World Communion Sunday, 10/2/05, P-20-A

“Focusing on the Main Thing”
Philippians 2: 2-13

Too many of us have too many targets: We really just have one bullseye to aim at, but we carelessly throw the darts as if we have many targets. Bystanders can get hurt sometimes. I saw a young girl pricked in the shoulder one Sunday evening at youth group as she was standing too close to the dart board and a boy, who quite possibly was looking at her and not the dart board, threw way right of the center of the board. He did not make a favorable impression on the young lady, or her parents. As the story goes they later made up and got married and to this day they are kidded by questions like, “Is Tubby still shooting darts at you?” And, “Sissy, may we see the scar?”

In Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi we hear him sharing how he had learned to focus on the finish line in life’s foot race. He looked forward to the lifelong run and although he was “not where he wanted to be yet,” he continued to “strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” (13-14, NLT)

Paul’s very practical advice comes out of tough years of living the Christian life through which he had learned that if he was going to stay true to his faith, and if he was going to show any improvement along the way, he was going to have to allow Jesus’ Spirit guide and empower him as he did his part by staying committed and on course in achieving his main goal of Eternal Life. Many of us have learned to live by this very simple principle.

The practical value in constantly being ready to go to heaven is that we do not know when “Those Golden Bells will ring,” so we must remain ready. In other words, we Christians constantly keep on running our spiritual lifelong marathon and stay ready at all times.

You may have read the obituary of a middle-aged tennis enthusiast who had shared with his friends and family that he had based his life on the principles presented in this favorite passage of scripture. He had applied these truths to his tennis, and he had won many tournaments. His life ended by an unwelcome disease in his forties. However, by keeping focused on the main thing he was able to accomplish many other things along the way.

In today’s world we call it “Multitasking.” We are juggling a lot of balls at the same time in order to do all that we are called on to do. Parenthood requires multitasking; it is a big job and there are many things that we have to do, sometimes more than one thing at once. However, if we live with the goal of one day achieving eternal life, and very much want to instill that goal into our children, we will more easily get the minor things done as we advance toward the one great goal.

Paul is calling upon the language of sports as an analogy to living out the higher life in Christ. Most people in the Mediterranean world were familiar with the events of the early Greek Olympic Games. Just as today, they threw a discus and heavy round shot; they threw javelins and ran short distance sprints. However, Paul is drawing the analogy of the extended foot race, the marathon, to the Christian life of keeping on running toward the goal in order to win the prize.   

Many of us learned to focus on the main thing through a camera lens. Seldom does an out-of-focus photograph carry the intent of the artist. A secret of good photography is to have a main subject in focus with the other parts just a little fuzzy. This principle is also true in our spiritual life; we do not have to keep our main focus in the center of the photograph in every shot, but the main focus is always there.  

Before Kodak introduced inexpensive small box cameras to families, consumers had to rely on formal portraits made in a studio, or by a roving professional. Later, pocket sized 35 mm cameras became available and millions of people soon learned to use focus, and creative depth of field to preserve wonderful picture stories. Unless your family has suffered a house fire or flood, precious memories are preserved through these photographs.   

During college I gradually learned that I needed to focus on the academic life. In fact, I caught on quickly that this endeavor would not be accomplished without my focusing all my efforts on coursework. Specifically, the thing that got my attention was a poor score on our first test in freshman World Civilization. Studying became my major focus and lifestyle which I soon came to enjoy and continue until this day. Focusing on reading and a lifestyle that includes studying is absolutely essential if one is going to stand in a pulpit and attempt to speak for God.

This principle is true to whatever your vocation might be. If you are a long-distance truck driver you have to spend many hours focusing on the road immediately ahead; however you can also listen to the radio and recorded music as you drive along busy expressways. Truckers have told me how they spend a lot of time praying, with their eyes open, as they drive. All of us use drive time as a time to think things through. Indeed, psychologists point out that we spend most of our days walking around talking issues through with ourselves. But Christ is ever in the background guiding our conversations and thoughts.

Too many of us have too many targets when all that we really need is the one great goal that makes all other goals fall into their natural place.

And when we are focused on attaining Glory, we are also focused on living out our daily lives as Jesus would want us to. Thus, our marriage, our family life, our careers, and our social and church life are all focused as one who is running toward the goal of the joy of heaven. This awareness of Glory keeps us true to Him. All of life is built around our salvation. We live like folks who have the most wonderful forever awaiting.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
World Communion Sunday, 10/2/05, P-20-A