Riverside Community Church

Look where you're going

Welcome to week 5 of “The Path.”

29 times, the book of Proverbs mentions the path or paths we are on.

Here are just a few. In Proverbs 1:15, Solomon is warning us about buddying up to people with questionable morals:

My son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths. That’s the path we don’t want to take.

In Proverbs 2:9, he talks about following the way of wisdom: Then you will understand what is right and just and fair … for every good path.

Those are the paths we do want to take.

A few weeks ago, we studied Proverbs 3:6: In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.

In Proverbs 4:26, he adds a nuance or supplemental principle to the principle we’ve been learning so far:

Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.

 

If you’ve been with us for all or most of the series, you know that the principles that are true in geography are equally true in all of life. Those principles are:

 

A. The Principle of the Path:

Your direction determines your destination.

This morning I want to add Solomon’s qualifier to this statement, one slight modification that I think you’ll agree is very true.

What gets your attention determines your direction, and, ultimately, our destination.

B. The Principle of Focus (your attention):

Your attention determines your direction.

Why was it that not long ago, the nation passed laws prohibiting people from talking on cellphones without some sort of hands-free device? Because they knew that if a person is staring at their phone, giving more attention to it than to the road, there’s a good chance they’ll steer themselves OFF the road, or maybe steer themselves into somebody else on the road.

What you give your attention to will determine your direction.

And your direction will determine your destination.

 

Mankind has known this for thousands of years because Solomon taught it to us 3,000 years ago in the book of Proverbs. Here’s his whole statement on attention. Read this out loud:

25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,

fix your gaze directly before you.

26 Make level paths for your feet

and take only ways that are firm.

27 Do not swerve to the right or the left;

keep your foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:25-27

 

In other words, “Our destination is determined by our direction, and our direction is dictated by whatever holds our attention.” The things that capture your attention will influence your direction.

The call of God on my life concerning church planting here in Peterborough captured my attention… which changed the direction of my life.

 

A few years before that, I met a girl at a camp in Muskoka who captured my attention in an even more dramatic way. This girl so captured my attention that I started spending my time dreaming up ways of capturing her attention. My attention was so diverted by that woman that there are now more people in this world because of our mutual change in direction.

 

Those are both positive examples of how attention influences direction, but I could give a few negative ones as well.

Like every principle, the principle of attention can work for us or against us. If you think for a minute, you’ll probably be able to drum up a half-dozen instances where your attention got diverted in ways you wish it never had.

 

All of us have people or events or opportunities in our past that reflect the much-more-frequent flip side.

  • Looking back, there are people you wish you had never met. Relationships you wish you’d never initiated. Numbers you wish you’d never called.
  • Voicemails you wish you’d never acknowledged. Business “opportunities” you wish you had ignored.
  • Life was better before these things grabbed your attention. In many cases, the path you were on before they came along was the path you should have adhered to. But you didn’t. And what grabbed your attention altered your direction.

 

Remember when common sense seemed to get railroaded by the emotion of whatever or whoever it was that grabbed your attention? Before you knew it, you were moving in an entirely different direction. Usually there is a strong emotional appeal to the things that grab our attention. We get sucked in to those detours because something emotionally engaging is on those paths. My observation is that the things that tend to grab my attention are often things I should avoid.

 

But often the things that grab our attention lead to regret. What captures our attention influences our direction. Attention, direction, destination. That’s the principle of the path in three words. As your attention goes, so goes your life.

Or, as Solomon says it:

25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.

26 Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.

27 Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:25-27

 

So far, we’ve placed two verbs in front of “attention.” One is positive: something captures our attention. The other is negative: something grabs our attention.

You and I do not have to be ruled by things that grab or capture our attention.

Unlike animals; we have a choice as to what has our attention.

 

C. The Principle of Choice:

You get to choose what you give your attention to. Which leads me to the two other verbs I want to give you. Besides “grab attention” and “capture attention,”

1. You can choose to give your attention.

2. You can choose to pay attention.

Here’s the key:

1. Emotions tend to fuel the things that grab or capture your attention.

2. Intentionality tends to fuel what you pay and give attention to.

On every path that leads to disaster or destruction, there is something powerful and emotionally engaging that summoned us; that grabbed or captured our attention. Which is why Solomon warns:

 

25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,

fix your gaze directly before you.

