2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.—The words of the writer of Hebrews from Hebrews 12:2
Fixing our eyes on Jesus. It sounds like a very important concept in our walk of faith. But, how do we go about doing what the writer of Hebrews instructs us to do? I have two very concrete suggestions:
- Learn to make Christ your first thought and last thought of the day.
Upon awakening, train your mind to go immediately to Jesus. This could be through a hymn, or gospel song, or praise song that talks about Jesus. When you wake up, center your thoughts on Jesus. You could also begin your day with prayer. Here’s a prayer that I’ve found helpful. I found this prayer in a book about fixed-hour prayers—or prayers as practiced by a religious community of monks:
Lord God, Almighty and Everlasting Father, You have brought me in safety to this new day. Preserve me with Your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity, and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of Your purpose, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.So, whether you begin your day with a hymn or with prayer, start your day by focusing on Jesus. Do the same thing when you end your day. As you lay your head on your pillow, focus your thoughts on Jesus. Again, a hymn, gospel song, or praise song may help. Or, you could close your day with prayer. Whatever mental cue you choose to use, end your day by centering your thoughts on Jesus.
- Throughout the day, keep your focus on Jesus whenever you must make a decision by asking the question: “What would Jesus do?”
As the 1800s came to a close, a minister named Charles Sheldon wrote a book,
In His Steps, that has now sold multiple millions of copies. This novel tells the story of the Rev. Henry Maxwell, pastor of the First Church of Raymond—and the people in that church—where the lives of many were profoundly touched by an unusual incident. I don’t want to spoil the story for you, but the outcome of that incident was a commitment on the part of many in the congregation to ask that question—“What would Jesus do?”—whenever they faced a significant decision.
I urge you to get a copy of this book and read it. Then, begin to apply this very same pattern in your own life. When you face a decision, ask the question. This will help keep you focused on the Lord Jesus throughout the day.
One hymn that has helped me keep my focus on Jesus is “My Faith Looks Up to Thee.” Once you read the words, I suspect you will recognize them:
My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine!
Now hear me while I pray, take all my
O let me from this day be wholly Thine!
May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire!
As Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee,
Pure warm, and changeless be, a living fire!
While life’s dark maze I tread,
And griefs around me spread, be Thou my Guide;
Bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow’s tears away,
Nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.
When ends life’s transient dream,
When death’s cold sullen stream over me roll;
Blest Savior, then in love, fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul!
Concerning the origin of this hymn, Robert D. Kalis has written the following:
“Mr. Palmer, you may live many years and do many good things, but I think you will be best known to posterity as the author of ‘My Faith Looks Up to Thee.’” These words spoken by Dr. Lowell J. Mason (January 8, 1792 - August 11, 1872) —the great composer of hymn tunes and father of American public music education—proved to be remarkably accurate.
Several days earlier, Dr. Mason had met Ray Palmer on a Boston street. The musician asked young Palmer if perchance he had any hymns suitable for the new hymnal which he was compiling. Palmer drew out a pocket notebook and showed Mason a poem which he had written two or three years before. The musician was attracted by it and requested a copy. They stepped into a doorway, and there the copy was made.
So impressed was Dr. Mason with the poem that he himself at once composed an original tune for it. This tune, to which the hymn is almost always sung, is known as Olivet. The words and tune fit each other like a hand and glove.
The finished hymn first appeared in Spiritual Songs for Social Worship by
Dr. Thomas Hasting and Dr. Lowell Mason (1833). So this hymn, regarded by many as the best American hymn, found its way into public use.
The author, Ray Palmer (November 12, 1808 - March 29, 1887), had a very interesting background and history. He was a descendant of William Palmer—who came to Plymouth in the ship Fortune in 1621—and also of John and Priscilla Alden through their daughter, Elizabeth.
Shortly after his father, Judge Palmer of Rhode Island, sent him out on his own when he was only thirteen, Ray came under the ministry of Rev. Sereno Edwards Dwight. Rev. Dwight, a grandson and the biographer of Jonathan Edwards, so influenced young Ray that he was soundly converted. The pastor urged the bright young lad to go on with his education.
Accordingly he left his job in a dry goods store and enrolled at Phillips Andover Academy—where he was a classmate of Oliver Wendell Holmes—and later attended Yale University.
Just after graduating from Yale in 1830, he secured employment teaching in a fashionable school for young ladies in New York City. It was there in his room that “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” was written.
Philip Fortenberry plays a very musical piano arrangement of this wonderful hymn:
(Note: Your browser must support Adobe Flash in order to view this video)
We can best navigate our walk of faith when we follow in the steps of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. To help us do that we need to begin and end our day with Him in the forefront of our thoughts. And, all through the day, we need to maintain that focus as we go about the many facets of our lives.
Will you pray with me?
Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.
Precious Father, we recognize that our walk of faith requires significant focus on our part. We ask You to use the power of Your Holy Spirit within us to prompt us to begin and end our day thinking about Your Son, the Lord Jesus. Help us continue throughout the day to focus on Him. Prompt us to ask the question: “What would Jesus do?”
With a great desire in our hearts to experience the fullness of Your mercy, grace, and love, we thank You, Gracious Father, for hearing our prayer in and through the powerful Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.