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


Matthew chapter 14 tells a remarkable story of two miracles that had never happened before.  Before that day, Jesus had performed many miracles, including healing several people, and casting out demons, but some of the prophets had also accomplished those acts.  But on this day, the world would witness two miracles that completely defied the laws of nature.

A great crowd was following Jesus, and he was healing their sick.  As it was getting late, the disciples asked Jesus to send the people away to feed themselves.  But Jesus told the disciples to give the people something to eat.  Thinking only of earthly resources, the disciples found a boy with two fishes and five loaves of bread.  It would have been a useless endeavor to try to feed so many with so little.  Yet Jesus wasn’t concerned in the least.  He blessed the food and had the disciples distribute it.  Everyone ate until they were satisfied, and there were 12 baskets full of leftovers!

Jesus then had the disciples get into a boat and go ahead of him towards the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  After Jesus had sent the people away, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.  Jesus then went to the disciples walking on the sea.  When the disciples saw him, they were terrified, thinking that he was a ghost.  But Jesus informed him that it was him and to not be afraid.  Peter asked Jesus to command him to come to Jesus on the water.  Jesus said, “Come!”  Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he became frightened, began to sink, and cried for Jesus to save him.  Immediately Jesus grabbed Peter and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  He then calmed the sea.

The disciples had just witnessed Jesus’s ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’ miracle – one of the greatest miracles of all time.  They knew that Jesus would join them, but when they saw a man walking on the sea, they immediately forgot what had just happened and tried to explain it away with superstition saying, “It is a ghost!”  They let their fear override their faith.  Jesus immediately informed them of the truth and calmed their fears.  Peter asked if he could join Jesus on the water.  With Jesus’s command, Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the sea towards Jesus.  But as he walked, he took his eyes off of Jesus and immediately began to sink.

A common event similar to Jesus’s miracle of ‘walking on water’ occurs especially during dove hunting.  A hunter hits a dove, and it folds up and falls to the ground.  The hunter visually marks it and starts to walk towards it.  As he proceeds, another dove flies over him.  He shoots, and it falls too.  He visually marks where it fell and then resumes looking for the first bird.  But because he took his eyes off of it, he either can’t find it, or by the time he does, fire ants have covered it.  He then looks for the second bird and has the same results.

I’d be a rich man if I had a dollar every time this has happened to me!  When I down a dove, I’ve learned to ignore dove flying near me, even when someone yells, “Randy, right above you!”  Instead, I immediately and quickly walk straight to where the dove that I shot fell.  I don’t take my eyes off of it for a second and reload without looking as I walk so that I’ll be ready to shoot again after I find the bird.  This tactic enables me to find downed dove quickly, probably 99% of the time.  But when I take my eyes off the downed bird, just like when Peter took his eyes off Jesus while walking on the sea, I’m sunk.

This also happens during the act of shooting a shotgun.  Many shooters focus on their shotgun’s bead instead of the clay or feathered bird.  Undoubtedly, 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 the focus.  If shooters take their eyes off the bird and focus on their beads, most of the time, they’ll be behind the target.  I’ve learned to focus on the target.  When I do so, I’ll hit it more than 75% of the time.  But when I take my eyes off the bird and focus on the bead, just like when Peter stopped focusing on Jesus while walking on the sea, I’m sunk.

As long as we keep our eyes on the bird that we’re trying to hit or have downed, we’re 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.

How many times has this happened in our walk with the Lord?  How many times have we been in the center of God’s will with Jesus as the Lord of our lives, and we’re seeing God-things happen, but then trials start happening, and we take our eyes off Jesus and start to sink?

Fortunately, the Bible provides remedies.  They include:

  • Hebrews 12:1-2a (NTL) – “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 hinders our progress.  And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.”
  • Galatians 2:20 – “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) – “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 every weight and sin that slows us down or hinders us, running with endurance the race (or plan) that God set before us, dying to self, offering ourselves as a living sacrifice, and allowing God to transform us.

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

  • We can live a life of faith and perform miracles. Jesus said in Mark 11:23–24, “‘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 live a life free from 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. Jesus said in John 15:11, “‘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. Jesus said in John 16:33, “‘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 an abundant life. Jesus said in John 10:10, “‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’”

With these tremendous benefits, it’s bewildering that we Christians take our eyes off Jesus.  But we too often do.  Things start going well, and then we develop an “I can do this on my own” attitude, or we forget who blessed us.  When that happens, we often start to sink, sooner than later, as Peter did.  But just as I learned how to find downed dove – by keeping my eyes on where they fall, and how I learned to hit moving targets – by focusing on the bird instead of the bead, I can keep myself from sinking in life by keeping my eyes on my Savior.

A downed dove, that proved hard to find, as Randy took his eyes off of where it fell

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