…fixing our eyes on Jesus… Hebrews 12:2a NIV
In our Community Groups, we’ve been working through the book, Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund. This is a fascinating book filled with thought-provoking ideas and new ways to explore the heart of Christ. At times, I’ve agreed with a resounding “Yes!” at something the author wrote. Other times, I’ve scratched my head, and wrestled with what I read. And, there have been times, when the words on a page took me down a glorious and difficult path of discovery. One such path relates to the proof of God’s mercy.
Have you ever been mistreated? Misunderstood? Betrayed? Taken advantage of? Abandoned? Hurt deeply? I may not know you personally but I’m reasonably confident you would answer “Yes!” The reality is, we all have experienced these in our lives. No one is an exception. If you were to list all the times these happened in your life, I suspect, your list might be quite long. By the way, I don’t recommend this exercise! But, if you do, it might be easy to conclude there is little to no evidence of God’s mercy in your life. Often, when going through things like these, our focus is on us and what we are experiencing. Just like the Psalmist, we might wonder where God is and what in the world He is doing. And, as a result, we might think we see no mercy in our own lives. This takes me to something Ortlund wrote that challenged me. “The evidence of Christ’s mercy toward you is not your life. The evidence of his mercy toward you is his.” (p. 179) This sentence made me think about my focus. Is my focus on Him or me and does my focus make a difference?
If you were to ask me about God’s mercy before we started this book, I would have said something like this. God did for me what I could not do for myself. When I was dead in my sin, He gave me life. He adopted me and brought me into a personal love relationship with Himself. Each day He guides and helps me. He’s there for me in the midst of challenges. All of these are true. And while the focus of what I’ve written is surely on God – He gave me life, He adopted me, He guides me, etc. – the focus is also on me.
Here’s Ortlund’s point. Jesus was mistreated, misunderstood, betrayed, taken advantage of, abandoned, hurt deeply, unjustly accused, ridiculed, oppressed, despised, rejected, crushed for our sin, beaten, and brutally murdered. Jesus experienced exponentially more of these that any of us. Because Jesus walked through this and more, we can trust him regardless of what we go through. He knows and understands completely what we experience. He’s been there! He’s walked that road.
Seeing God’s mercy is tied to our focus. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus. When I go through something like I’ve described above – heartache, betrayal, rejection, etc. – my tendency is to focus on me. I find it far too easy to be inwardly focused when I experience these things. An inward focus seems to be my natural response. Maybe it’s yours too!
But, to see the evidence of God’s mercy displayed in the life of Jesus, my focus must be on him. It is his life where I see God’s mercy perfectly displayed. The challenge for us is keeping our focus on Jesus. Fixing our eyes on him no matter what we are going through changes our perspective and gives us hope because God is “rich in mercy.” (Eph. 2:4)
FROM THE ELDERS—Dr. Bill Denning