Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Power of a Godward Gaze

The trainer at the gym was explaining how to do a kettle bell exercise called "the windmill". The exercise involved holding a kettle bell up in the air with one arm while bending down sideways toward the floor in the opposite direction. As he demonstrated, he made this statement: "Keep your eyes on the kettle bell. Your body will always exert force in the direction of your gaze."

In another session, we were doing squats with a heavily weighted bar on our shoulders. The trainer emphasized the same point: "Look UP at a point high on the wall and drive toward that point." I located an empty nail way up near the ceiling and fixed my gaze firmly on it. As I drove my heels down into the floor and pressed upward against the weight toward that nail, I thought, "There's a lesson in here somewhere!"

 Hebrews 12:2 instructs us to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith." It's a commonly quoted verse -- one we probably think very little about. But since tackling a serious exercise program at a gym, I've come to appreciate this verse far more. There is more to the fixed gaze than most of us ever experience. Whole books have been written on the subject -- from Practicing the Presence of God written by Brother Lawrence in the 16th century to The Godward Life written by Piper in the 20th. Those who have the greatest power in their spiritual walk are those who live each moment with Jesus in the front of their mind -- not the back.

 To switch metaphors a moment, think of a computer. When I am typing a document like this one, I am aware of the Microsoft Office program on my computer. But in the background, where I never give them any thought, half a dozen other programs are constantly running. They are running so that I can open them at a moment's notice and they'll be ready for service; but presently they are out of sight out of mind. Isn't that what our Christianity is for many of us? A program that runs in the background of our lives, out of sight and out of mind until we need to quickly open it in an emergency? Or on Sunday mornings? That kind of life will never have serious power for God.

In order to really progress toward power in prayer, self discipline, sacrifical love, a submissive heart, pervading peace, consistent joy -- we need to fix our conscious, present gaze upon Christ. His example, His imminence, His Word all need to be right there in front of us all the time. When we have Him there, our lives will press toward Him. Our entire being will exert force in the direction of our gaze. Like an athlete in training, we will grow steadily stronger in all the things that truly matter.

But -- is it possible to live consciously of Christ 24/7 in our busy, noisy, crazy lives? I guess the more important question is, have we really ever tried?

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