Have you ever endeavored to eradicate some unwanted habit, thought or emotion, only to find it still firmly fixed the next morning, a specter poised to pounce on any hint of weakness? I most certainly have. All too often these internal battles drain our strength and leave us demoralized and defeated. Why try anymore? If I will be the same wishy-washy man tomorrow that I am in my current weakened state, why exert the effort to change?

If these sentiments sound familiar, I offer a word of encouragement. What I have learned and am still learning is that the goal of eradication is achieved through the exact opposite approach—filling. Rather than straining to remove unwanted thoughts or behavior, strive to fill your mind, time and attention with love and adoration for Jesus Christ. Which is more effective to induce transformation—focusing on what is wrong in me, or beautifully obsessing over what is right and perfect in Him? By personal experience, I recommend the latter. I am not suggesting a laissez-faire or cavalier attitude toward failure, an easy way out. Instead, I am offering a way up. Set your sights on Him and the obsessions that threaten to rip your heart to shreds will loose their hold and drop like chains from a freed man. Precious liberty awaits those who come again and again to stand amazed in the presence of the Nazarene.

Consider this truth from lyrics to a hymn composed by Helen Howarth Lemmel in 1918, inspired by a tract given to Lemmel by a missionary friend of hers, Lilias Trotter, entitled “Focused.” The pamphlet contained these words: “So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

Oh soul, are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior

And life more abundant and free

Through death into life everlasting

He passed, and we follow Him there

O’er us sin no more hath dominion

For more than conquerors we are

Oh turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:12-14 | ESV


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