First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sunday Sermon Notes (January 12th, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
2 Kings 6:8-23; Hebrews 12:1-3
“Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,” says the author of the Letter to the Hebrews 12:1. In Hebrews 12, the Christian life is compared to a race. It’s a marathon. That name, marathon, comes from the decisive 490 BC Battle of Marathon, where the Greeks fought the Persians. If the Persians had conquered, the glory that was Greece never would have been known. Against fearful odds, the Greeks won the battle. A Greek soldier ran all the way, day and night, to Athens with the good news. He ran straight to the magistrates and gasped, “Rejoice, we have conquered!” Then he dropped dead. He had completed his mission and done his work.
It is significant that when Paul wrote his final letter to Timothy, he did not report on how many he had won to Christ, how many churches he had planted, or how many evangelistic campaigns he had conducted. He said simply in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” He fought and he finished—he endured! If you want to join his ranks, take time often to consider Jesus.
Fixing our Eyes on Jesus
Every year I try to set a theme, a broader topic, for my teaching and preaching delivered from this pulpit every Sunday. The theme I chose for 2020 is “Fixing our Eyes on Jesus.” This is a theme that runs through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and it is so central to Biblical Christianity. This year, we will be exploring some key Scripture passages that address this topic, then drawing some important implications for our life, our ministry, and our spiritual journey. Last Sunday, we just scratched the surface of this topic as I shared with you some introductory observations.
Last week we asked the question: Why fixing our eyes and thoughts on Jesus is an important topic? Because we live in a very distracted culture. We are so distracted. There’s so much going on in our lives. We get pulled or pushed in a hundred directions, therefore, fixing our eyes and thoughts on Jesus is crucial.
But there is another reason for focusing on this topic this year. It’s our all-time temptation. We are tempted to rely on other things than Jesus; to fix our eyes and thoughts, to build our lives on the shifting sands of this world. In the case of the Hebrew Christians, they relied on their religious heritage. Yes, they converted to Christianity, but they also carried with them too much Judaism, too much rituals. In other words, they focused on the wrong object.
Focusing on the Wrong Object
Do you ever have trouble locating something that is right in front of you? Sometimes I have that problem when I am searching for a particular item in the pantry at our house. My wife, Margaret, will assure me that the can of soup I am looking for is there. I scan the shelves, move things around, and check the shelves again and again. Finally, I call to Margaret, “I don’t think it is here . . .” Typically, she will walk to the shelf and put her hand right on that can of soup! My response is usually something along the lines of, “Oh, there it is!” I simply had not focused on the right object, even though it was plainly visible.
The same problem can occur when it comes to our spiritual lives. Our attention can be so focused on the challenges surrounding us that we fail to see the available resources that are so vital to our spiritual well-being.
We find an example of that in an account found in 2 Kings 6. The country of Syria was at war with Israel. However, each time Ben-hadad, the King of Syria, planned a raid or an ambush, God revealed the king’s plans to Elisha the prophet. And then Elisha gave that military information to the King of Israel. This thwarted the King of Syria’s plans—not once or twice, but multiple times. Eventually, Ben-hadad figured there must be a spy in his midst who was relaying information from his war council straight to the enemy, and he demanded to know who the guilty party was. One of his servants responded that none of them were betraying his trust, but that the prophet Elisha was telling Israel’s King of Ben-hadad’s plans, even those that were discussed secretly.
In 2 Kings 6:13, Ben-hadad commanded, “Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him.” He was told that Elisha was in Dothan, so he sent a band of soldiers there with horses and chariots to capture the prophet. Since God was revealing military information to Elisha, wouldn’t Elisha be aware of Ben-hadad’s intention to capture him, just as he was aware of the king’s military moves? But that did not seem to occur to Ben-hadad, so he sent a detachment of soldiers by night to take the man of God captive.
2 Kings 6:15 states, “When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city.” The town was completely surrounded by the enemy. To this young man, the situation seemed hopeless. He cried out, “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” While the prophet understood his servant’s concern, he answered, “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” What a classic response of trust and confidence in God! Then in 2 Kings 6:17, we read that Elisha prayed, and said, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
Has the Lord ever helped you get your focus directed to the right place? Perhaps you faced a time when you were surrounded by “enemy soldiers”—problems and trials that seemed threatening in the extreme. Then, just when it seemed there was no hope, the Lord came down and opened your spiritual understanding. In a moment you no longer focused on the problems. Instead, you saw the “horses and chariots of fire” that were surrounding you, and you realized that God was in control!
This morning, we also ordained, installed, and commissioned our Church Officers, the Elders, Deacons, and Trustees who will be carrying out the mission and vision of this congregation. As your Pastor, I am praying for you today Elisha’s prayer, “Open their eyes, Lord, so that they may see.” May God open your eyes to see not the challenges, by the opportunities, not the power of our enemies, but the strength and might of our Lord. Amen.
 William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Louisville: Westminster Knox Press, 1957), 210-211.