What Does It Mean to Turn Our Eyes upon Jesus?

Note from Randy: My daughter Angela recently shared a message on Hebrews 12:1–2 at a women’s gathering at our home church. Both of our daughters, Karina and Angela, are Christ-centered women and wonderful wives and moms who serve their families and churches remarkably well. They are very wise, and I have learned a lot from both of them. 

This message that Angie shared was no exception. She says, “Fixing our eyes does not mean merely glancing at Jesus now and again. Fixing demands all of our attention. So we need to look at Jesus with a laser focus.”

Hope you enjoy these reflections (modified from the original message she gave).

“Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus”

By Angela (Alcorn) Stump

The author of Hebrews starts chapter 12 by telling us that the Christian life is like running a race:

“Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Now let me start by stating I’m probably the last person who should be explaining what it’s like to run a race. I have never in my life entered a running competition. My entire running career basically consists of the mandatory mile I was forced to run in high school PE classes. 

But even those of us who were never track stars can figure out why it makes sense for the Christian life to be compared to a race. Running takes perseverance and discipline, and even when you’ve prepared as best you can, your body may fail you or the course might have twists and turns you didn’t see coming. 

How Can We Run with Endurance?

We’re all running this race, and there are struggles, joys, and confusion when we don’t always see the path God has laid out for us—or fear when we do see the path, but it doesn’t lead to where we want to go. 

“Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1a). Does anyone else feel encumbered? What is dragging you down as you run this race? Anxiety, insecurity, exhaustion, shame? What extra weight are you holding on to that God may be asking you to lay down? 

How about the sin that so easily entangles—anyone else getting really tired of sin? Those potholes we’re repeatedly falling into, the things that constantly seem to be tripping us up? Anger, pride, jealousy, laziness, lust, greed … 

With all these things holding us back and the sin causing us to fall on our faces, how in the world are we supposed to run with endurance the race that is set before us? 

By fixing our eyes on Jesus. 

The most important thing is not reflecting on who we are or what our race looks like. It’s acknowledging the One who not only gives us strength to run our own race but who also has already run the race for us. And because he ran it perfectly—something we could never do—he won the prize that we could never win, and here’s the best part: He offers us that prize as a free gift.

We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, “the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

What Does “Fixing Our Eyes” Mean?

 “Fixing our eyes” does not mean merely glancing at Jesus now and again. Fixing our eyes demands all our attention. We need to look at Jesus with a laser focus. So, if we’re told to lock in on who Jesus is, it seems appropriate to stop and ask: Who IS Jesus? 

In the quiet of our own hearts, when we “fix our eyes on Jesus,” are we looking at the true picture of Jesus, as revealed in Scripture, or the picture of Jesus we have in our minds based upon our own experiences? Are we worshiping the Jesus of the Bible, or the Jesus in our imaginations? 

As I was preparing for this message, I started rereading my dad’s book It’s All About Jesus, which is actually—as it turns out—all about Jesus! Listen to these words from Randy Alcorn (or “Pops,” as my family calls him): 

“Because no other historical figure is as widely known, multitudes live with the illusion that they really know Jesus, when in reality they simply have various impressions about him. As a result, it is hard to imagine any subject more fraught with confusion, misinformation, and deception than the subject of who Jesus really is. And what a quandary! The most important person who has ever lived is also the most misunderstood. 

“Since nothing is more important than who Jesus is and what he has done, naturally there are no greater truths—and in turn, no more pernicious and destructive heresies—than those concerning Jesus.”

And here’s where Pops really drives it home: 

“Our faith in Christ is only as good as the authentic reality of the Christ we believe in.”

Even if we had hours–or weeks or years–we could never unpack who Jesus is completely. We’re barely even going to scratch the surface! But if we are called to fix our eyes on Him, it is vital that we study who He really is.

Why Does Studying Jesus Matter?

I’ve been part of many Bible studies over the years, and I’ve heard people ask—and have asked myself sometimes when I’m up to my eyeballs in “homework”—why is it so important that I learn these things? Isn’t it enough to know that Jesus loves me and that I love Him? 

My favorite response to that is a quote from Jen Wilkin: “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” 

The deeper we dive into the study of Jesus, the more our minds will begin to comprehend the depth of the love He has for us, and the cost He paid to be with us. That is when our hearts can truly be stirred. That is when worship becomes more than just a rush of feelings, it becomes an expression of true love, with roots that are grounded in reality. 

But we all realize it can sometimes be hard to reconcile what we know in our minds with what we feel in our hearts.  

