficulties as needed, while reserving the bulk of your attention for Me – your constant companion.

I know that “Gazing at God and Glancing at our Problems” is sometimes easier said than done especially when we are facing difficult circumstances in life…whether we are dealing with issues involving our health….marriage or relationships…job or finances…or painful experiences as a result of grief and losses.

But as Sarah shared… “THIS is the secret to living victoriously!”

By gazing at God and glancing at our problems we aren’t denying or ignoring the problems we are facing…we are merely shifting our focus from our problems to God.

In the Bible, Daniel is a great example of someone who gazed at God…and glanced at his problems. Many of us have heard the story of Daniel spending the night in the Lion’s Den. If you are not familiar with this story…I highly recommend you read Daniel 6 sometime on your own.

To summarize, Daniel was sent into the Lion’s Den to ultimately be killed and eaten by lions as punishment for not following a decree that went out requiring everyone in Babylon to worship the king…King Darius. Well, Daniel didn’t worship the king…he worshipped God.

So he spent the night with the lions…and some say he slept with the lions all night. This is so significant! Why?

Because if Daniel had been focused on the lions he wouldn’t have been sleeping much! If Daniel was focused on the lions he would have been so fearful and worried for his life that he would have probably attempted to hide in the corner hoping the lions didn’t see him!

There are actually many pictures in books and paintings that depict this scene with Daniel in the Lion’s Den. And interestingly…many of these depictions show Daniel…surrounded by these hungry lions…not gazing at the lions…but gazing at God.

Daniel didn’t have his eyes on the lions…he had his eyes on God. He trusted God. And consequently…God shut the mouth of these lions and delivered Daniel!

When we gaze at our problems…they appear bigger…and we become more fearful…more worried…and more overwhelmed.

When we gaze at God…He becomes bigger…and we feel more confident and peaceful…and can actually sleep and rest…in the midst of our problems…like Daniel!

A great acronym for WORRY is…

W-Worry

O-Only

R-Robs

R-Rest

Y-from You

Trusting in God will give you peace…greater peace knowing that your problems are in the hands of someone who can handle them much better than you can!

One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 26:3.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! NLT

What lions are you focusing and fixed on today? Are you gazing at the lions in your life or are you gazing at God…the one who has the power to shut the mouths of your lions?

Here are some great scriptures to help us focus on God…

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 KJV

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith… Hebrews 12:2 NASB

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. Hebrews 3:1 NIV

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT

We need to gaze at God…and glance at our problems.

We need to magnify our Master…and minimize our mountains!

We need to focus on our Savior…instead of focusing on our situation!

We need to cast our cares on Christ…instead of our cares casting us down a road of worry…fear…and anxiety!

So how can we do this? How can we gaze at God in the midst of our problems?

1) Praise Him

When we praise and thank God in the midst of our problems, we shift our focus off of our problems…off of ourselves…and onto our God.

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Psalm 68:19 NIV

2) Pray to Him

When we pray to God in the midst of our problems, we are relying on Him and His power to help us and strengthen us…instead of relying on our own strength.

God is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, No matter how desperate the trouble. Nahum 1:7 MSG

Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

And so it is when we gaze at God…and glance at our problems, we can experience the peace and joy that God has for each and every one us!

Reflection Points:

  1. What problems or difficult circumstances are facing today?
  2. Are you glancing at God and gazing at your problems…finding yourself fearful, worried and overwhelmed?
  3. Do you need to refocus your focus on God today?
  4. Do you need to gaze at God and trust Him more in the midst of your problems?
  5. How can you gaze at God and just glance at your problems?

Action Points:

Please review how you can gaze at God and glance at your problems. Begin praising Him and praying to Him in order to shift your focus.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Relying on Old Faith

I love blackberries! I remember growing up as a child back East and picking blackberries from a blackberry bush in my friend’s backyard during the summertime. They were so sweet and delicious!

Blackberry plants are actually quite interesting. The plants consist of woody stems or branches called canes. Although the roots of blackberry plants last a long time, the canes or branches only live for 2 years.

In the first year, the new canes are referred to as primocanes. Primocanes do not produce fruit until their second year, when they are known as floricanes. It is the floricanes that produce berries and after the floricanes have produced their crop of luscious berries for that season, they interestingly…die. (I know this sounds like science class…but hang with me here!)

The floricane only produces blackberries for one year. And so the blackberry plant cannot rely on that cane…that old cane… to produce blackberries again! After that one season, that cane will never produce another blackberry!

And so just as the blackberry plant cannot rely on last season’s cane to produce berries again this season…the same is true with our faith.

We cannot just rely on our past faith…our old faith… to carry us through our present circumstances.

Our faith must continually be growing. And God wants to grow our faith…He wants to take us from faith…to faith. He wants to take us from faith…to greater faith!

So how about you? Are you relying on your old faith to get through a present circumstance?

I remember a season in my life when my mother was very ill. She was in the ICU at the hospital…in a coma… on a respirator…for 3 months. I didn’t know if she was going to live or die…but I continued to trust God.

