Once upon a time, a man was transferred to a new city and being a Christian, he began the difficult, but rewarding process of looking for a new church for him and his family. He visited three churches before deciding to become a member in one of them.
On the first Sunday, he arrived at a church on the outskirts of the city. The first thing he noticed was that everyone in that church was extremely obese and glued to their pews. No one came to greet the family; in fact quite a few of them looked at the newcomers with disdain.
The worship service was rather dry and uninspiring (only a few people sang), and the sermon while orthodox and biblical, lacked energy and vitality. It reminded the family of a fundamentalist church they had visited before.
At the end of the service, the youngest in the family asked his father why was everyone so obese. The dad replied, “It is because they are gluttons for the Word, but are too lazy to apply it to their lives”
The next Sunday arrived, and the family visited another church. This congregation was very active and lively. The music and the preaching were dynamic, but the message was lacking biblical flavor. In addition, this mega-church had all kinds of “ministries” and activities for every possible age group or special needs.
The family noticed that in this church everyone was extremely skinny, almost anorexic. The father explained to his family that this condition was the result of too much labor and very little feeding. In this sense, they were the complete opposite of the first church. They had the committees, the activities and the ministries, but they were undernourished with the Word.
When the third Sunday came, the family had almost lost hope of finding a good Bible-believing, Bible-preaching and Bible-applying church. Notwithstanding, they made one last effort after much prayer and deliberation.
As they entered the sanctuary, they were greeted sweetly and softly by several believers at the door. While they were being ushered to their seats, they were impressed by the welcoming faces and by the reverence that was evident in this holy place. Some were praying, others were reading the Bible and some were greeting each other quietly, while the musicians made last minute adjustments.
Was the church perfect? By no means, but they knew that God was in this place. Their suspicions became reality as they experienced a vibrant worship service that was saturated with love, joy and the Word of God.
The great majority of the church members were in great shape.
The moral of this parable is clear. The Gluttons represent those who hear (and know) the Word and do almost nothing with it (James 1:23, 24). The Bland are like Martha (Luke 10:38-42), in that they forget the Word when they serve. The Upright are those that hear, do, live, love and apply the Word.
What is the difference between a good and a great chess player? Well, other than natural talent and years of practice, focus or intense concentration is responsible for success. A chess master has only one goal: Play chess; learn more about chess; study every chess move and all its different variations.
A world class bodybuilder spends hours every day at the gym. A chess master devotes the same amount of time to the game. You can probably say the same about professional athletes, expert musicians and famous actors.
Single mindedness and intense focus is vital to become great in any enterprise. This focus and dedication is what shapes our talents, gifts and skills into a formidable force on the way to success. Most of us have the talents and the potential to achieve great things, but most of us lack the focus, effort and dedication necessary to attain our goals.
To put it simply: To win the Prize of success we must pay the Price of suffering.
The Bible has a thing or two to say about focus:
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3)
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2)
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2)
Jesus called his disciples and is calling us today, to follow Him. The only way we can do that is if we focus our minds, eyes and hearts on Him. The Christian way is narrow, the trials are difficult and the dangers are real; but our Savior has left his footsteps for us to follow (1 Peter 2:21) and his Word is a “lamp to my (our) feet and a light to my (our) path.” (Psalm 119:105 emphasis added).
Ours must be a laser focus and devotion. As the laser is one single beam of light pointing into a single direction, we must focus all of our attention upon Jesus. Perhaps we can learn from the apostle Paul in this regard. He learned to focus and to do just one thing:
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14).
The “one” thing we must do is to forget the past, focus on the Lord Jesus and finish the race.