Focus on Jesus to Strengthen Your Faith
"There's a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don't have to be afraid
Of what you are
There's an answer
If you reach into your soul"
Yeah, I hate that song too. As Bible readers, we know that the heart is treacherous and that it doesn't belong to man to direct his step. But, who does it belong to? Also today, the word faith is used, but often by people who aren't really religious. So, faith in what, in who? Ourselves? Somebody else? Christians know the answer to that. In Hebrews chapter 12, starting in verse 2, Paul says we should "look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus" and then in verse 3, "Indeed, consider closely".
What made Jesus unique? When he was giving his sermon on the mount, Matthew says that "he was teaching them as a person having authority, and not as their scribes". He exuded a trustworthiness, because he stuck to Jehovah's timeless principles, and didn't teach the man-made dogma of his day, like the scribes did. That's why God appointed Him to be our model. That's why Jesus said at John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Now the Pharisees, and those like them, attempted to intercept God's arrangement, put themselves in between. This prevented people from developing real faith, like Jesus said in Matthew 23:13, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut up the Kingdom of the heavens before men; for you yourselves do not go in, neither do you permit those on their way in to go in." Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with commands of men. People need to make rules all the time for various reasons, none of them perfect, most with good intentions, some without. But what did Jesus say about the Pharisees? He said that they taught commands of men "as doctrine". Isn't that a scary thought? Their own ideas and musings, on the same level as the Holy Scriptures. And they looked down on anyone who didn't memorize and keep to the letter these traditions. Those who followed them had their faith stunted, and didn't accept Jesus.
At Luke 6:40, Jesus said this principle, "A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly instructed will be like his teacher." That raises the very important question: Who is our teacher? At Matthew 7:24, 25, Jesus said, "everyone who hears these sayings of mine and does them will be like a discreet man who built his house on the rock. And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and lashed against that house, but it did not cave in, for it had been founded on the rock". So Jesus is the foundation for our faith.
Going back to the scripture in Hebrews, "look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus", he's not just saying, 'keep Jesus in the picture', as if an accessory to your worldview, he says "look intently". Just like Peter: when he looked at Jesus he walked on water, when he looked away he started to sink. "Look intently". Don't be distracted by your fears, by your imperfections, by what other people are trying to tell you to think and do. Focus. What does God want me to do, and how is he showing me, through his son?
How can we get the answer to that? By watching Jesus teach and live through the pages of the gospels. Then, imitate him as best we can. And where did Jesus learn? From His Father. We can do the same by reading the Bible. Our faith is also reinforced when we see living examples of it, for example, people who apply the Bible's advice, and then go on to improve their quality of life. Hebrews 12:2 goes on to say that Jesus fixed his sights on "the joy that was set before him". We too look forward to a better future, and this can be a powerful motivation to stay faithful and do the right thing when tested.
In these ways we can strengthen our faith by focusing on Jesus.