Christianity 201

July 13, 2011

Keeping a 20/20 Spiritual Vision

My link to DailyEncouragement.net, the devotional ministry of Stephen & Brooksyne Weber is rather prominent on my personal blog because I think they represent the best of theological balance combined with appeal to a broad demographic.  Though their lives intertwine with Amish farmers, there’s an urban sophistication in their writing as well.  They know their readers, who click in from around the world.  Every day’s post is good reading.  This one is actually fresh from today!  I’ll add a permalink once it moves off the home page.

“Spiritual Myopia”

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).  “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

I began to wear glasses when I was about twelve years old. I was near-sighted, meaning that I could see OK up close but distant views were blurry. I resisted wearing them at first but soon realized I really did see better with them. Near-sightedness is also called myopia. In my forties I started needing bifocals, since I now need correction both for close-up and distance.

Let me illustrate today’s message with a wonderful Creator-designed capability we all have and probably have never even considered. I am sitting at my desk in my home office with a clear view of my computer screen and close-up items on the desk. My eyes are automatically focused to this view.

I can raise my head and look out to a distant farm field view. Automatically, without any conscience effort on my part, my eyes refocus when I move from the close-up to the distant view. What if we were created with an adjustable knob on the side of our head that had to be turned each time we wanted to refocus, much like looking through a set of binoculars! I concur with David’s thoughts he penned three thousand years ago, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).

I can purposefully not refocus when I move from a close-up view to a distant one but it’s really hard.  Look out to a distant view and stare at your hand and see how blurry and out of focus the distance is at the periphery. Try to move your hand and keep your eyes focused the same as the close-up, although you are looking at a distance. For me it’s next to impossible. My eyes just automatically refocus!

Today I want to consider a condition that many of us have which I’ll call “spiritual myopia”.  We may have a focus on the close up view but have trouble seeing and focusing on the bigger picture spiritually; that which is at a distance. It seems that spiritually speaking having a distant “faith” focus does not come automatically. I have to very purposefully focus on that by faith.

Hebrews 11 is known as the Faith Chapter and is a great commendation of men and women who lived by faith.  “This is what the ancients were commended for” (v.2).  Hebrews 11: 13-16 is an incredible interjection by the divinely inspired author of Hebrews. Prior to this Scripture passage and afterward Abraham is the focus, but this section broadens the scope using the phrase, “all these people”, which may mean those who were with Abraham, or it may be referring to all the people of faith mentioned in this chapter.  Either way you consider it, this powerful portion is certainly true of all people of faith.

But the part that grips my heart is the phrase concerning the “things promised” they had not received at the time they died.  “They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.”  They did not have spiritual myopia.

In overcoming our tendency to being diagnosed with spiritual myopia:

1) We must have divine correction.
2) We must train our eyes for distant focus.
3) We must train our will to focus on the distant future.
4) We must place our affections on that which is yet to come.

I struggle with spiritual myopia when I am not focusing on God’s promises that are yet to be fulfilled.  I am not seeing them and welcoming them from a distance. In fact the spiritual distance may become invisible since my focus is fixed upon that which I see without effort.

Like the people who long ago lived by faith I need to regularly confess, “I am an alien and stranger on earth.”  Like them I want to be “longing for a better country—a heavenly one.”  May the Lord give each of us a distant heavenward focus! “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.”

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber