2020 Vision Check
Did you ever play the alphabet game during long road trips in the car? I have fond memories of playing this game with my father. We would try to quickly spot letters on road signs and license plates. Dad and I loved to play this game because we both are blessed with 20/20 vision. That genetic trait gave us a great advantage over our friends and family members in the car.
Vision is important to our everyday lives. We use our eyesight to look at things we are interested in. What we choose to look at and focus on dictates what we imitate and gravitate toward.
Our spiritual vision is even more important. As Adventist Christians, where is our focus? Do we say we are focusing on Jesus when we are actually looking in a different direction?
One of my favorite stories in Scripture is Saul's conversion. This devoted, zealous young man was fervent in his desire to serve God. He was raised in a conservative Jewish family. He received training from strict teachers. The law and testimony of the Jewish nation gave his life value and purpose. When confronted by a new ideology that threatened his faith and way of life, Saul took action. He sought to eradicate the followers of Jesus.
Saul was good at his job. He excelled at finding Christians and bringing them before the religious leaders. He played an active role in imprisoning and even executing many Christians. He stood by and watched as Stephen was stoned. He did his best to resist being moved as he witnessed a young man much like himself giving his life for Jesus Christ. He found comfort in the words of the rabbis he trusted, who insisted Stephen was misled and Jesus was not God.
Saul was unable or unwilling to acknowledge the lordship of Jesus Christ. His perspective, his point of view, blinded him. Zealous religious fervor motivated him to expand the persecution of Christians beyond the jurisdiction of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.
God didn’t abandon Saul to darkness. Instead He directly intervened to get Saul’s attention. God chose to adjust Saul’s vision. While traveling to Damascus, Saul experienced an unplanned visit by the Divine Eye Doctor. A heavenly light shone around him. He fell to the ground disoriented. A voice terrifying yet familiar cried out to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And the voice answered, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Saul lost his physical sight in the encounter with Jesus and spent three days in darkness. During those days without physical eyesight, he experienced spiritual illumination. He contemplated his past actions. He counted the cost following a new Lord would demand. A personal encounter with the Author of Life forced him to experience a spiritual metamorphosis.
During those dark days, Saul reaped the benefit of a rigorous Jewish education. He reviewed large portions of the Torah he had dedicated to memory. The Holy Spirit brought passages from the book of Isaiah to his mind. He experienced the growing conviction that Jesus was in fact the true Messiah and God Almighty.
Saul decided in the darkness to commit his life to the fledgling faith he had been so fervently seeking to destroy. He decided from that moment on he would dedicate his life to sharing Jesus’ message of love and salvation to all the people he encountered.
Saul, now known as Paul, went forward a changed man. He traveled extensively, sharing the clear vision of Jesus Christ he had received. For the remainder of his life he sought to follow Jesus, the One who truly opened his eyes.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul encouraged future generations of Christians to focus their attention upon Jesus: “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
This verse comes from a man who learned that true spiritual vision is only obtained through eyes firmly fixed on Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Might we as Christians move forward this year, 2020, with our focus on Jesus, looking to Him as the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, looking forward to His soon return when we will see Him face-to-face?