Keeping Our Eyes on the Bird by Randy Rowley 11/25/07 ©


Matthew 14:14-33 is a remarkable recount of two miracles that hadn’t happened before.  (A miracle is an extraordinary unnatural event science can’t explain that Christians believe God did.)  Before the day Matthew recounted, Jesus had done many miracles, including healing many people and casting out demons from people who were possessed.  But God had also done those acts through some Old Testament prophets.

Matthew recounted that a great crowd had followed Jesus on foot from the towns, and he was healing their sick.  As it got late, the disciples asked Jesus to dismiss the crowd so the people could go into the villages and buy food for themselves.  But Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd.  Thinking only of earthly resources, the disciples took stock and told Jesus they had five loaves of bread and two fish.  (John’s gospel says they belonged to a boy.)  Jesus told his disciples to bring it to him.  He blessed it and had the disciples distribute it.  Everyone ate until satisfied, and the disciples collected 12 baskets full of leftovers!

Jesus then had the disciples get into a boat and go ahead of him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  After Jesus dismissed the crowd, he went up a mountain alone to pray.  Shortly before dawn, he went to the disciples by walking on the sea.

When the disciples saw someone walking on water, they thought it was a ghost and were terrified.  Verse 27 says, “But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.’”  Peter asked Jesus to tell him to come to him on the water.  Verse 29 says, “‘Come,” he said.”  Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But when Peter took his eyes off Jesus and saw the waves, he became afraid and began sinking.  He then begged Jesus to save him.  Verse 31 says, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?’”  And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.

The disciples had just witnessed one of the greatest miracles of all time – what became known as the ‘feeding of the five thousand men’ and ‘the miracle of the five loaves and two fish.’  They knew Jesus would come to them, but when they saw a man walking on the water, they forgot the miracle they had just seen and tried to explain it away with superstition saying, “It’s a ghost!”  They let their fear override their memories and their faith in Jesus.

A common event similar to Matthew’s recount often occurs while dove hunting.  A dove flies within range, a hunter shoots, and the dove falls.  They visually mark its location and start walking toward it.  As they proceed, another dove flies over them.  They shoot, and it falls too.  They visually mark its location and then look for the first bird.  But because they took their eyes off the marked spot, they either can’t find it, or it’s covered with fire ants when they do.  They then look for the second bird and have the same results.

If I had a dollar for every time this happened to me, I’d be a rich man!  Over the years I learned to ignore any other dove, even when someone yells, “Randy, right above you!”  Instead, I immediately and quickly walk straight to where I visually marked the downed dove’s location.  I don’t take my eyes off that spot for a second and reload without looking at my gun while walking.  Those tactics enable me, around 99% of the time, to find the downed dove quickly and be ready to shoot again after finding it.  But I’m often sunk like Peter when I take my eyes off my marked spot.

This also happens during the act of shooting a shotgun.  Many shooters focus on the bead instead of the clay or feathered bird.  Certainly, shooters will be aware of the bead; they can’t help it as it’s right in front of them and directly between them and the target.  But it shouldn’t be what they’re focused on.  If they take their eyes off the bird, they’ll be behind the target most of the time.  Over the years, I learned primarily to focus on the targets, enabling me to hit them more than 75% of the time.  But I’m sunk if I take my eyes off the birds and put them on my bead, just like Peter.

How many times has this happened to us in our walk with God?  How often have we been in the center of God’s will with Jesus as the Lord of our lives, and we’re seeing miracles happen, but then the wind starts blowing, and we take our eyes off Jesus and start sinking?

As long as we keep our eyes on the bird we’re trying to shoot or find, we’re often fine, and as long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he was fine.  But as soon as we take our eyes off the bird, disaster strikes, just as disaster struck Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus.

Fortunately, there is a way to correct this.  Hebrews 12:1-2a (NTL) says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”

Galatians 2:20 says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) says, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship him.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

How do we keep our eyes on Jesus?  By stripping off the sin slowing or hindering us, running with endurance the race (or plan) God set before us, dying to self, offering ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, and allowing God to transform us.

Some of the benefits of keeping our eyes on Jesus include:

  • We can live a life of faith.  In Mark 11:23–24, Jesus said, “‘Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.’”
  • We can be free from the slavery of sin.  John 8:31 – 36 says, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.  How can you say that we shall be set free?”  Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’”
  • We can have joy. In John 15:11, Jesus said, “‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.’”
  • We can have peace and victory.  In John 16:33, Jesus said, “‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.’”
  • We can live a full life.  Jesus said in John 10:10 (NASB), “‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.’”

With such tremendous benefits, it’s amazing that we Christians take our eyes off Jesus.  But we do far too often.  Things start going well, but then we develop an “I can do this on my own” attitude, or forget where our blessings came from.  When that happens, we’ll start sinking like Peter, usually sooner than later.   But just like I learned how not to lose downed dove by visually marking the spot where they fall and how to hit clay targets by keeping my eye on them, we can keep ourselves from sinking in life by keeping our eyes on Jesus.

A downed dove, that proved hard to find, as Randy took his eyes off his marked spot

Categories : Devotionals

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