A former Pastor of mine used to remind me often to “Keep Looking Up!” Even though that phrase has always stuck with me, doesn’t mean that I have always lived it out, especially during difficult times in my life. For instance, these past few years an uncle of mine has created a pretty traumatic and stressful time in my life. I have grown bitter towards him, and have struggled forgiving an unforgiving individual. His evil deeds have been a constant film playing in my head. In fact, just the other night I had a nightmare about this uncle confronting me again. As I laid in bed, the Lord brought to my mind the scene of Peter sinking in the water, but this time it was me. I was the one slapping at the water. I felt like the purposeless / aimless shadow boxer that the Apostle Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 9:26. What the Lord made me realize in that moment is that during this experience I had taken my eyes off of Him and fixed them on my circumstance. I got distracted by my circumstance and because of that I am left with no other choice at this time but to look up and cry out as Peter did (sometimes the Lord allows us to begin to sink until we realize He’s all we need). If only I'd kept my eyes fixed on Him from the very beginning...would there be less regret? Would there be less stress? Would there be less sleepless moments? Would there be more love and no bitterness or anger? Would there be more trust in His purpose and plan?
Maybe I’m not alone here…I doubt I am. So let me ask you, what's the situation keeping you from looking up and or crying out to Him today? Have you allowed your situation to cause you to turn to or from Him?
Below are a few Biblical examples and reminders for us to consider and apply each day of our lives. Keep growing, learning, maturing, and looking up! When you do, you’ll find Him right in front of you every time…you just have to be willing to call out to Him and recognize His presence.
In God’s Word we find that the Holy Spirit knew that looking up / unto the Lord wouldn’t come natural or easy for humankind. But what we find is that when looking up is the first resort, then all else seems to fade away. Examples…
In John 6:60-69 some disciples (students/pupils) chose to turn their backs on the Lord and no longer walk with Him. Jesus asked His disciples (genuine followers of Christ) if they too wanted to leave Him? In verse 68, Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
In the midst of others deserting the Lord and His ways (going their own hopeless way), Peter knew that there was only one true option to follow and look to…and that was to The Way / Christ Himself. Others deserting the Lord posed a potential distraction for Christ’s disciples. Thankfully they recognized that there was no one else to go / look to in their time of need.
In Exodus 3:1-6 we read about an interaction between Moses and the Lord at the burning bush. When Moses was confronted with Who God is he chose to hide his face, why? Because he was afraid to look upon the Lord. God’s magnificence was his distraction. The possibility of being confronted by God / His ways and truths, is a real fear for many. When understanding who God really is…some run to Him, but sadly enough, all too often there are also some who choose to run away from Him (to hide their faces from Him).
In Psalm 40:1-12, David was so guilt-driven because of his sin – to the point where he admits that his shame has caused him to be unable to look up to the Lord. It paralyzed him. He just mentally convinced himself that he physically couldn’t look up at Him. Guilt and shame in the midst of Holiness were his distractions at the time.
Similarly, in Isaiah 38:1-14, Hezekiah chose to fix his eyes on his situation – which was an illness that nearly caused him to die. In that moment of his life, Hezekiah admits to us in verse 14 that “My eyes fail from looking upward.” Such action was a willful decision that he made. Sickness and fear of death were his distractions.
In Numbers 21:4-9, the Israelites are called out for being impatient with and grumbling against the Lord. They were given one command after being bitten by the snakes…look to the bronze serpent that Moses put on his pole. Either turn and die, or look to it and live, were their two options. Many became distracted by their discontentedness and physical illness…therefore, they refused to obey and look to Him for healing. Choosing, then, to live in their misery.
In Matthew 14:22-33, the Lord invited Peter to step out of the boat and come to Him…to walk on water with Him. Peter was obedient, looked to Jesus, and then his surroundings began to change. Out of his peripheral Peter saw the wind, looked down, began sinking, cried out, and the Lord rescued him. While being tossed to and fro by the wind and waves he began to panic. Peter relied on his own abilities in that moment, and this resulted in him beginning to sink / “dig himself a deeper whole”. His peripheral / the surroundings, storm, doubts and the fears of his life distracted him from keeping His eyes fixed straight ahead on the Lord. Do you have tunnel vision for Him, or is your peripheral causing you to take the nearest exit ramp?
In John 3:14, Jesus reminds us that “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.”
He MUST be lifted up…that’s where true answers and healing begin. And when He’s lifted up, our posture and mindset should be looking up, regardless of the traumatic circumstances surrounding us. During a hard time in Jesus’ life – even He demonstrated in John 11:41 that He looked up and spoke with His Father in heaven (his prayers during pressure-filled times in Matthew 14:19 and John 17:1 also demonstrates for us that He physically looked up in those moments). Thanking Him for hearing His cries to Him.
Followers of Christ Today
As you can see – prayer is a great cure for eliminating distractions. May we be known in our home, community, church, etc., for – “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul in Romans 12:12 encourages us to continually be “faithful in prayer.” And the same author in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT) reminds us to “Never stop praying.”
You might wonder, “What and how should I pray today?” If anything, Psalm 5:1-3 below might be the best guide to at least get you started…
Psalm 5:1-3 (NKJV) A Prayer for Guidance…A Psalm of David.
5 Give ear to my words, O Lord,
Consider my meditation.
2 Give heed to the voice of my cry,
My King and my God,
For to You I will pray.
3 My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.
Nate Smith is a college baseball and football coach, a husband, a father of 6 girls, grandpa to 3 granddaughters, a police chaplain, a pastor, and has a passion to see men grow in Christ.
#girldad including granddaughter