What Are You Aiming At?

rifle-targetIt was the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece and Matt Emmons was shooting in the final round of the fifty meter, three-position rifle competition.  Matt, an expert shooter representing the United States, enjoyed a comfortable lead and was preparing for his final shot.  Taking aim, Matt squeezed the trigger and – bulls eye!  But wait – Matt shot at and hit the wrong target!  His score for the shot was zero!  Sure, he hit a bull’s eye.  But it was the target in the lane adjacent to him.  Rather than win a Gold Medal, Matt placed eighth.

How could this have happened?  How could someone with Matt’s level of skill make such a simple mistake?  Before any of us become too harsh with Matt, we ought to remember that many Christians make the same mistake every day – only with far more severe consequences.

Sometimes Christians place earthly wealth at the bull’s eye of their target.  They use their skills to amass financial treasures, thinking they will be set for the good life.  What’s the problem with this?  They forfeit the better life to come.  The  apostle Paul wrote: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Timothy 6:6-11).

Luke tells us of a man who had his sights set on the wrong bulls eye. He wanted Jesus to talk to his brother about dividing an inheritance with him.  Notice Jesus’ response: “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).  Later Jesus asked, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

Sometimes Christians place recreation at the bull’s eye of their target.  They’ll assemble with other Christians every time the doors are open.  That is, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their favorite pastime; whether it be hunting, fishing, baseball, football, or whatever.  What kind of lessons are we teaching our children when we give these things priority over God?  What kind of influence do we have on others when we expect God to take a back seat to our leisure?  What does it say about our own hearts?  As Christians, we must enthrone God above all else in our hearts.  Timothy wrote of those who are “Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;” (II Timothy 3:4).

Sometimes Christians place family or friends at the bull’s eye of their target.  Can it really be wrong to devote yourself to your family?  Can it really be wrong to give attention to your friends?  Certainly, if they come ahead of God.  How many times have you heard someone, when asked about not being at the worship assembly, say “Well, we had family in town and just couldn’t make it” or “We were going to but friends stopped by.”  Jesus said, “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:35-37).  Does this mean we are to “hate” our families or friends?  No!  But it does mean we are to love God more!

Friends, God must be at the center of our target!  Take careful aim – but be sure of what you are aiming at!

You Better “Bother About That”

“I live now on borrowed time, waiting in the anteroom for the summons that will inevitably come.  And then – I go on to the next thing, whatever it is. One doesn’t, luckily, have to bother about that” (Agatha Christie, British writer – novels, short stories, and plays, September 5, 1890 – January 12, 1976).

I suppose the first portion of this quote by Agatha Christie is, for the most part, accurate – it is inevitable that we will all one day experience death and be summoned to a life that follows our life on this earth (unless, of course, we are alive at the time Christ comes again, but only God knows when that will be – Matthew 24:36).  Unfortunately, the tone of her words is troubling and, sadly, shared by many today.  Although I admittedly know nothing of Ms. Christie’s religious beliefs, it would seem that she gave little thought as to what would happen to her after her life on this earth was over.

Ms. Christie said she would “go on to the next thing, whatever it is.”  Yet, because the Bible gives us a glimpse of that “next thing,” we don’t have to wonder what it is.  First, the Bible tells us that the end of a person’s life on earth is not the end of his existence.  The Bible tells us that Abraham gave up the ghost, died of a good old age, full of years, and went to be with his people.  (Genesis 25:8).  Man has a spirit that will exist throughout all eternity.  “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).  Solomon’s words do not indicate that all will return to God to spend eternity with him, but that all will one day return to God to be judged by him.  Second, the Bible tells us that those who do not obey the gospel will experience everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:41; II Thessalonians 1:8) while those who righteously follow after God’s will can experience everlasting life (Matthew 25:46).

Why would anyone think that “luckily, they don’t have to bother about that?”  Friends, we need to give attention to our future!  We must never take on the attitude of Felix who, when he heard Paul’s preaching concerning righteousness, temperance, and judgment, replied, “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25).  We must never allow the gospel call to go unanswered!  We must never wait until tomorrow to seek God’s forgiveness (II Corinthians 6:2).  We must always set our affection on things above, rather than on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2).  We must never surrender to Satan by becoming lazy or apathetic in regards to our Father’s business.  Too many “Christians” think the measure of their faithfulness consists merely of “sitting in the pews” and have allowed themselves to become lukewarm (Revelation 3:16)!  We must never bury the talent God has given us (Matthew 25:26-30).  I see too many Christians who have left their first love (Revelation 2:4), have simply quit laboring in the kingdom and have for all practical purposes “buried their heads in the sand.”

The eternal destiny of your soul is far too important for you to feel that “luckily, you don’t have to bother about that.”  On the contrary, give your soul all the attention it deserves!