With one bullet left to shoot in the 2004 Olympic 50-meter three position rifle competition, all Matt Emmons needed was a score of 7.2 to win his second gold medal at the games. On his first nine shots in the competition, Emmons lowest score was a 9.3. He took aim, fired…bingo! Matt Emmons had won his second gold medal. But wait, no score registered on the electronic scoring device for his lane. Emmons turned to officials to let them know that there must have been some sort of error. “I shot” he said with a quizzical look as three officials in red blazers approached. The officials went back and huddled briefly before announcing that Emmons had done something extremely rare in elite competition, he had cross-fired into the wrong lane and had therefore been awarded a score of zero. Shocking! Instead of his second gold medal, Emmons finished in eighth place. When officials checked the wrong target they determined that Emmons had scored an all-for-naught 8.1. Great shot, wrong target.
So what can we learn from this story and how does it apply to our lives? Just like Matt Emmons, there are times when we can sincerely and unknowingly aim at the wrong targets in life. We take aim and powerfully focus our attention on financial and material success, career advancement, portfolios, homes, entertainment, physical fitness, leisure, or our kid’s activities. All good, legitimate things…just not the right target. But I had a great shot, I hit the target. I got an 8.1. So the goal of life isn’t to be successful? I guess it depends on how you define success. Jesus knew these challenges of PERSPECTIVE, PRIORITIES, POSSESSIONS and PEOPLE well and in one of his first sermons shared this powerful truth, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20) Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven? Wow. How do you do that? What does that target look like?
Jesus continued to talk about this subject through another story in Luke 12:13-21, “Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” This man was unknowingly aiming at the wrong targets. How could he have moved his aim a little to the right to get the right perspective and hit the right targets?
1. Realize there are two realities: earthly and heavenly, temporal and eternal. One lasts a short amount of time and one lasts forever. Which one do you think is most important? Yep, the one that lasts forever.
2. Realize that we don’t take any of our “earthly prizes” with us. Our homes, cars, boats, degrees, wardrobes, accolades, etc… don’t go with us.
3. Realize what does last and what we can take with us. Things like our relationship with God, the people we win/influence to Christ who receive eternal life, the disciples we pour into, and the redemptive Kingdom works that God allows us to participate in our community and around the world. These things all last and cross the threshold.
4. Lastly, chose now to begin investing your time and resources into the eternal targets. We don’t want to look up someday and realize our 8.1 didn’t register.