Recently I read an article called, “We Can’t Help Walking in Circles.” about a study done in by a German scientist named Jan Souman. Souman in this study and others took a group of subjects out to empty parking lots and open fields, blindfolded them, and instructed them to walk in a straight line. Some of them managed to keep to a straight course for ten or twenty paces; a few lasted for 50 or a hundred. But in the end, all of them wound up circling back toward their points of origin. Not many of them. Not most of them. Every last one. Dr. Souman reported, “And they have no idea. They were thinking that they were walking in a straight line all the time.” Dr. Souman’s research team explored every imaginable explanation. Some people turned to the right while others turned to the left, but the researchers could find no discernable pattern. As a group, neither left-handed nor right-handed subjects demonstrated any predisposition for turning one way more than the other—nor did subjects tested for either right-or left-brain dominance. The team even tried gluing a rubber soul to the bottom of one shoe to make one leg longer than the other. “It didn’t make any difference at all,” explained Dr. Souman. “So again, that is pretty random what people do.”
In fact, it isn’t even limited to walking. Ask people to swim blindfolded or drive a car blindfolded and, no matter how determined they may be to go straight—they quickly begin to describe peculiar looping circles in one direction or the other. This study shows we are prone to stray. And it’s true not just physically, but spiritually and morally. “If we can’t see landmarks” like the son, or the Son, “we really do end up walking circles.” We are prone to wander away from the things of God. How do we keep from wandering?
The author of Hebrews cites three ways to stop it or three ways to lock in.
- Focus on JESUS.
Look at verse 1. “…fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest who we confess.” Hebrews 3:1
To keep from wandering we must focus on Jesus. We must always remember who He is, what He has done and what He promises to do.
I can’t win a foot race by looking at my feet. I have to keep my eyes on the goal. And, if we are going to finish the Christian race we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. …the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2) I love how the old chorus puts it: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus—look full in His wonderful face—-and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
The next thing the writer says we should do is
- Listen to the Holy Spirit
7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts Hebrews 3:7-8 (NIV)
Please notice the urgency of this warning. Verse 7 says “today” which means now.
D. L. Moody referred to something he did in October of 1871 as the greatest blunder of his life. He was preaching in Farwell Hall in Chicago. His text that night was Pilate’s question at Jesus’ trial. “What then shall I do with Jesus which is called Christ?”(Matthew 27:22) At the end of his sermon Moody said he would give the people one week to make up their minds about Jesus. He then turned to his minister of music, Ira Sankey, asking him to sing. Ira sang a song entitled, “Today the Savior Calls” but by the third verse Sankey’s voice was drowned out by noise outside the hall. The great Chicago Fire had begun and the flames were even then sweeping through the city. The clanging of the fire bells and the noise of the engines made it impossible to continue the service as people ran for the exits. In the years that followed Moody thought of the death toll and said he wished that he had called for an immediate decision for Jesus. He wished he had not put it off for a minute.
The fact is, saying “Yes” to God’s will and the Holy Spirit’s leading is always an urgent thing. We must not let our hearts harden.
This is important because hearts that have become hard, become hearts that are no longer responsive to Jesus, they are the main cause of spiritual drift. A hard heart is like a car without a steering wheel.
Warren Wiersbe warns, “The heart of every problem is the problem of the heart.” Just like physical heart disease, the spiritual version is gradual. We can see that in the example of the Hebrews in the Wilderness (verses 9-11) They went from information to insubordination. They heard the spies’ report and rebelled. Then from insubordination they moved to iniquity. Then they went from iniquity to immovability. Their hard hearts got them stuck in the mud of disobedience. They refused to move on.
The more we obey God and His Holy Spirit the more we see Him enable us to do so. And the more we do that, the more we see His power and then the more receptive we are to His commands.
The third thing our text tells us to resisting wandering is this:
- We must is Encourage one another.
Look at verse 12 and 13,
12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Think of how much differently things might have been for the Hebrews as they got to the entrance of the Promised land if they had encouraged one another to trust God, instead of encouraging one another to return to Egypt. We need positive encouragement to keep us on course.
This is one reason being involved in a church of Biblically-grounded believers is so important. Isolation from the mutual encouragement of the body is a dangerous thing. When we are away from other anchored Christians we more easily succumb to the will of the world. Without that fellowship we are less likely to be transformed into the image of Christ and more likely to be conformed to the culture around us. When we are alone and unaccountable it’s tempting to take the easy course instead of the right course. We need to encourage one another to not wander, not just on Sunday but on every day.
There are amazing stories from each Olympics. A favorite of mine from the Rio Olympics came from the women’s 5000-meter event. As the runners were bunched up in the turn, New Zealand runner, Nikki Hamblin, lost her balance and fell to the track. American runner Abby D’Agostino tripped over her and fell to the track, injuring her knee. Hamblin was devastated, and momentarily thought about quitting. But she felt a hand on her shoulder. It was Abby saying, “Get up! Get up! We have to finish this race. It is the Olympics!” Then leaning on each other, they limped their way to the finish line. Neither won a medal, but they are winners in other ways because they realized the importance encouraging each other and the importance of depending on each other to stay the course and finish the race.
May you too stay the course,