For my 7th birthday way back in 1982, gifts from my family included a baseball bat, glove, and ball. I was thrilled to begin learning how to play, for I had watched my older brother play in a school or recreational league in the late 1970s. I soon learned that catching and hitting a baseball was not nearly as easy as he and his friends had made it look.
In the backyard with both my brother and father, I struggled as they tried patiently (and sometimes impatiently) to teach me the basics.
I can still hear them, saying each time I swung and missed or failed to make a catch: “Keep your eyes on the ball,” as if that was the secret of the whole thing.
While the advice was confusing at first, it eventually resonated, and sure enough, with some practice, I learned how to catch and hit.
There’s a Bible story that provides similar advice to what my family gave, but about life rather than baseball. When the apostles are alone on a boat on rough seas in the early morning hours, they observe Jesus walking on the water. They are so shocked, they at first think He is a ghost, but Jesus tells them not to be afraid.
“Peter, suddenly bold, said, ‘Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come ahead.’ Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, ‘Master, save me!’ Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand.”
from Matthew 14:28-31
As a new believer reading through the entire Bible for the first time a couple years ago, I was not surprised that Jesus could walk on water. I had first heard this portion of the story when I was a child.
No, the surprising aspect of this story for me was that Peter walked on the water, too. Peter, who really wasn’t so different than you or me.
His faith allowed Peter to walk on the water towards Jesus, but why did he sink?
He didn’t keep his eyes on Jesus.
Instead, Peter allowed himself to be distracted by the waves and wind – by fear.
We are living in bizarre times. Fear in the form of panic is spreading much faster than the coronavirus possibly could. Fear is a weapon of the enemy, and there are those who use fear for their own means. For ratings. As power grabs. To control.
I know what it’s like to live in fear. I used to let fear control my every action. I was afraid to drive. I was afraid to speak to people. I was afraid to go places alone. I was often afraid to leave the house at all.
All of that has changed since I accepted Jesus into my life as my Lord and Savior. What Jesus didn’t immediately lift away, JC, my true love, has helped me overcome.
Virus or no virus, I will not lock myself away again. I lived too long like that. I refuse to let anxiety and fear control my life any longer. I will not give the enemy a stronghold again.
To be clear, I am not recommending being foolish. Everyone should take common sense precautions. To do otherwise would be to test God.
“You must not test the LORD your God.”
from Deuteronomy 6:16
No, what I am saying is remain calm and rational. While chaos churns around you, keep your eyes on Jesus. That really is the secret of the whole thing.
For those of us who are saved, death is not something to fear. If Jesus wants me to die of the coronavirus, then I will die of the coronavirus. Panic won’t change that either way.
I would prefer to continue living, though, for JC and I still have much to accomplish for Jesus before we go to the Perfect Place. We have only just begun – until Jesus says otherwise. He has the perfect plan, executed with perfect timing.
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. […] The LORD says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.'”
from Psalm 91
While I did learn to catch and hit, I unfortunately wasn’t destined to play on any teams. I still love watching baseball in person, though, or, oddly enough, in movies like Field of Dreams.
As much as I’d like to throw the ball around with someone, I don’t have anyone to do that with these days. I think my brother has gotten too old! He never takes me up on the offer.
My glove’s ready, though. When that time comes and my number gets called, I’ll remember to keep my eyes on the ball and, most importantly, on Jesus.
We lift up all those affected by sickness. May You heal them and bring them comfort. May You calm any hearts stricken by fear and panic. May You fill leaders at every level with wisdom and compassion; lead them to salvation or on a closer walk with You; for those who will not accept You, use them for good anyway. Please help all of us keep our eyes on Jesus.
In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.
A timely word – much needed by many.
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