26 Make level paths for your feet

and take only ways that are firm.

27 Do not swerve to the right or the left;

keep your foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:25-27

 

Make a choice. Choose which direction you will go, and then fix your gaze directly on it. What you give your attention to determines your direction. And the direction you head in determines your destination. I want to ask you a sincere question: what has your attention these days?

  • Is it a relationship?
  • A career?
  • A house?
  • An enjoyable pastime?
  • Is it a person who is leading you somewhere you don’t really want to go?
  • Or a person who is leading you towards where you do want to go?
  • Is it your marriage?
  • Your children?
  • Your faith?
  • Is it an achievement you’re hoping to accomplish soon?

 

What has your attention these days? What captures or grabs your attention, or what you choose to pay or give attention to will determine your direction, and your direction will determine your destination.

 

Here’s a second question:

What do you want to have your attention? If you could only fix your eyes on one thing, what would it be?

Six weeks into this series, I want to make a suggestion to you.

The Apostle Paul described his approach to life this way:

Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

He follows that up by saying,

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things (Philippians 3:15).

 

Almost every book of the Bible describes this same focused life in some way.

The author of the book of Hebrews says,

We must pay more careful attention, therefore to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away (Hebrews 2:1).

Some of you here today drifted away from the faith for a while and you wonder how that happened. It happened because of the principle of attention. Your eyes, your attention, followed something other than God and you wound up drifting

away from God.

 

So this same author says, “Here’s what you need to do to stay on the right path spiritually.” He says, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3).

 

I like that verb, “Fix.” “Fix your eyes on Jesus.” Don’t swerve to the right or left. Don’t let your eyes wander. This is my suggestion for you: Don’t let your heart or your attention be captured by lesser things, focus your attention on Jesus, on following Him, getting to know Him better, serving Him fully, becoming like Him more and more every day.

 

Remember a few weeks ago when we read:

The prudent see danger and take refuge,

but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

Proverbs 22:3

Here’s a danger I hope you see. If you pursue anything less than Jesus, you may end up bowing your knee before him from a destination you never wanted to arrive at.

Which is why Hebrews 12:2 says, Fix your eyes on Jesus. He’s the path to heaven, the path to fulfillment, the path to purpose, the path to where you want to go.

Here’s the way He said it:

I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6)

Another word for “way,” is…? Path. “I am the way,” he said. “I am the path. Follow me. Follow me. Follow me.”

Because whatever you give your attention to will determine your direction and whatever direction you head will determine where you wind up.

You have a choice. You can follow Jesus, or you can follow something less. You can let your attention be grabbed by something that feels good for a moment, or you can give your attention to the one who will direct you all the days of your

life and on into eternity.

 

Which will you choose today?

Some of you have never chosen Jesus before. Maybe you’d like to choose to fix your eyes on him today. If you want to choose to follow Jesus, pray this prayer.

“Jesus, I believe that you are the way, the truth, and the life, and I am choosing to follow you today. I admit that I am a

sinner in need of a savior and I invite You to be mine.”

 

And some of you decided to follow Jesus a long time ago, and then you let your attention be grabbed or captured by something or someone else. Today is the day to correct that, don’t you think? Today is the day to say, “Jesus is the Lord

my God. I will no longer have any other gods before Him.”

 

 “Jesus, I know that you are the way, the truth, and the life, but I haven’t been walking your path recently. Today, I am choosing to put you first again. I choose today to fix my eyes on you and follow you. I purpose to walk your path again, and I’m serious about it.”

 

Next Steps:

1. Come back next week.

We have one more week, and it’s an important one. I want to talk to you about what to do when you realize that there is a “Road Closed” sign on your path and you won’t be able to reach the destination you were hoping to reach, martially,

materially, physically, or in some other way.

2. Fix your eyes on Jesus.

When you get up each day this week, talk to Him. Spend a few minutes alone with him, either in Proverbs or some other place in Scripture.

3. Pray for a friend who is not on the Jesus Path.

4. Link in to Riverside’s Facebook page and read the Scripture daily and pray the prayer that’s posted daily. And try to link one of your friends to us who doesn’t believe yet. All my sermons are posted weekly as well. They can use it to follow the Jesus path more fully as well.

 

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