Keep your eye on the prize

By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston

“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”—Hebrews 12:1-3 (MSG)

Professional athletes often find success through their keen ability to remain focused in moments of high pressure. Certainly they practice and train to continually improve their skills, but the difference between a novice and a champion can come down to the ability to focus when it matters most.

Staying focused on what matters most can be a challenge. We live in a world where information is accessible with the simple swipe of a fingertip, and communication can be sent anywhere around the world in an instant. So much good has come from these technological advancements, but the information overload can also interfere with one’s ability to remain focused.

Perhaps it has always been the case that people of faith can find many things to distract from the mission of the church. Certainly we know it is true today. As United Methodists, we proclaim that our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Proclaiming God’s grace and mercy in our own lives and ministering in our communities in transformative ways can provide opportunities for us to help others grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. This mission requires us to serve with the discipline of athletes as we follow the example of Jesus who has gone before us.

In recent weeks, South Carolina and nearby states have been significantly impacted by natural disasters. Helping our neighbors recover from these devastating storms is one way we grow as disciples and transform the world. We live in a time of constant chatter about important and unimportant things.

In the midst of all that would draw our attention away from loving our neighbor, let us remember the 14,000-plus persons in South Carolina who are determining how they will repair their homes and where they will live. Let us remember the nearly 2,000 households who have already been on this journey after a previous storm and now must ask hard questions about whether to repair their homes again or to relocate.

Zig Ziglar said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” We can focus on the many things over which we have little control and remain distracted, flying low to the ground. Or we can focus on the difference we can make in the life of God’s people in our community, and whether that difference is great or small, we will soar as we run the race that God has put before us.

And at all times, we hold onto the promise that God’s love will triumph in the midst of loss and destruction.

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