As I'm driving down a nearby street, I see two young girls playing croquet in their front yard. It's a simple game involving a wooden ball, a wooden mallet, and some wire hoops. The goal is to get the ball through the hoops in the right sequence — in both directions. The winner must also hit the ball against a centre peg. I haven't seen anyone play croquet in years; it's so old-fashioned that I can almost picture those girls in period dress from the late 1800s, with big bows in their hair and patent leather shoes as they gently hit the ball across a smooth lawn.
I'm not usually interested in any kind of sport, but I start wondering how many ways there are to hit, throw, or whack a ball under, over, or through a goal. Athletes want to hit a baseball out of the park, make a basket from centre court, or a hole-in-one from the tee. Tennis players want a golden set — won without dropping a single point. Bowlers, like my son-in-law, want a perfect 300 game — and the ring to go with it. There's even a game called pickleball, a variation of tennis popular with senior adults, in which the team must win by two points.
Winning any of these games might earn anything from a trophy to a simple "Well done!" But there's a better prize awaiting believers who strive for the goal that Paul talks about several times in his letters.
Philippians 3:13b-14 — Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
2 Corinthians 5:9 – So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. (NIV)
His goal is becoming like Christ and knowing God more fully each day. To press on means putting our hand to the plough and refusing to look back, learning to know God more intimately in our joys and our sorrows, and living in such a way as to bring others to Jesus.
I think that's a worthier challenge than trying to get a ball through a goal.
Prayer: Father, help us to live for You in such a way that others see You in us. Encourage us to seek out the right goals and to put our energies into what really matters — knowing You to the fullest extent. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Jesus Thou Joy Of Loving Hearts" (Lyrics)