Focus on the Goal

I hope your Monday is off to a great start already. It is yet another gorgeous day here in RVA! Hopefully, you’re enjoying similarly beautiful conditions wherever you are.

I’m heading down to the 757 this week to record my 7th album / ep. I booked the studio time for the recording about a month ago. I felt led to do the project and at the time I was really very stoked about it. Since then, though, I’ve been dealing with some consternation about this record. I’ve been wondering how I was going to fund it. I’ve found myself a little afraid about some of the technicalities of the music and arrangements.

This week’s inbox inspiration came right on time for me as I prepare to hit the road and do this musical work this week. As I spent prayerful time with this scriptural story, I found myself invigorated and refocused. I hope you find it has the same effect for you.

Our note this week is rooted in a story many of us know very well. If we don’t know it well, I'm sure most of us have at least heard about Peter jumping out of a boat to walk on water with Jesus. We find this event recorded in Matthew chapter 14.

As the story goes, Jesus had just finished teaching and famously feeding an enormous crowd of 5,000+ people. He instructed his disciples to sail across the Sea of Galilee ahead of him while he took some time atop a mountain to pray. The disciples followed his instructions and found themselves in the middle of a storm. Their tiny boat was tossed to and fro in the water and the men were rather panicky.

Suddenly the 12 men on the boat looked up and found their master walking toward them on the water. The disciples were flabbergasted! They mistook Jesus for a ghost walking on the angry sea. This is where we pick up this morning.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

- Matthew 14:27-29

It seems Peter was always first to speak up when it came to these kinds of situations with Jesus. In this case, his boldness was remarkable - at least at first. Don’t we often find ourselves in this same kind of spot? We see Jesus making moves and we are so excited to get out of our boats and go with him - at least at first.

Jesus always invites us to join him in what he is doing. He says to us, just what he said to Peter: “Come.” And so, we go, just like Peter did. It is indeed remarkable that Peter, (unlike his peers,) had the initial faith to stand up and step out of the boat. But if Peter was remarkable in his initial faith, he was all too much like many of us who sink into the storm surge as our faith is challenged. The scripture says:

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

- Matthew 14:30

As I thought about this, I found myself talking to Peter in my brain: “Wow, Peter! You walked on the water with Jesus! Then, you lost your focus. You started looking at the wrong things. The uncertainty of the situation pulled your eyes off Jesus. So, you started sinking into the storm surge you were walking on just seconds before.”
But we’re all a lot like Peter, aren’t we? We are so quick to avert our gaze! We are so easily spooked by what we see around us. Remember, Peter had already seen Jesus’ absolute control of storm and sea. He’d been on the boat with him when he spoke to the storm and demanded peace, (Matthew 8). He knew who Jesus was - in fact, that’s why he had the initial faith to step out of the boat in the first place. Yet, just like so many of us, Peter’s circumstance was quick to overtake him and crowd out all of his previous experiences with Jesus. By the time Peter’s feet started to fall through the waves, even his initial faith seemed to be miles away. He lost focus and consequently he lost faith.

Over in Hebrews, we get this reminder from Paul about how to run our life’s races with Jesus:

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. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

- Hebrews 12:1-2

The key here is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. If we’re looking at the right place, we won’t need reminders of his capabilities to “keep us from falling,” (Jude 1:24). We won’t need pep talks to resurge our faith. If only we can train our minds and our eyes to stay glued on Jesus! If only we can learn to trust him! If only we can get our minds to really believe that if he tells us to “come,” there is no storm surge that can overtake us!

What I like about the Hebrews 12 verses is that they clearly define our goal and remind us to keep our eyes on the prize! Maybe Peter forgot that prize as he stepped out of the boat. Maybe he started thinking his goal was to walk on the water. His own words… “Tell me to come to you on the water.” Maybe Peter forgot what he’d asked for and started to think this whole experience was about doing something cool, (walking on water). Maybe he forgot that the water-walking experience was really only the path to the goal of getting to Jesus. Maybe he forgot that walking on the water wasn’t the goal at all. Whatever he might have been thinking, at some point he took his eyes off the prize and got distracted by what he saw on the path.

Let’s learn form Peter. We’ve got to keep our eyes on Jesus! He is the object of our faith. He is our goal. He is our lifter, our support, our comfort. He is everything! We can’t get caught up with the distractions along the paths he tells us to walk when he calls us to him. We can’t allow our callings or our gifts or our talents to become our points of focus. We have to remember that HE is our prize; him and him alone! We must fix our eyes on Jesus!

Because we are human, we will inevitably have those moments when we, like Peter, find our faith succumbing to our circumstances. We will all have those moment when we will find our feet falling beneath the waves. In those times when we feel ourselves sinking, feeling hopeless or overwhelmed or captivated by the uncertainty of what is ahead, we must remember our goal! We have to remember where we should be focused. In those moments, it is of utmost importance that we learn to lift up our heads, turn away from the distractions and look ahead to Jesus. HE is our goal!

Questions are critical! Don’t be afraid to ask, em!

  • What are my goals right now? Am I confusing my goals with the path God’s calling me to walk?
  • What is the correlation between faith and focus?
  • Can I think of things in my life where I’ve had initial faith, but found that initial faith to be absentee once I actually started to move in the direction my initial faith led me?
  • Examining my inconsistencies, do I see correlation with where I am focusing in life?