In summer 1993 I was challenged by three Baptist preachers to play my first game of golf. I tried to explain that I had no interest in walking around after a little white ball. After considerable argument, my friends finally talked me into riding in the golf cart while they played.
When we arrived at the pro shop, they started in on me again. They announced to the entire audience in the pro shop that I refused to play because I was too cheap. I was so embarrassed that I caved in and rented a set of clubs.
I was, of course, the last one to tee off. I remember teeing the ball up, taking a great big swing and – missing the ball. Amidst the loud laughter of my preacher friends, I took another swing and -– promptly missed the ball again.
After my third miss, Mr. Harry Vernon, the principal of Carver High School, walked up to me and said, “Rev. you can’t hit the ball if you don’t keep your eyes on the ball.” I took his advice and kept my eyes on the ball as I swung – hitting my first drive off the tee box.
In life, we are often tempted to take our eyes off the ball while still believing we’ll be able to hit the ball. I don’t think our eyes are on the ball. In fact, our eyes are so focused on the economic storm around us that we forgot to keep our eyes on God’s work in this world. We spend more time arguing over personal desires than seeking what God wants us to do. We talk more about what we don’t have rather than seeing God’s abundance all around us. We look more at “What’s in it for me?” than “What’s in it for God?” The result is, we don’t see those opportunities to partner with God, to bring his reign into the lives of so many.
We don’t see new people moving into our spheres of ministry and influence. We don’t notice the people in our pews who desire to serve the Lord and his people. We look past the crowd of children playing outside our church doors. We don’t see how we could use our money to send kids to camp, where they can experience the beauty of God’s creation.
We miss using our money to help newly called preachers go to study God’s word. We miss using our money to provide opportunities for people with AIDS to experience God’s love. We miss using our money to reach people in pain or to help them find church families.
We miss using our money in ways that will outlive us. We must keep our eyes on the ball. I challenge you to stop thinking, “What’s in it for me?” but to ask again, “Lord what would you have me do to glorify your name?”
A good way to illustrate my point is through my Sept. 3 column on health care. [“Bishop addresses health care debate: "I don't have that luxury."] After seeing the many responses to that article, I was amazed that no one thought of offering new health fairs at their churches or encouraging their communities to practice preventive care. No one wrote to say that maybe we should set up free clinics or invite medical professionals to speak at our Wednesday night gatherings. Instead of arguing about health care, we should be teaching our people how to live healthier lives.
If we could only keep our eyes focused on personal salvation and social holiness, we could drive the ball a long distance. Remember, keep your eyes on the ball.