Pay Attention

During our childhood, my dad used to read Winnie the Pooh books to my siblings and me, and I have very fond memories of being curled up listening to him animatedly walking us through the adventures occurring in the Hundred Acre Wood.

Pay Attention

I was reminiscing about this recently and came across a quote from A. A. Milne:

Pay attention to where you are going because without meaning you might get nowhere”.

This struck a chord with me. As Christians, how prone are we to wandering along life’s pathways without true focus and purpose? Do we find at times that the intentional, purposeful decisions that are needed to keep living close to Christ start to slip? I confess that too often I find myself in this “nowhere” place.

God’s Word exhorts us time and time again to pay attention and live deliberate, considered lives. In Ephesians 5:15 (NASB) we are commanded to “be careful how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise”, and in 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NASB) we are reminded to “be on the alert, stand firm in the faith”. “Stand firm”, Paul urges, much like the vigilant soldier stands at attention; unwavering and watchful.

 The Lord Jesus Himself entreats us to “watch and pray”, acknowledging that our human tendency is weakness in the face of temptation (Matthew 26:41). He uses urgent and active language to spur us on to pay attention both inwards and outwards; to keep track of what is happening around us and inside of us, as well as having our attention directed above, in communication with the Father. Our Saviour often gave instructions which demanded action from His followers, and they come right down to us today on the pages of Scripture. In Matthew 6:33, He urges those listening to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”, necessitating focus and not preoccupation or inactivity.

As always, Christ is the ultimate example we can look to in seeking how to develop attentiveness in our lives. In his first epistle, John highlights the proof of knowing the Lord Jesus, relaying that “he who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). The Gospel records paint a picture of the Lord showing immense care and being involved in much activity. We see snapshots of Him speaking to a variety of individuals, groups of children, and large crowds; serving others, and meeting people’s physical needs as well as their spiritual ones. He spent time praying, fasting, performing miracles, and reading and teaching the Scriptures. He worked as a humble carpenter, and ultimately would walk that lonely path to Calvary to pay the penalty for sin. He could truly affirm, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49).

 In amongst these other activities, the Lord Jesus also told parables. In Luke 19 He describes a scene during which a master gives three servants ten minas (coins) each and tells them, “Do business until I come” (v.13). There was an expectation on these individuals to increase and make progress with that which had been given to them. Two of the men made more money to give back to the master, whereas one simply buried his and re-presented it with nothing more. This mina lay stagnant; no attention was given to it and therefore it went “nowhere”. The first two made progress, and were considerably rewarded for this. The lesson is clear: the Lord Jesus expects more than static lives from His followers. He commands us to faithfully serve Him until He comes, and there will be reward for this.

In A. A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner, Rabbit wisely reprimands his friend Eeyore; “you just stay here in this one corner of the Forest waiting for the others to come to you. Why don't you go to them sometimes?” Eeyore felt neglected by his friends, had been bemoaning that it had been “seventeen days come Friday since anybody spoke to me”, but had similarly been neglecting them. We need to be purposeful in our efforts to meet our friends’ and fellow believers’ needs, as well as the needs of unbelievers around us. Time and attention needs to be given to that great commission imparted to us by the Lord Jesus: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’” (Mark 16:15). The commandment is clear to “go”, echoing the Lord Jesus’ example of going out of His way to meet a woman at Samaria (John 4). The Lord Jesus and His disciples certainly didn’t stay in their “one corner” and neither should we; let us resist passivity and make concerted efforts to reach out to the people around us, and beyond, with the extraordinary message of hope found in the Lord Jesus Christ. Eeyore reflects, “‘There may be something in what you say, Rabbit,’ he said at last. ‘I have been neglecting you. I must come and go’”. May we have this same realisation, and the resolve to act upon it.

There is much for the believer to give attention to, but above all our vision should be filled with Christ. He is not just an example to follow, but our great Redeemer whose blood has purchased us and who continues to intercede and advocate on our behalf. The Hebrew writer appeals “therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1 ESV). This attentive consideration of the Saviour will produce an intentional, purposeful life in the believer. With the hymn writer, I urge you, and myself, to “turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face”.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB).