One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.
– Psalm 27:4-5
Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are deliverance and strength.’”
– Isaiah 45:22-24
To keep Your lovely face – Ever before my eyes – This is my prayer – Make it my strong desire – That in my secret heart – No other love competes – No rival throne survives – And I serve only You
– Graham Kendrick, To Keep Your Lovely Face
“Do we expect God to come to us with His blessings and save us? He says, ‘Look to Me and be saved…’ [Turn to me in the NIV] The greatest difficulty spiritually is to concentrate on God, and His blessings are what make it so difficult. Troubles almost always make us look to God, but His blessings tend to divert our attention elsewhere. The basic lesson of the Sermon on the Mount is to narrow all your interests until your mind, heart, and body are focused on Jesus Christ. ‘Look to Me…’”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
I lived for three years in Karlsruhe, Germany while in the Army. Being an engineer (by degree and army MOS), I wanted to see a Roman road. I heard that there was one in Baden Baden, less than an hour south on the Autobahn. I went and couldn’t find it. Upon my return home, someone asked, “Did you walk through the park?” Of course, no one told me anything more. So, on my next trip, I walked through the park and didn’t see anything. I stood on a pedestrian bridge over the small stream (the water upstream feeding the Roman baths, thus Baden Baden). I was thoroughly dismayed. I leaned on the bridge railing and stared at the rushing water. Then, all was clear. The Romans built the road in the stream. In fact, they set one row of stone lower than the rest so that the chariots would not slide sideways in the water.
This story illustrates what Chambers is getting at, in a way. The blessings flow from God, whether we are rich or poor, but we don’t see God in the blessings or trust God for the next blessing. We are focused on the blessing. This is the basic flaw of the prosperity Gospel people. I never saw the road, because when I looked at the stream, I saw the flowing water (the blessings).
Another example is based on the expression, “Can’t see the forest for the trees…”
I was flying to the Tri-Cities airport in Pasco, WA. I worked for nine months at Hanford Works north of Richland, WA. The third city is Kennewick. The Tri-Cities are in the high desert of Washington state. There are small rolling hills colored in sagebrush unless cultivated and irrigated. The only trees are wind breaks for houses until you get close to the Cascades to the west. The passengers behind me on the plane worked at the plant. One guy said, “I spent the past month in South Carolina.” My ears perked up, since I had worked at a nuclear facility there. He had been visiting where I had worked. His friend asked if he liked the area. His reply was simple, “No, I hated it. The hills were a little bigger than here, but you couldn’t see anything. Everywhere you looked, there were trees!”
I burst out laughing. Yes, when I looked toward the nuclear plant in WA from my home, I saw sagebrush for 30-40 miles. If the skies were clear, I could see the Blue Mountains in Oregon from my front steps. You can’t see that far in that part of South Carolina, but you can see forest wherever you look.
To answer Oswald Chambers’ dilemma, I think we need to know what we will see when we see it. We need more time in prayer. We need more time in Bible study. We need more time talking to others about faith in Jesus. We need faith enough to rely on Jesus for our next breath and faith in the Holy Spirit to guide us. When you work 40+ hours per week and spend time with family, it seems that there is never enough time for more anything, much less more time in Godly pursuits. But some do it, and others make excuses.
I don’t know everything. I lived my life, not anyone else’s, but I know at least one thing. When I turned my eyes away from Jesus to focus on some trivial project, I stumbled. The project didn’t feel trivial at the time, but most of the times that I stumbled were over things that I cannot remember today. They must have been trivial things.
My wife and I have big plans for mid-March here at home. We will be very busy. I will have to take the Martin Luther attitude. I will have to spend more time in prayer, for it will be a busy day.
A beautiful thing happens when you turn your eyes to Jesus. The chorus to Helen Lemmel’s hymn says it well.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.
– Helen H. Lemmel