by Tad Lindley
I knew what I needed to do, tap-tap, two shots in the chest and one in the head. The front sight dropped down between the rear sights. Forward on the right hand back on the left, steady. My brain sent the command to my trigger finger, but before it could squeeze down, POP…P-POP…POP-POP-POP, bullets were flying to the left and the right and I froze. I looked up and down the line of shooters. Their paper targets all had three holes and I hadn’t even fired my gun. If it was a real firefight, I would have been dead. In a real gun battle where a person only has the rest of their life to get it right, it is essential to get shots off and to get them on target regardless of all of the gunfire going on around them.
Getting visual with it
What we hear with our ears can help us, as when an athlete hears the encouraging words of a bystander. But they can also derail us. This is why the home team crowd creates a horrible ruckus when the visiting team is trying to make a free throw shot. Even video game designers are aware of this. I do not play video games myself, but I am told that if you want to do better in Tetris, you need to turn the sound off, because the sound in Tetris is set up to distract your brain from being successful. It allows your brain to devote more energy to what your eyes are focusing on.
Where are your eyes focused?
If you use a scope in hunting, your eye is focused on getting the crosshairs so that the bullet will hit right where you want it to. In Tetris, your eyes are flitting from the falling shape to the blocks below. As you read this your eyes are jerking across each line of the page (they don’t flow smoothly, if you don’t believe me, poke a small hole in the paper and watch someone else’s eyes as they read). In life, we want our mind’s eyes to be focused on Jesus. Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross… (Hebrews 12:1-2)
What Jesus heard
Think for amount about what Jesus heard during the events that culminated in his death on the cross.
• He heard the doubters in his hometown say, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:54)
• He heard the Pharisees call him a bastard (John 8:41)
• He heard Judas say, “How much will you pay me to narc him out?” (Matthew 26:14-16)
• He heard his chosen people cry out, “Crucify him!” (Matthew 27:22, Luke 23:21)
• He heard Peter deny that he even knew him. (Luke 22:54-62)
• He heard the soldiers that blindfolded him and punched him say, “If you’re really Christ, tell us who punched you (Luke 22:63-65)
• He heard mockers say, “If he’s really Christ, let him save himself” (Luke 23:35)
• All of that was going into Jesus’ ears.
What he didn’t hear
What our Lord did not hear as the clink of the spikes followed the pain shooting up his arms and his legs was a voice of encouragement. We have no biblical record of anybody worshiping him or praising him at the cross. There was no public demonstration demanding his release when he was arrested. The disciples, with the exception of Peter and John, fled. And when Peter might have stood for him, he denied him.
Jesus got visual about it
What the Bible tells us, is that as Jesus heard the voices of doubt and condemnation flying all around him, he tuned them out. He squelched the hurtful words. He turned down the volume on his ears and looked across the horrible abuse he was suffering, across the death and the grave that were coming, to the victory that lay on the other side of all of that. Here he was, God manifest in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16), about to purchase the church with his own blood (Acts 20:28). As God, Jesus could easily have listened to all of the derision and hate around him and have called, “Game over”. He did it once before in the days of Noah. Instead, he turned all of that down and focused on the vision of our salvation.
When the bullets start flying in our life
When we hear discouraging things in our own lives, how much more should we disregard what we hear and focus on our vision. We are not shooting live ammo, for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. The weapons we use are prayer, fasting, praise, and worship. But just like on the shooting range, I got disoriented by guns firing to my left and my right, we can get discouraged by what we hear around us, by the news, by social media, even by angry people in our own lives. We can slack off on our praying. We can stop fasting. It can become difficult to praise God, to tell others about what He has done for us. When that happens we need more than ever to rise up and follow the example of Jesus, turning down the volume on the negative reports around us, and looking to him, the author and finisher of our faith.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the Bethel United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.