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Looking At Life Through Eyes Of Fear Or Eyes Of Faith

Exodus 14:10-15

Mark Twain once described the day he rushed to the top of Pike’s Peak to see the sun rise. He said: “I got there on time, but I missed it because I was looking the wrong way!”

It’s a common problem in our human experience. God has so many fantastic sunrises to show us, so many dramatic miracles to share with us, so many awesome wonders to reveal to us, but all too often we miss them because we are facing the wrong direction. We have eyes, but so often we do not see. We have ears, but so often we do not hear, we have hearts, but so often we do not feel. It’s all because we are looking the wrong way; facing the wrong direction.

The way we see is so important, so crucial to our living. Harold Kushner, in his book, Who Needs God?, puts it like this:

“Religion is not primarily a set of beliefs, a collection of prayers, or a series of rituals. Religion is first and foremost a way of seeing. It can’t change the facts about the world we live in, but it can change the way we see those facts, and that in itself can make a real difference.”

That is precisely what this remarkable story in Exodus 14 is all about. It’s about how people see things, and it’s about how differently people may see the same situation.

On the one hand, look at what the people of Israel see here. They have just pitched camp at the edge of the Red Sea. This is a most significant moment for them and they are filled with joy. After all these years of slavery in Egypt, now they are free. This is their exodus, their deliverance, their salvation. Moses is leading them toward a new life in a new land. But suddenly, the beautiful dream is transformed into a ghastly nightmare. They look back and on the distant horizon, they see a huge cloud of dust, and they hear the unmistakable rumble of chariots. They know what it means. It means that Pharoah has changed his mind. His army is coming after them. The people of Israel see themselves as doomed—they are trapped, pinned down, hemmed in, cornered, caught between Pharaoh and the deep Red Sea. They are certain that they shall be slaughtered in the desert. They see their situation as hopeless. You know why, don’t you? Because they’re looking the wrong way.

Now, on the other hand, Moses sees the same situation differently. He turns his face toward God and he sees an amazing, exciting, incredible new possibility. Notice that Moses does not look backward. He looks forward. He doesn’t look to the past, he looks to the future. He doesn’t look at the strength of Pharaoh, he looks at the power of God. And because of what he sees, Moses is able, with great confidence, to say to the people: “Fear not, stand firm, see the salvation which the Lord will bring to you today. God will fight for you. So trust in Him and go forward.”

Of course, you know the rest of the story. Moses and the people wound up putting their trust in the Lord and moving forward. God went before them, opened the sea, and led them to safety and freedom on the other side. God came to them in their hour of need and saved them, protected them, delivered them. And what God did for them, He can do for you and for me. That’s the great Good News of the Bible, and that message literally explodes out of this story. Therefore, let me ask you: Are we looking the wrong way? Are we facing the wrong direction? Do we look at life through eyes of fear or eyes of faith? With the scared eyes of the Israelites? Or the confident eyes of Moses? Let me be specific.

If we look at life through eyes of fear rather than the eyes of faith, then we will never see the value of believing.

That was the Israelites’ problem that day at the Red Sea. They couldn’t believe because they were looking the wrong way. They could see no hope because they were facing the wrong direction. God, through Moses, had to turn them around before they could see any way out of their predicament. That’s the way it works. Before we can believe, the eyes of fear have to give way to the eyes of faith. We often hear the phrase “Seeing is believing”—but actually it may be more profoundly true the other way around: “Believing is seeing.”

That’s what happened to St. Francis of Assisi, and the change of vision in his life made him a saint. Francis was born in luxury. He was the son of a wealthy merchant. Early on, he had his eyes set on becoming a famous poet and a mighty warrior. He wanted fame and acclaim, power and prestige for himself. But during one of his military campaigns, he became ill and he had to limp home in disgrace. His adolescent vision of grandeur was reduced to shambles, and he was plunged into deep depression. In fact, he was so depressed that he retreated into a cave and there he remained alone for two weeks. Of course, he was not really alone. God was with him, and God opened his eyes. God turned his life around. God saved him and gave him a whole new way of looking at things. Francis of Assisi emerged from that cave a different man, and he went on to become one of the greatest servant-Christians in the history of the world. The name of Francis of Assisi is now synonymous with love and humility and service and self-giving.

