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Keep Yourself Focused on God

I will begin with my conclusion: Keep yourself focused on God.

850 years before Jesus was born, Elijah was the leading prophet for the People of God. He was their spiritual leader; but he was also in trouble because Jezebel, the queen, was trying to kill him.

Why? Because she was worshipping a false god and Elijah had demonstrated to a large crowd on Mt. Carmel that her god was totally powerless. Queen Jezebel was deeply embarrassed, and she said to the crowd, “I will kill him, and nothing will stop me.”

That meant that Elijah had to run for his life. In fact, he ran 70 miles from the Northern Kingdom to the Southern Kingdom. He collapsed under a broom tree and slept for several days. Then an angel woke him up and gave him a loaf of bread and a jar of water. Then he fell back to sleep. then the angel woke him up and pointed toward Mount Horeb.

So, Elijah went to Mount Horeb and God said to him, “Listen carefully for my next message.” But he found it difficult to hear God’s voice. He listened to the sound of the mighty wind, but that was not the Voice of God. He listened to the powerful earthquake crushing the rocks on the mountainside. But the Lord’s voice was not in the earthquake. Elijah was patient and persistent. He stayed focused …He was determined to get a message from God.

He stayed focused on his goal and finally he heard the voice of God in the tiny whispering sound. the voice of God was not in the loud noises. Rather it was in the tiny whispering sound. Now what was the message that Elijah received from God? He heard God calling him to go back to the Northern Kingdom and find new leaders for the people. He heard God calling him to commission new shepherds to lead a reform movement which would help the people turn away from the Canaanite fertility gods and come back to the one true God.

God also told him to go back to the Northern Kingdom and tell the people that soon they would have a new king. Elijah was afraid to go back to the Northern Kingdom until he heard that someone had killed Jezebel by pushing her out of a window. Horses came by and trampled her body and dogs came along and ate everything, but her skull and her feet and Elijah was no longer scared. Then Elijah went to the Northern Kingdom and delivered the message that God had given him.

This story began with Elijah being alone with God on the mountaintop. And today’s Gospel began with Jesus being alone with God on a mountaintop. That did not surprise his disciples because Jesus often went off by himself to be alone with God: Sometimes to a garden, sometimes to the desert and sometimes to a mountaintop. If we are focused on Jesus, we will go with Him. By that I mean that we will go off by ourselves each day for a time of prayer, a time of being alone with our Savior.

And during those times of prayer, we will hear His voice whispering to us. Sometimes Jesus will say, “Treat every person with respect.” And sometimes He will say, “Be sure to thank God for all of your blessings.” And sometimes He will say, “It’s time to take control of your selfish desires.”

Jesus knows that we have selfish desires because He was fully human and He Himself was tempted by selfish desires. When Jesus was tempted in the desert He felt a strong yearning for food, and a yearning to be powerful and a yearning to be popular. When we are praying today, we might hear Jesus calling us to control our desires for more food. Or we might hear Him calling us to control our desire to control and manipulate others. Or we might hear Him calling us to control our desire to be more popular. And if we listen very carefully, we will hear Jesus calling us to share our food and clothing with those in need.

He is also calling us to serve others and to let others have the place of honor. He is calling us to welcome newcomers and to help them to become our new neighbors. When we listen carefully to His tiny whispering voice, we hear Jesus saying that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. Sometimes the voice of Jesus can be quite challenging.

The New Testament contains many passages which call us to work for the common good. That message is seldom heard in the secular society in which we live. We have been taught consciously and unconsciously to focus on taking care of ourselves. We swim against the tide whenever we show concern for the common good.

Now let’s take a second look at today’s Gospel.

When Peter was walking on the water he was doing quite well. As long as he kept his eyes fixed on Jesus he kept moving along on top of the water. As soon as he looked down at the big waves rolling under his feet he began to sink. Then he looked back to Jesus and Jesus reached out and saved him. Peter nearly drowned; but in doing so he taught his friends a valuable lesson: always keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Did you notice that at the end of the story everyone in the boat was looking at Jesus? They were looking at him and saying, “Without a doubt, you are the Son of God?”

I will close with a short summary…… very, very short. Elijah and Jesus, both challenge us to spend time alone with God and to listen for God’s voice in tiny whispering sounds. And Peter challenges us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. If we don’t keep our attention fixed on Jesus, we will surely sink into the stormy waters of today’s chaotic world. Peter reminds us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

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