Back to school not only means pencils and books, or should I say I-Pads and laptops… more than tools for the classroom back to school means football season has arrived! I make this observation because as I was driving by a local High School last week I witnessed what I am confident were the finishing touches on the Football field in preparation for the upcoming season. Picture the scene with me… What I saw was a young man on a ladder staring upward at a well worn goal post in the end zone of the football field with a can of paint in one hand and a paint brush in the other… talk about focusing on your goal! It was quite obvious that the lad had his marching orders and fully equipped as he stood poised to conquer his assignment! With much to lead us astray, hamper the best of plans and blur the focus of our lives it is imperative we keep our eyes on what’s most important.
When I think of focus I think of Paul. In his letter to the church at Philippi I get a sense of determination that can and should be modeled by Christ Followers of today. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” “I press toward THE MARK,” Paul confessed. “THE mark!” So far as he was concerned, there was no other worthy objective; no other goal so compelling and rewarding. “The MARK!” Something identifiable, not vague. It was something he could perceive and understand. When his heart was fastened upon it, he adjusted the course of his life appropriately. Too often Christians “settle” for a walk with the Lord that is well below what He makes available to His people. As Abraham Lincoln prepared to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, he took his pen, moved it to the signature line, paused for a moment, and then dropped the pen. When asked why, the president replied, “If my name goes into history, it will be for this act, and if my hand trembles when I sign it, there will be some who will say, ‘he hesitated.’” Lincoln then turned to the table, took up the pen, and boldly signed his name. May no one ever say of us, “He Hesitated”. May they see in us a focused goal and a life that is determined to reach it.
The 1992 Summer Olympics featured an amazing picture of
determination. Unlike Carl Lewis and Daley Thompson, Derek Redmond is not a name that conjures up memories of Olympic gold medals. But it is Redmond who defines the essence of determination. Redmond arrived at the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona determined to win a medal in the 400. He had been forced to withdraw from the 400 at the 1988 Games in Seoul so when the 1992 Games arrived, this was his time, his moment, his stage, to show the world how good he was and who he was. Derek’s father Jim had accompanied him to Barcelona, just as he did for all world competitions. They were as close as a father and son could be, the best of friends. The stadium is packed with 65,000 fans, bracing themselves for one of sport’s greatest and most exciting spectacles. The race begins and Redmond breaks from the pack and quickly seizes the lead. Down the backstretch, only 175 meters away from finishing, Redmond is a shoo-in to make the finals. Suddenly, he hears a pop in his right hamstring. He pulls up in great pain, as if he had been shot. Jim Redmond, seeing his son in trouble, races down from the top row of the stands, sidestepping people, bumping into others. He has no credential to be on the track, but all he thinks about is getting to his son, to help him up. Then, in a moment that will live forever in the minds of millions, Derek Redmond lifts himself to his feet, ever so slowly, and starts hobbling down the track. Slowly, the crowd, in total disbelief, rises and begins to roar. The roar gets louder and louder. Suddenly, Jim Redmond finally gets to the bottom of the stands, leaps over the railing, “That’s my son out there,” he yells back to security, “and I’m going to help him.” Finally, with Derek refusing to surrender and painfully limping along the track, Jim reaches his son at the final curve, about 120 meters from the finish, and wraps his arm around his waist. Together, arm in arm, father and son, with 65,000 people cheering, clapping and crying, finish the race, just as they vowed they would. With a heart that is pressing toward God’s best for your life, you and I will finish the race with our heavenly father right by our side. Keep your focus in Jesus… make that your goal!