McMinnville Seventh-day Adventist Church


Focused on What?

It was a lazy Sunday morning. Outside the rain was softly falling. As we sat at the breakfast table, Bev’s eyes spotted a rather big bird sitting on our fence outside. It was winter and we only had the customary juncos and chickadees visit our birdfeeders. This bird was brown and much larger. What was it? I ran to the window and took a photo before it could fly away. Then it turned its head toward me, and that gave it away. It was a Cooper’s hawk, the dreaded enemy of all the birds in the neighborhood.

I was expecting him to fly away when he saw us peering at him, but he just sat and sat, for about two hours, as if enjoying the rain. Needless to say, our yard emptied of all birds, not a sparrow or even our resident hummingbird was to be seen anywhere. As long as the hawk was there, no bird would be safe.

This encounter made me ponder the question, who is my enemy? Whom do I fear? First Peter 5:8-9a came to mind, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith” (NLT). The next question was, how am I going to do that in 2020? Am I going to look at my enemy, stare at him, study him, so I will know his devices better? And then the example of the birds came to mind again. What did they do? Did the juncos and chickadees sit in a nearby tree and watch the hawk? No, they didn’t. They cleared out completely. They fled the scene. What a concept!

When Chuck Williams preached in Mac on December 28, he read a statement from the book The Desire of Ages, p. 83, “It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross” (my emphasis). Well, that’s the answer, I thought. It’s simple. Just spend an hour each day reading about the life of Christ. It sounded simple, until I remembered that Chuck gave us some homework, to go home and read the preceding paragraph. Did you remember to do that?

Well, I did, and here’s what I found. “Many attend religious services, and are refreshed and comforted by the word of God; but through neglect of meditation, watchfulness, and prayer, they lose the blessing, and find themselves more destitute than before they received it. Often they feel that God has dealt hardly with them. They do not see that the fault is their own. By separating themselves from Jesus, they have shut away the light of His presence” (my emphasis). So, here’s the point: it doesn’t help to flee the devil (like the birds), and not connect with the One who alone can defeat the enemy.

The point that struck me was my choice of focus. Was it on my problems and blaming my enemy, the accuser, or was my focus on Him, the Lamb, the Lion of Judah? I also read the paragraph that follows the one that Chuck read, and I would challenge you to read it also: “. . . If we are Christ's, our sweetest thoughts will be of Him. We shall love to talk of Him; and as we speak to one another of His love, our hearts will be softened by divine influences. Beholding the beauty of His character, we shall be “changed into the same image from glory to glory.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

With so much to distract us, and with the devil ready to ensnare us with the things of this world, I think I know now where I’m going to choose to place my focus for 2020. How about you?

- Pastor Jerry Joubert