• The Great Value of Looking Around

    It’s so easy to lose sight of the working of God around us. We spend most of our days looking out for ourselves, our families, our homes and, so often, we miss those little events happening in the surrounding world.

    Last fall, our church studied the Gospel of Mark, the shortest and most action-packed of the biblical accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In the gospel, our Lord bounces around from place to place as He proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God. He heals the sick and disabled, casts out demons with a glance, and teaches a rag-tag band of hand-picked disciples about the nature of God and the exercise of faith.

    One thing I noticed is how many times Mark records an action that only an eyewitness could know. While it would be easy to write, “And then Jesus did this and then he did that…” Mark instead adds details, like, “Jesus looked up and saw a crowd (9:25),” or “The disciples looked up and saw no one (9:8).” The author records glances and thoughts, and the fact that the disciples were having a hush-hush conversation as they traveled (9:33-34).

    When we finished studying chapters 6-9, one of the most common of Mark’s observations in this section of his book is how many times people noticed something with their eyes. The words “saw” and “looked” and “noticed” are peppered all over the gospel text! Even Jesus is recorded seeing things (6:34, 48 and 9:25, for example). In Mark 6, Jesus is recorded looking up towards heaven when he blessed the loaves and fish. The author could have just said, “Jesus blessed the loaves and then…” but he didn’t! He recorded eyewitness details of the blessing, including the direction that Jesus looked.

    Out of this focus on sight and noticing things I began to wonder how often we just go about our daily tasks without pausing to look at the world immediately around us. Are we looking for the hand of God at work? Or are we too busy focusing on ourselves? Jesus saw his disciples and reacted. He saw the crowds and reacted. He saw a demon-possessed boy and reacted. The Lord was always looking around Him to assess the situation and how He could proclaim the kingdom, teach a lesson, or help (heal) the distressed. Out of looking came compassion.

    More than 15 years ago I did a Bible study based on the book, “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby. In that book, Blackaby states something like, “While your waiting and praying and hoping to know what the will of God is for your life, it would be wise to spend more time looking for how God is working in the world around you. If you see an opportunity to help someone or teach someone or be present in someone’s life… do it! God is constantly working in the lives of people around. Many times He invites you into His work. It would be a shame to miss that invitation because you’re not looking!” That was the gist of it.

    “Ninety percent of people are asleep, and those of who are awake look around us in wonder.” — Samuel Graynamore, Joe Versus the Volcano

    I love that quote from the fictitious character Samuel Graynemore in Joe Versus the Volcano. He believed that most of the world is asleep, a.k.a. not looking at their greater surroundings. But those who see past their own present circumstances are amazed and filled with wonder. I’m not sure what his personal philosophy of life was (if the character even had one) but as Christians I wholeheartedly believe that when we stop focusing only on ourselves and sincerely look for the hand of God working around us, we will see it. And His working will leave us with a sense of wonder and amazement.

    Looking around is a great way to see God at work in the world. But be prepared: you will also see heartache and wickedness in this world — even close to home. But look for God at work in the midst of the madness. See His Spirit. See His followers. And, if you have opportunity, join in!

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