Back to school not only means pencils and books, or should I say I-Pads and laptops…it means 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 was the finishing touches on the football field in preparation for the upcoming season. Picture the scene with me… 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 paintbrush in the other. Talk about focusing on your goal!
It was quite obvious that the lad had his marching orders and was fully equipped as he stood poised to bring the goal post back to life once again! With much to lead us astray blurring the focus of the what’s truly important in our lives, it is imperative we keep our eyes fixed on the goal. Truth is, everyone is focusing on something in life.
Being goal focused reminds me of the words of the Apostle Paul in a letter he wrote to a church in Philippi sharing the sense of determination that can and should be modeled by Christ Followers 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 anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.”
I press toward the mark, Paul confessed. So far as he was concerned, there was no other worthy objective; no other goal so compelling and rewarding as 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.
According to the Smithsonian Institution, when the moment arrived for signing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, President Lincoln’s schedule had already been crowded. His New Year’s reception had begun at 11 a.m. For three hours, the president greeted officers, diplomats, politicians and the public. Only then did he return to his study. But as he reached for his steel pen, his hand trembled. Almost imperceptibly, Lincoln hesitated. “Three hours of hand-shaking is not calculated to improve a man’s chirography,” he said later that evening. He certainly did not want anyone to think that his signature might appear tremulous because he harbored uncertainty about his action. Lincoln calmed himself, signed his name with a steady hand, looked up, and said, “That will do.” 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. This was his time, his moment to show the world how good he was. Derek’s father Jim had accompanied him to Barcelona, just as he did for all world competitions. The stadium packed with 65,000 fans, bracing themselves for one of sport’s greatest and most exciting spectacles. The race begins and Redmond quickly seizes the lead.
Down the backstretch 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. Suddenly, Jim Redmond finally gets to the field and 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, Jim reaches his son at the final curve, about 120 meters out 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 on Jesus… make that your goal!
Tim Throckmorton is the Midwest Director of Ministry for the Family Research Council
Midwest Director of Ministry for the Family Research Council in Washington