I can tell you that facing this very difficult season in my life, my faith grew stronger…stronger than ever. I trusted and relied on God more than I ever had to in my entire life. And Praise Jesus! My mother amazingly recovered and made it through this difficult season!

Four years later, my mother became very ill again. My immediate cry to God was… “Lord…not again! I don’t think I can do this again! I had such strong faith the last time my mother became ill…I don’t think my faith will be strong enough to get me through this one!”

And so I found myself unable to rely on my old faith… I was unable to just rely on my past faith from 4 years ago. I had to develop new faith…new faith to face this new season.

Just like the blackberry plant…It cannot rely on its old floricanes…It must develop new primocanes…new canes to face its new berry-producing season.

Now we know that the blackberry plant is well rooted in the ground…and so too is our faith rooted in Christ. And being rooted is very important!

But God wants to build our faith. Wherever you are at today…If your faith is as small as a mustard seed or you have great faith…He still wants to build your faith! And that means not just relying on your old faith…not just relying on the faith you had to get you through the last difficult season in your life…

No…He wants to grow your faith…He wants to strengthen your faith…He wants to build your faith…He wants to give you new faith! He wants to take your old faith…and take you to greater faith! …To face current circumstances and challenges in your life!

Why? Because check out James 1:3 in these different bible translations!

Because you know that the testing of your faith…

…produces perseverance. NLT

…produces endurance. NASB

…produces steadfastness. ESV

…produces patience. KJB

The fruit of the blackberry plant is blackberries while the fruit of growing faith is perseverance…endurance…steadfastness…patience.

And why is this important?

So let it grow, for when your endurance [perseverance, steadfastness, patience] is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:4

Now as you have been reading this devotion, please don’t misunderstand me…there is a place for your old faith as you face new seasons in your life.

Our faith will be tested…as we face new seasons in our lives…as we face new circumstances or challenges in our lives…and our old faith will encourage us and strengthen us to go to the next level of faith.

Remembering our past victories and what God has done by pulling us through our past challenges spurs us to greater faith! It is a building process…God wants to build on our old faith to develop greater new faith.

And it is this building process…from faith to greater faith…that develops perseverance, endurance, steadfastness, patience in us!

And trust me…this is a lifelong process! Our faith should always be growing! We should never come to a place of satisfaction and complacency that we have reached a certain level of faith in our lives.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 NLT

So how should we respond to God taking our faith…to greater faith? Note: And yes that may mean Him allowing us to go through trials.

1) Believe that our faith can grow!   

No matter where your faith is a today…mustard seed faith or mustard tree faith…God wants to grow your faith…and we must believe that!

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20 NIV

All things are possible to him who believes. Mark 9:23 NASB

2) Associate with others who have great faith

Your faith will grow when you see how others with great faith have handled challenges in their life. The more we associate with those who really trust God, the more we will see our faith grow.

Can you think of someone whose faith has inspired your faith?

When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. Romans 1:12 NLT

 3) Read and Study God’s Word

So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. Romans 10:17 NLT

We must read and study God’s word because it will encourage, strengthen, and build our faith. Studying God’s Word nourishes our faith. Paul challenged Timothy to be constantly nourished by the words of faith when he said… 

If you explain these things to the brothers and sisters, Timothy, you will be a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed. 1 Timothy 4:6 NLT

4) Prayer and Fasting

When we realize and grasp Who it is we are praying to, we can be encouraged in our faith. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we can ever ask or imagine!

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us… Ephesians 3:20-21 NKJV

I have seen God do amazing miracles in my own personal life through not just praying but also fasting.

Check out Isaiah 58 for the benefits of fasting. You can also check my previous blog devotion called “Why Fast?” for greater insight and practical tips about fasting.

5) Remember past victories

But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings. Hebrews 10:32 NASB

Remembering our past faith and past victories will encourage us to greater faith. Past successes remind us of what God did for us way back when…and what He will do for us now.

Keeping a victory journal is a great way to encourage us when we face new challenges in our lives because we can look back and remember our past faith and past successes.

A great biblical example is David who found that remembering past successes with God increased his faith for greater challenges.

Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God. 1 Samuel 17:36 ESV

My prayer is that we would all be women who embrace the challenges God brings our way. Realizing that we cannot rely on our old faith…that we would develop new faith to face new seasons in our lives. And ultimately, allowing God to take our faith…to greater faith thereby producing perseverance, endurance, steadfastness, patience in us!

Reflection Points:

  1. Are you relying on your old faith to get through a present circumstance?
  2. Why does God want to grow your faith to greater faith?
  3. What is produced when God takes your faith to greater faith?
  4. Have you grown complacent in your faith? Or is your faith continually growing?
  5. So how should we respond to God taking our faith…to greater faith?  

Action Points:

Refer to the list of points above to understand and learn how we should respond to God allowing us to face new challenges and taking our faith…to greater faith.