G.K. Chesterton, in his biography of St. Francis, describes the conversion of St. Francis in an interesting way. Chesterton writes: “Francis came out of that cave walking on his hands. That is, he now saw everything from a different perspective. When you stand on your feet, castles and trees seem to sit solidly on their own, as if they existed in their own right. However, when you stand on your head, those same things appear to be hanging, the way a chandelier hangs by a chain.” Chesterton went on to say that what Francis of Assisi discovered is that everything “hangs” or depends on God. This is the secret of St. Francis’ incredible ability to affirm and love everything he encountered. The birds, the animals, the trees, the flowers, people from every situation and circumstance in life—all spoke to him of God. Why? Because his eyes had been turned from self to God. From arrogance to humility, from greed to grace, from egotistical pursuits to sacrificial service. Francis of Assissi felt kinship with every particle of creation because his eyes had been opened to the fact that all is miracle because all is of God.

Our news these days tells us of the attempt of our American space shuttle to rendezvous with the Russian space station—an event unthinkable just a few years back. It all reminds me of how, in the early 60’s, we were involved in that bitter “space race” with Russia. They would send up a cosmonaut and we would send up an astronaut. One of the Russian cosmonauts, Yuri Gagarin, returned from his flight into outer space and rather arrogantly announced to the world that he “didn’t see God up there anywhere.” John Glenn, our astronaut, was asked about this and he said: “I saw God everywhere I looked!”

We can see God everywhere we look if we have converted eyes; if we see with the eyes of faith. If we don’t see how to believe, we may be looking the wrong way.

Then if we look at life through eyes of fear rather than eyes of faith, we will never see the value of forgiving.

It is fascinating to watch how people react when trouble strikes in their lives. You can tell a lot about a person by the way that person handles a troublesome situation. Sadly, all too often when trouble comes, we have to find someone or something to blame for the trouble, and as a result, we become terribly harsh and unbending and unforgiving in life.

That’s what the people of Israel did that day at the edge of the Red Sea. When they saw Pharaoh’s army coming after them, they went into a panic. They were quick to mouth and to murmur, quick to gripe and complain, quick to point the finger of blame at Moses. They said: “It’s all your fault, Moses. Look at what you have done to us. You should have left us alone. Our blood will be on your hands. We will never forgive you for getting us into this mess!” Do you know why they reacted like that, don’t you? Because they were looking the wrong way.

A few years ago, Don Shelby was conducting a funeral at his church in Santa Monica, California. He noticed a woman standing in the back of the sanctuary. The woman had arrived late and stood against the rear wall crying throughout the memorial service. When the service ended, she came forward and in great anguish hugged the casket. She broke down sobbing, and through a river of tears she cried out: “I forgive you, Sally, I forgive you. Please hear me. I’m sorry for the way I acted. I love you. I forgive you. Please forgive me!” Don Shelby walked over to her, put his arms around her shoulders and held her, trying to comfort her. He could feel her pain. After a long, hard cry, finally she said: “My sister, Sally, and I had a falling out some time ago. She begged me to forgive her. She tried everything to reconcile us. But over all these years, I refused. I was so mean to her. I wanted to pay her back for what she had done to me, but I see now how wrong I was. Deep down, I guess, I wanted things to be right between us, but I didn’t do anything about it. Now it’s too late. I waited too long.”

Let me ask you something. Are you estranged from anyone like that today? Are you at odds with anyone? Are you cut off from someone? Are you holding on to some deep grudge? Are you suffering the spiritual gangrene of a broken relationship? If so, fix it. Be reconciled. Put it right. Clear it up today, for their sake, for your sake, for God’s sake. You may say: “But it’s not my fault.” Well, it may not be your fault, but as a Christian, it is your responsibility. Jesus underscored that over and over again. It’s our responsibility, under Christ, to do everything possible to repair the broken relationships in our lives. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that nothing pleases God more than to see us actively and tenderly loving one another and caring for one another—and nothing breaks God’s heart more quickly than to see us being harsh and cold and hateful toward one another. If we can’t see how to forgive, then we are facing the wrong direction in life; we are looking the wrong way.

Well…

That day when the Israelites felt trapped at the Red Sea they lost their confidence. They were so blinded by the threat of Pharaoh’s army that they failed to behold the awesome power of God. Moses had to turn them around because they were facing the wrong direction. Moses had to remind them that God was with them, that God would fight for them, that God would deliver them. Moses had to remind them to trust God and to go forward. That’s the message we need to hear, and that’s the message I’m trying for all I am worth to get across to you today. Look at life through eyes of faith, not eyes of fear. Trust God and go forward and know with confidence that God is with you; that He will see you through, and that He will bring it out right. It’s like the hymn-writer says:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.” 

Dear friend, turn your eyes upon Jesus … today!

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