Like many churches in our River Region, we hosted a Vacation Bible School this year at the beginning of June. For a week, the sound of happy children filled our halls and classrooms as boys and girls learned Bible stories about people who had “amazing encounters with Jesus.”
The Sunday morning before Vacation Bible School was to begin, we dedicated our morning worship service to VBS. The sanctuary was already decorated, the boys and girls led the music (and taught the grown-ups all the motions), and I preached on the VBS theme. We also had a commissioning service in which we prayed for the army of volunteers it takes to put on VBS.
I loved this service for a lot of reasons, and not just for the fact that I got to preach in a T-shirt and jeans instead of my normal “business casual” Sunday attire. Let me share a story with you that I hope encourages you. It definitely encouraged me to remember that the lessons of VBS aren’t just for kids.
The motto for our VBS was “Zoom In! Focus On Jesus!” So I taught the entire congregation the same motions I taught the kids:
Zoom In: cup your hands to your eyes like you are looking through binoculars
Focus On: Put your hand to your forehead like you are shielding your eyes from the sun, and look left and right
Jesus: Point Up
A senior adult lady was in the congregation that morning. I’ll call her Mrs. Mary. Mrs. Mary had been dealing with health issues for about six months, and when I greeted her after the service, she didn’t look well at all. As it turned out, this would be the last worship service Mrs. Mary attended. She went into the hospital on Monday. On Wednesday, I visited her. She was connected to a ventilator, but communicated to her family and friends through a combination of written notes and sign language.
I prayed with Mrs. Mary and read some Scripture over her. When I finished, she did a strange thing. First, she put both hands to her eyes. Her husband and I assumed she wanted her glasses, so we began looking for them. But Mrs. Mary shook her head. Then, she put her hand on her forehead. Again, we didn’t get it. Her husband thought she had a headache. She shook her head again. And when she pointed to the ceiling, that’s when I finally understood.
Hands cupped to her eyes. Zoom in!
Hand on her forehead, shielding her eyes from the imaginary sun. Focus On!
Finger pointing to the sky. Jesus!
In that moment, Mrs. Mary was focused on Jesus. In that moment, Mrs. Mary was closer to seeing her Savior than I was to the soda machine out in the hall. A month later, when Mrs. Mary passed away, I know that the same Jesus she had been focusing on in her last days was the One that welcomed her home. I know that when she focused on that Son, she didn’t have to shield her eyes any more. She saw Him face to face.
I share this story with you for a couple of reasons. The first is to remind you that the lessons we teach our children are the ones we need to hear as grown-ups. We never outgrow our need to focus on Jesus. We never get over the encouragement of Hebrews 12:1-2: “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”
But the second is to encourage you. The pressures and problems of this world can get to us. They can wear us out and discourage us. But during those times of discouragement, zoom in, and focus on Jesus. He promises us that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:17-18)
James Jackson is lead pastor of Glynwood Baptist Church in Prattville. He enjoys reading, drinking ridiculous amounts of coffee, and helping create a place at Glynwood where “it’s okay to not be okay.” He and his wife Trish have two sons, Joshua and Caleb.