Keep your eye on the ball? Sounds like good advice but not always…….

My Dad was good at sports and he taught me to play cricket when I was still quite young. He was a keen bowler with excellent aim. I remember our bat being big and heavy. Actually, it was full size – only the handle was a little shorter. Amazing I managed to hit the ball every time!

Stand still. Hold the bat. Look at my face.

That was the secret of my success. Dad knew if I saw the ball coming towards me I’d never be able to manoeuvre the heavy bat in time. I’d just panic and miss completely. All I had to do was stand still with bat in place, look at my dad’s face, and his ball never missed …..the bat! Of course, the skill was all his, not mine, but we both enjoyed our game.

When life’s events seem to be coming fast and furious I often hear my Dad’s words to me, or is it my Father in heaven speaking? Stand firm in faith, sword of the Spirit in hand, and look to Jesus. Peter learned the same lesson: look to Jesus, not the waves! Certainly, Jesus is the founder and finisher of faith, the one who birthed faith in me and the one who will finish the work he began (Philippians 1:6). My path is marked out specifically for me (Ephesians 2:10), coming straight to my bat. He asks me to persevere by standing in faith, for he is faithfully persevering with me.

Fix your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2)

What do we see? We see Christ crucified for us and for the sins of the world, enduring the shame of the cross for the joy that would be his. I think doing his Father’s will and finishing the work he’d been given was part of that joy. I see him on the cross, dying that I might live, and with triumph announcing, ‘It is finished!’ I want Jesus to have the reward of his sufferings – a beautiful people from every tribe and tongue (Rev 5:9). That’s a passion that has fuelled mission zeal over the centuries.

But, we also see Christ glorified. Forty days after Easter, on the Mount of Olives, the shekinah cloud of God’s presence received the resurrected Jesus and the Father exalted him to his right hand, the place of honour and authority. Jesus ascended to the throne of God and as king he inaugurates us, his body, by his outpoured Spirit to advance the Kingdom of God. We have just celebrated Pentecost Sunday, but let’s remember that event is dependent on Ascension Day and the glorification of our Saviour.

Jesus had joy in going home to his Father. He told the disciples they should rejoice with him because he was returning to the glory and intimacy he had with God from all eternity (John 14:28). His glory was veiled during his years on earth, except for the glimpse on the Mount of Transfiguration – an experience Peter never forgot (2 Peter 1: 17-18). It was the vision of Christ in glory that enabled Stephen, the first martyr, to die with such grace.

Suffering and glory

When we fix our eyes on Jesus, the Cross gives us a passion to love, serve and suffer with him. His ascension to glory commissions us with power and authority for all he calls us to do. There, exalted to the father’s right hand as king, he is also our great high priest who continually bears our names before the father (Hebrews 4:14-16) able to sympathise with us in our weaknesses because of his own sufferings. In what’s called his high priestly prayer for his disciples in John 17, knowing all the troubles, persecutions and martyrdoms that lay ahead for them, he asked that their joy would be full, that they would be with him to see and share in his glory.

The Apostle Paul thought the glorification of believers was so certain he wrote about it in the past tense (Romans 8:30)! One day all vestige of my sinful nature will be gone; I will see Christ face to face and be glorified in him. This is a joyful prospect – a future hope that should certainly infuse my present day reality.

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