Directing Our Gaze Toward a Great and Glorious God
If you’re a Christian, it’s likely that there are a number of things God calls you to do that may sometimes overwhelm you. Whether it’s sharing the gospel with someone or helping a fellow Christian through a hard time, you may sometimes feel inadequate, under-equipped, or possibly even tempted to disengage. But think about this: whenever you feel that way, where is your gaze directed—at yourself and your weakness or at God and his greatness? Of course, your gaze is directed at yourself, and that’s precisely the problem.
The Apostle Paul understood what it was like to go through difficult times as he was faithful to God’s call for his life. In the book of Acts, Paul is constantly facing persecution and opposition just about wherever he goes. But in Acts 18:9-10, which records Paul’s ministry in the city of Corinth, God encourages him by telling him, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
To give a bit of background, Paul’s having a difficult time in Corinth with all the opposition he’s getting from the Jews. We get some insight into how much he was actually struggling by reading what he later told the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 2:3, he describes how he felt when he came to Corinth. He says, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling.”
It’s interesting to see how Paul was just an ordinary guy who struggled with the same things we struggle with. He may have been very effective in his gospel ministry, but at the end of the day, he was human—a human with struggles and weaknesses and fears and discouragement. And so God reminds him of a very simple truth: “I’m with you.” In other words, “It’s okay that you’re weak, because I’m with you. It’s okay that you’re struggling, because I’m with you.”
That’s a good word for us to remember as well. As we try to be engaged in God’s mission of spreading the gospel, there will be some very difficult days. We might feel afraid like Paul did, or maybe anxious or overwhelmed or discouraged. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because these feelings have a way of bringing us to the end of ourselves—to the end of our self-reliance and self dependence.
I’m reminded of how young children often like to do things on their own. They don’t want your help, they don’t want your advice. And it may take them twice as long, but they’re determined to do it on their own. But every once in a while, they get in a situation that’s outside their comfort zone. And then, things are different. All of a sudden, that self-willed, self-sufficient attitude dissolves into an attitude that’s desperate for mom and dad’s help.
In a similar way, when we’re actively engaged in God’s mission, it frequently pushes us out of our comfort zone. The difficulties we often experience bring us to the end of ourselves so that we have no choice but to rely on God. But you know what? That’s not a bad place to be, because God says the same thing to us that he said to Paul in verse 10: “I’m with you” (see Matthew 28:20). In other words, “You’ll never be left alone because the Holy Spirit, whom I’ve sent, dwells within you, and he’ll be for you everything you need him to be in order to accomplish my mission.”
Paul simply needed to take his gaze off of himself and turn his gaze to an infinitely great and powerful God who was more than able to accomplish his purposes regardless of human opposition. And as we try to be faithful to God’s calling for our lives, we’re going to have days, just like Paul, where it all seems so overwhelming. And, just like Paul, we need to continually redirect our gaze toward our infinitely great and glorious God.