• Jesus, Be the Center

    There is a modern praise song that has been running through my head the past week. It goes like this:

    Jesus, be the center
    Be my source, be my light, Jesus
    Jesus be the center
    Be my song, Jesus
    Be the fire in my heart
    Be the wind in my sails
    Be the reason that I live, Jesus
    Jesus, be my vision
    Be my help, Be my guide Jesus

    Like most songs that run through my head, I have only been able to remember some of the words. I hate it when that happens! Even worse, my internal playlist seems to be repeating those few words over and over again. Ugh! But one phrase keeps coming to my mind: “Jesus, be the center.”

    When Jesus is at the center of your life — at the center of your thoughts, at the focus of your attitudes and actions — life is great isn’t it? But it is very hard to keep your focus on Him when the worries and anxieties of life overwhelm you. When the storm blows waves higher than your waist and you’re walking on water it is amazingly tough to focus on the One calling you towards Him above the waterline. Life always seems to have a way to interrupt the holiest of moments, doesn’t it?

    But what happens when you turn from looking at Jesus with eyes of faith to focus on the chaos around you? Down you go! Under the water, in need of rescue. I think this is why the author of Hebrews strongly encouraged his readers,

    “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne (Hebrews 12:1-2).”

    A pastor friend of mine always says, “Whenever you see the word ‘therefore’ in the text, you need to ask yourself, ‘What is it there for?’ and go backward to read the preceding context.” In Hebrews, chapter 11 is a litany of what it looks like to have faith in God as told through the heroes of Israel’s history (Abraham, Moses, David…). Through many hardships, toil and persecutions, the saints of old remained faithful to God and trusted in His promises to send the Messiah to save Israel.

    These men and women endured in faith by looking ahead to God’s promises and, now that Christ has come, we can look back at Jesus and what He both endured and accomplished for us. Doing so should give us confidence to face any trial and deal with any anxiety, for Jesus did so victoriously and He promises victory for all who have faith in Him.”You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world (John 16:33).”

    In talking with restless hearts, I’m struck by how many are dealing with severe anxiety and worry. Usually the worry centers around their uncertain future or with issues at work or home. I think most worry comes from a realization that we cannot directly control aspects of our lives, present AND future. To use an old-fashioned term, control and worry are bedfellows. The loss of the first usually leads to the other.

    Usually, but not always.

    When we give up control over our future to the Lord, He promises us His peace. Not worry… peace!

    “The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:5-7).”

    Did you see that? The peace of God surpasses EVERY thought. Another translation of that word is “understanding.” Every understanding. When you fully yield your anxieties to God, His peace overwhelms your worry! And before you think your prayer has to clear a few layers of Earth’s atmosphere, enter into a fifth dimension, float through the pearly gates, sneak past an army of angel administrative assistants and clear a top secret panel of bishops, Saint Paul says this, “The Lord is near.” In Acts 17, he says, “He is not far from each one of us.” The author of Hebrews says, “Let us draw near to the throne of grace.” You cannot draw near to what is far away! That means either we are close to God or He is close to us.

    I often quote the old Israelite worship leader Asaph when I write about being off-centered and lost in anxiety. In Psalm 73, he kinda freaked out about the state of the world he saw around him. Evil was winning, the righteous were losing, and he was wondering where God was hiding! He had lost sight of God and his world was crumbling. Emotional chaos. Spiritual confusion. Panic attacks. But then he remembered something…

    “When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded,
    I was stupid and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward You.
    Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand.
    You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me up in glory.
    Who do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You.
    My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.” (Psa. 73:21-26)

    A proper life orientation has God at the center and all else orbiting around Him. He is God and we are not and He gives us the strength and, yes, I believe even the faith we need to trust in Him. Just ask for it!

    Trust is not easy! I’m still learning to trust God, myself. But trust is SO vital to living a life of faith in God. It takes regular exercise and it is grown through experience. Our world tells us that it’s every man and woman for themselves. Provide for your own desires, even at the expense of others. If you don’t have enough, go get more! We live in a self-centered world, don’t we?

    But God calls us to a different calling:

    “Jesus, be the center. Be my source, be my light, Jesus.”

    Are you keeping God at the center of your thoughts? Is Jesus your source and light every day, especially when the world tries to interrupt and remind you of the uncertainties surrounding you? The ONLY way a Christian can endure anxiety and the unknown is by trusting in the ruler of the universe and lover of our souls. He is mighty to save, and wants to be the strength of your heart and your never-ending portion of joyful life.

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