By Roc Collins
Director of Strategic Objectives, TBMB
From my early years of little league through high school, no matter what sport I played, I heard a common message from all my coaches.
Whether it was on the diamond, the hardwood floor or the gridiron, coaches would say it over and over. “Keep your eye on the ball!” Don’t look at the opponent’s eyes. Don’t second guess the play. Don’t get distracted by the crowd, the banners or the venue. Keep your eye on the ball! We’ve all seen what happens when an athlete fails to keep his eye on the ball.
The football crashes off the back of the wide-receiver’s helmet in the end zone. The no look pass ends up bounding off the ear of the teammate. The baseball rolls slowly between the legs of the shortstop. It’s embarrassing, especially if it happens on national television.
You can almost hear the eviscerating shouts of exasperated coaches and fellow players: “Keep your eye on the ball!” No matter how many times a player enters the arena, forgetting the basics remains a threat to victory and excellence. I’ve thought about that phrase over the past few months. As Christ-followers and leaders, we must keep our eyes on the ball. We are often distracted, especially in the midst of this chaotic year of 2020. We have been surrounded by distractions that could easily sabotage our mission. As Yogi Berra would say, “We’ve got to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Let’s remind each other that we have been called to do eternal things and we have enemies that crave our attention. The devil’s minions are in the stands as we walk up to the line to shoot. They have signs, noise-makers and gestures galore. They bounce up and down like the Duke cheering section and they want to be noticed. It seems like they’ve been working overtime, doesn’t it?
We face many distractions. We must never forget that the main thing is the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and our compelling challenge to share the gospel. Here’s a short list of distractions all believers are facing today.
The distraction of politics: The right will never be right, the progressive will never progress, and the activist will never be activated without a focused view of God’s glorious gift of salvation and a passion for fulfilling the Great Commission. We must keep our eyes on the ball. I believe there may be some that listen to their favorite news outlet more than they listen to the Word. There is only one person that can make sense of the mess we find ourselves in as a nation and as believers. We must focus on Him.
The distraction of the pandemic: The news on any network would seduce us into believing that the coronavirus is our biggest foe. We need to act wisely, but I would submit that our greatest enemy has a much more deadly virus which leads to eternal destruction. Don’t be distracted, even if it’s a pandemic.
The distraction of prejudice: Our prejudice is our unwillingness to see every person as one created in the image of God. This can’t happen. If we don’t view people as image bearers, we aren’t keeping our eye on the ball. Racial reconciliation matters to God and it should matter to us, too. If we are unwilling to love radically and carefully listen, we will allow our own sinful prejudice to distract us from the ministry of reconciliation. We are to reconcile to others and be reconciled with God. We can’t do one without the other. If the church can’t rise above its own prejudice, nobody can.
The distraction of panic: We also contend with the fatal distraction of fear. We have feared disease, rioting, financial downturns and an uncertain future. What happens when we are distracted by fear? We pull back. We circle the wagons. We fail to risk. The greatest antidote for fear is a relentless conviction to carry on, to love despite the consequences, and to give foolishly. We’ve seen so many of our churches do this as they have sacrificially given through the Cooperative Program in the face of their uncertain future. God blesses this kind of foolishness. He adores it! It represents a trust that God is still on the throne and we are keeping our eye on the ball.
The distraction of passivity: The distraction of fear also wreaks havoc on our willingness to share the gospel. We can become passive in our evangelism. The enemy would have us see the opportunities for gospel proclamation decreasing. Our nation is becoming more and more godless. We might be deceived into believing that it’s worse than it’s ever been. But let me remind you of a handful of believers in the first century. They went from living under ground in caves and catacombs to the most dominate faith community in the span of a century.
They were under far more persecution than we are today. They were cast into arenas of hungry lions and yet they roared out the gospel with such passion that it turned the world upside-down. Would to God that we would not be distracted by our fears, but rather emboldened by our faith!
Jesus is at work. He is on the move, and He’s looking at the church. He’s challenging us to cast off those things that beset us — our pride, our prejudice, our fear, and our safety nets. Don’t let these distractions cause you to take your eye off the ball. Don’t fall. Don’t fear. Don’t faint. God always takes care of His church. Let’s boldly go forward with a passion for the gospel, a heart of generosity and a mission to win Tennessee for Jesus.