It 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!