Looking up: Finding and keeping perspective as a Christian

cross atop a steeple

“…the world has no charms for me when I look up, but the trouble with God’s children is they do not look up enough.” – D.L. Moody

After spending the bulk of my career in biblical higher education administration, I had become a bit jaded. Working in distance education, being under constant pressure to produce results, and dealing with the inevitable flair ups that came with trying to navigate a diverse array of institutional stakeholders had taken its toll. Even after moving into a position outside of distance learning to oversee residential education, I didn’t exactly find greener pastures. As much as I tried not to succumb to the urgent situations around me, I wasn’t always able to stay focused on what was important.

Looking back, I realize that much of my frustration was due to my own lack of discipline. When I came to faith in 1997, I was fiercely independent. I had no interest in receiving help from anyone, including God.

While God has used that independence to shape me into His disciple, my unwillingness to accept the help of others and my drive to accomplish as much as I can through my own strength led me away from cultivating a vibrant prayer life. Because I didn’t understand how to depend on God outside of a crisis, I didn’t have the resources to depend on Him during a crisis.

Over the past two years, my family and I have made a number of changes. My wife and I both switched jobs, we moved to a new town and a new church, and I’ve been diligent about carving out time to write both my blog and my book. The result of these changes is that I have learned to “look up.” Moody Center leadership and staff spend the bulk of our Monday morning meeting in prayer and devotion. Our small church focuses on the word, on prayer, and on community. And the process of writing my blog and Thinking Christian gave me the space to engage in the slow, deliberate activities that underscored for me the importance of quiet, prayerful participation with the Lord.

Perhaps most helpful of all has been the opportunity to delve into the work of D.L. Moody. Beyond being rather quotable, Moody offers a spiritual maturity and depth that has encouraged me to develop a more dynamic life of prayer and worship. In one of his letters, D.L. Moody writes, “…the world has no charms for me when I look up, but the trouble with God’s children is they do not look up enough.” Reading those words highlighted just how little I was looking up. Caught in the urgent needs of the day, fighting my own messiah complex, and being distracted by thoughts of success and failure, the world’s “charms” seemed more important … more real … than God.

Despite his demanding schedule and extraordinary success in ministry, Moody was a man who looked up. His insights on prayer, worship, and the power of the Holy Spirit were not just academic. They were the fruit of a life spent looking up. Moody could say that “the world has no charms for me when I look up” because he had learned to gaze above the temporal rewards of this life in order to see the enduring worth of following after Christ. He could say, “the trouble with God’s children is they do not look up enough” because he had experienced God’s blessing. That blessing was not found in his ministry successes but in participating with God and His work in the world. It was not in seeing an auditorium full of attendees or a school full of young men and women. It was in the deep, abiding knowledge that heaven lay ahead for those who proclaimed Jesus as Lord.

Lord, help us to look up more often that we may, with Moody, be able to say “the world has no charms for me.” Amen.

JAMES SPENCER, PHD is President the D.L. Moody Center, an independent non-profit organization based in Northfield, MA, and author of Useful to God: Eight Lessons from the Life of D. L. Moody and Thinking Christian: Essays on Testimony, Accountability, and the Christian Mind

Photo credit: Brett Sayles