May 13th Devotion

Onlooker Delay
By Brent Rinehart

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12: 1-2a).

If you are a daily commuter, you’ve undoubtedly heard the unfortunate phrase on the morning or afternoon radio traffic reports: “onlooker delay.” A wreck has happened that has been moved to the shoulder, yet there are still miles of backups due to everyone’s desire to catch a glimpse of what happened as they pass by. We all complain about it, yet I’d venture to say that we are all guilty of “rubber-necking,” as I’ve heard it called. We are distracted by what’s happening around us, and we take our eyes off the road ahead.

Peter knew a few things about being distracted. In Matthew 14, he sees Jesus walking on the water, and he calls out to Him: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14: 28). Peter steps out of the boat and miraculously, is able to walk on the water just like Jesus. That is until he noticed the wind and the waves around him. He took his eyes off of Jesus, and he began to sink.

Peter experienced onlooker delay. His eyes were drawn to other things – things of this world – and it diverted him from his path to Jesus. It’s easy for us to criticize Peter for his split-second loss of faith. But, how often do we let the things of this world distract us from our walk with Christ? As a result, we experience countless delays in our spiritual growth.

The Apostle Paul knew this, as well. In Hebrews 12, he encourages the reader (while writing also for himself, I might add, since he uses personal plural pronouns) to “throw off everything that hinders” and the “sin that so easily entangles…fixing our eyes on Jesus.” Paul recognized that even in his own life, he was drawn to be distracted from what mattered most.

In Psalm 119, the author writes about the importance of staying focused on God’s Word. He uses similar language: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways” (Psalm 119:9, 15).

In our current vernacular, to fix your eyes on something, or to become fixated on something, almost has a negative connotation. It’s an obsessive attachment to someone or something. I think of fixation in terms of my son and his Legos, or my daughter and wanting to hang out with her friends. They can be obsessed to the point that it’s all they think about.

In the biblical context, I believe that is exactly what we are exhorted to do: to fixate on Jesus and learn about God’s promises through the reading of His word. As followers of Christ, we are all on a journey to becoming more and more like Him every day. As the Holy Spirit works in our lives, it should produce a walk that is marked by certain characteristics. These “fruits of the spirit” (Galatians 5) - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – are the characteristics that set us apart from the world. But, if we are distracted on our journey, our eyes pulled from one thing to the other, this onlooker delay keeps us from being all that God intended us to be.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3: 1-2).

Today, let’s focus on what matters: our destination. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, block out those distractions, and avoid the onlooker delays. At the end is the ultimate prize, and it is worth every step in the journey.
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