Side note about feelings: there’s something you should know about me. I hate to cry. It‘s not so much the actual tears; it’s that they represent losing control. I’m normally a really laid-back person, but the one thing I feel the need to control is my emotions. Part of that is just my personality—I was never one to cry at Hallmark commercials. And part of it has been nurtured by my job as a critical care nurse. I worked in the ER for 16 years, and I can’t tell you how many horrific things I’ve seen. But I couldn’t do my job if I let my emotions control me. When you’re doing CPR on someone, you can’t be thinking about their family in the waiting room.

It’s not that I never let my emotions out; it’s that I’m afraid that if I can’t control the time and place I let them loose, my emotions will stop me from getting the job done. I want to be strong and steady, and to me, tears—at least the ones that come without my permission—are cracks in my wall of pride, and they show weakness.  

But not allowing emotion to dictate my work life can carry over to my spiritual life. It’s often easier for me to do the tasks of the Christian life—whether I feel like it or not—and take pride in the knowledge I’ve obtained about God, rather than sit in the unpredictability of how I may feel about God during any given circumstance.  

Our pastor, Greg Cahalan, said in a sermon that “our feelings reveal what we think or believe about something.” That hit home for me, and I realized that often when I start to feel a lot of emotion surrounding my faith, my first thought is to squash those feelings because they could end up revealing that deep down, something I believe about God is actually wrong. I do not like to be wrong. 

So I pretend I always believe the right thing, because I never allow my emotions to tell me otherwise. This is not truly fixing my eyes on Jesus. It’s looking at him only when I feel like I’m in control, giving him my mind only, and then looking away when he asks for my heart.  

Now, there are definitely two sides of the pendulum that swings between the head and the heart. and while I lean more toward one than the other, as most of us do, I have been on both sides: I’ve taken pride in my know-it-all approach to theology, and I’ve also found spiritual highs and lows based on my feelings alone.  

We can’t find the perfect balance on our own. We need help. 

How Can We Love God with Our Minds and Hearts?

I’m reading Fix Your Eyes by Amy Gannet (the title seems appropriate, doesn’t it?!) which talks about the correlation between theology (the study of God) and doxology (our heartfelt worship of him). Here’s what she says:  

“To bring both knowledge of God and worship of him back into harmony, we need someone to do a work within us. We need someone who will pull theology out of the abstract, put fresh pen to the paper of our hearts, and rewrite our desires until we heed the call to know and love God. And we need someone to take that desire, call it forth, fan that flame, and make our worship a more marvelous offering to God than we ever could have done on our own. In other words, we need an Author and we need a Perfector of our faith. 

“His name is Jesus.”

So, if the most important question we can ask ourselves is who is Jesus, and we know the answer can’t be based entirely upon our feelings or experiences, how can we know the truth? We go to the Bible. To good books by authors who are faithful to what Scripture teaches. If something you believe about Jesus contradicts something the Bible says, be willing to admit you’re wrong and ask God to give you a love for who He truly is and not what you think he should be.  

And when you’re studying, please don’t let this knowledge stay in your mind alone. Invite the Holy Spirit to plant these truths deep into your heart. 

Let me close with a few quotes from It’s All About Jesus which is filled with both Scripture and insights from Bible scholars and authors that are—indeed—all about Jesus. Turn your eyes upon Jesus and let him capture both your mind and your heart:

“Jesus is the Lion of Judah (Rev. 5:5) and the Lamb of God (Rev. 5:6) He was lionhearted and lamblike, strong and meek, tough and tender, aggressive and responsive, bold and brokenhearted.” –John Piper 

“If Jesus is the Bread of Life, loss of Jesus means starving. If Jesus is the Light of the World, loss of Jesus means darkness. If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, loss of Jesus means wandering alone and lost. If Jesus is the resurrection and the life, loss of Jesus is eternal death. And if Jesus is the Lamb of God, sacrificed for our sins, loss of Jesus means paying that price for ourselves.” –Rebecca McLaughlin 

“If you know Jesus, then the hand holding yours bears the calluses of a carpenter who carried a cross for you. When he opens his hand, you see the gnarled flesh of his nail scarred wrists. When you might think he doesn’t understand your pain, realize you don’t understand the extent of his.” –Randy Alcorn  

God, thank you for reminding us that as we struggle in this race of the Christian life, turning our eyes upon Jesus is the only way to endure. Help us to turn to you with both our hearts and our minds. May we be diligent to study who You are, and Lord, when we turn our eyes upon who Jesus truly is, may our hearts be filled with love and gratitude that overflows into a lifetime of worship. Amen. 

Read more from Randy Alcorn »

This article originally appeared on epm.org and is reposted here by permission.