His question intrigued me. I was in a crowded, college-town coffee shop with a friend, catching up over hot Earl Grey tea, when I overheard a conversation from the next table over.

“What does it mean to fix your eyes on Jesus? We throw around that phrase, but do we know what it actually means to look to Jesus?”

Introvert though I am, I had a hard time keeping myself from scooting my chair over and jumping in the conversation. I’ve heard the phrases “look to Jesus” and “fix your eyes on Jesus” plenty. I bet you have too, but until that moment, I’d never stopped to consider what they mean. What does it mean to “look to Jesus”?

It’s Not a Riddle

This phrase comes from a verse in Hebrews 12, a passage that offers hope in the midst of struggles. Like the men and women mentioned in Hebrews 11 who endured torture, persecution, and death, we too can “lay aside every weight” and “run with endurance the race set before us.”

Picture it like this: You’re running in a baton relay while being cheered on by a massive crowd of Olympic champions. They’ve been there. They know the strain of training and working hard. They can empathize when you stumble or drop the baton. They know the thrill and relief of crossing the finish line.

While these forerunners are a wonderful source of encouragement to us in our own race, they aren’t the actual focus of the passage. Verse 2 says to look to Jesus.

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

This takes us back to the original question posed by that college student and what I want to unpack here: How do we do this?

Get Rid of Distractions

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (v. 1).

What’s weighing you down? Where are you tempted to veer off course? Examine yourself by asking questions like:

  • What is keeping me from spending time in God’s Word? In prayer?
  • Is there any person or habit that’s consuming my thoughts and time?
  • Do I have an unhealthy dependence on my smartphone, my friendships, my significant other?
  • Do I care more about my GPA, my weight, or getting a new job more than I do about knowing and loving Jesus more?

Keep Your Eyes off the Storm

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (v. 2).

One morning at work, I was walking across the parking lot toward the office building and noticed an unusual sight. To my right were dark storm clouds looming behind the building. To my left was a clear, blue sky with only a few white, fluffy clouds scattered around.

Life is like that horizon, isn’t it? Fierce storms come upon us without warning. These could be storms of heartache, loneliness, or temptation. Instead of stepping back to see the big picture—to see that God is still in control, we get caught up with the dark, grim reality threatening to overtake us and completely miss the fact that the sun is indeed still shining.

So what or who are you looking at? If you don’t see Jesus, you’re inevitably looking the wrong way.

Consider This

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (v. 3).

Remember those men and women from history I mentioned earlier? They endured a lot of hardship and suffering in their lifetimes, yet they didn’t lose heart. They stayed the course and finished the race. How? By considering Christ’s sufferings.

Jesus set us an example when He endured an actual, physical cross and suffered excruciatingly for us. Yet He never once doubted or deserted His Father. First Peter 2 says that believers are called to suffer “because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (v. 21). If you’re struggling to find purpose in your situation, look to Jesus. That means to remember the redemptive work on the cross He endured for you.

Remove, Refocus, Remember

This is what it means to fix your eyes on Jesus. You don’t need a Sunday school poster of Jesus plastered on your wall. You don’t have to carry your Bible with you wherever you go. You don’t have to pretend life isn’t hard when it really is. You look to Jesus by:

  • Removing anything that’s standing between you and your relationship with Him.
  • Refocusing your attention away from the “storm” and back to the Son.
  • Remembering Christ’s shed blood on the cross and His example of suffering set for you.

How would you answer that college student’s question? Tell me about it in the comments below.

A version of this post originally appeared on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

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