By Pastor Glenn Pease
Vanna White, the glamorous star who turns the letter on Wheel Of Fortune, was a leader in her church youth group at North Myrtle Beach, North Carolina. Her pastor wrote about how he asked her, when she was a senior, what she was going to do after graduation. She responded that her dream was to become a model, and so she was going to modeling school in Atlanta. This is how the pastor reacted.
"Vanna, no!" I said. "Don't do that! Those schools will do nothing but take your money. Nobody ever gets a job at one of those places.You have brains! Ability! You could be more than a model!" She thanked me politely and said, "But I have this dream of going to Hollywood and becoming an actress."
"From North Myrtle Beach?" I asked. "Vanna, that only happens
in movies. This is crazy!"
He goes on to say, he is not surprised that her autobiography does not mention his ministerial influence. When David Lettermen asked Vanna about the most interesting men she has met, she mentioned only Merv Griffin and Tom Selleck. This former pastor ends his article by pointing out that Vanna makes more in one week on Wheel Of Fortune than he makes in a whole year of giving good advice to aspiring teenagers.
The whole point of this article in the Christian Ministry magazine is to call our attention to the fact that it is not wise to try and interfere with other people's dreams. They may not be what we want for them, but if it is their dream, and they have made it their priority, and their aim in life, we should support and encourage that dream if it is consistent with the will of God.
The key to happiness and success in the new year is to have a dream, and a goal to pursue. Without a dream or goal to motivate us we will just drift through the new year, and whatever we achieve will be a matter of chance and not design. God wants us to plan ahead, and to set some goals for life, and to work toward a designed growth. By His grace and providence we can grow and achiever positive things, even by just drifting along without a plan, but Scripture and history make it clear, the most successful people in the kingdom of God are those who aim for specific goals, and focus on them as a priority in their life.
Listen to the Apostle Paul who was a great achiever for the glory of God. He writes to his favorite Christians in Phil. 3:13-14, "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and striving toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Then Paul says in the next verse, "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things." In other words, this is not a personal Pauline perspective of no relevance to anyone else. It is the way all mature Christians are to look at life.
You start with an honest recognition that you are not yet all you ought to be. You do not have all God wants you to have. Then you forget the failures of the past, and do not get bogged down in grief and despair over what you can't change. You set your sights on the goal of Christian growth, and you press on to move in the direction of that goal. That is the plan for mature Christian living. A big factor in the plan is concentration. That is the source of power for progress. You cannot do everything in life. You have to make some choices. This is an agonizing process in a world with more good choices than men have ever had. But it has always been the case. Successful people are people who concentrate on doing something well. It might seem superficial to use Vanna White as an example, but the fact is she is the best letter turner in the world. When she was off the program to have her baby, they got another model to take her place. It was so conspicuous that it takes unique poise to do that job. Vanna is so smooth and graceful, but the substitute was awkward, and she made it clear that even the most mundane tasks can be done poorly or efficiently.
But let's look at a more sophisticated level of achievement. Fritz Creisler, who became a famous director of the Philharmonic Orchestra, began playing the violin as a boy. He was not good at all. At 14 he toured the U. S. with moderate success, but when he returned to Vienna he could not get a job as second violinist. He dropped the violin feeling he was a failure, and he took up medicine. He did not like that, and so he tried painting, but he was not content with that either. After a few more things he came back to his first love, the violin. He made up his mind he was going to succeed. He spent 8 weeks just practicing finger exercises. He went on to become one of history's greatest violin players. He could have spent his life going from thing to another, but he stopped and concentrated on an area of his life, and he became the best.
The problem with new year resolutions is that we bite off more than we can chew. We choke on it, and spit it all out, and decide change is to painful. We don't like to gag, so we give up. The solution to the resolution problem is concentration, or specialization. You do not aim to hit a multitude of targets, but just one. In other words, it is a new year's resolution, and not resolutions that will change your life for the best. There are always many areas of life that need improvement, but the best way to deal with them is by a focus on one.
The best way to clean a house is not all at once, but one room at a time. To clean the soap dish in the bathroom, and then run to the basement to clean the lint out of the dryer, and then up to the kitchen to throw out the over ripe fruit, and then into the bedroom to put on clean pillow cases, and then back to the bathroom to remove the dirty towels, is not the way to do it. Efficiency calls for focus. Get something done, and then move on to something else. To try to do all things at once is to never be done. Paul says, "This one thing I do," and not, "These 40 things I dabble at." To get something done you need to focus on something, and not everything. Focus on a specific goal you can achieve, or at least make significant progress toward. This is a way to happy new year. Light that is focused becomes a powerful laser. A falls that is channeled can produce great power. Energy has to be concentrated to be of value. Non-focused energy is like a flood, or a storm. It can be destructive, for it is not funneled toward a goal.
Look at the life of Jesus. He could have become a great political leader. He could have become a great poet, artist, or musician. He could have become great in many areas of life, and been the best of whatever He chose to be. But He did not use His many gifts to be a multitude of things. He focused on being a servant of the people. There was no big money in it, but Jesus was happy in His human life as the Son of God, for He was doing what He loved, and was pleasing God. That is the goal of life-to do what you love, and to please God. That was the essence of Paul's life as well. He suffered plenty, but he was a very happy man, for he loved what he was doing, and in this letter he is always rejoicing in the Lord as he presses on to those goals that please God.
You want a happy new year? Then make it a year of focus and concentration on doing what you love to do in such a way that it is pleasing to God. There is no higher happiness, for this is to taste of heaven in time. The life of Paul is summed up by himself in this one sentence in Phil. 1:21, "For to me, to live as Christ and to die is gain." You can't get any more focused than that- to live as Christ. Though it is true that Paul was a man of great variety, and his strategy was to be all things to all men that he might win them to Christ, we need to see that all his diversity was channeled to one goal, and that was Christ. Focus does not mean a lack of variety and diversity in life. It just means that all of life however diverse has a target. All is aimed in the same direction-the glory of Christ.
A Christ centered life does not mean you do not enjoy anything in life but the Bible, prayer, witnessing, and Christian services. It means you enjoy these and hundreds of other things, and all with the aim of pleasing God. Paul stated it so clearly in Col. 3:17, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Whatever you cannot do or say in the name of Jesus with a thankful heart to God is to be eliminated from your life; so that all you do and say are pleasing to God. That is the focus life that leads to a happy new year, and happy forever. The Christian who is committed to concentrate on some specific godly goal will make choices that eliminate those things inconsistent with the goal.
In the book Shadows On The Rock by Willa Cather, a French missionary who has left the high culture of his country to minister to the primitive people of early Eastern Canada, is being urged to go back to France. This is his response: "Thank you but no. I have taken a vow that will spoil your plans for me. I shall not return to France...No man can give himself heart and soul to one thing while in the back of his mind he cherishes a desire, a secret hope, for something very different. You...must know that even in worldly affairs nothing worth while is accomplished except by that last sacrifice, the giving of oneself all together and finally. Since I made that final sacrifice, I have been twice the man I was before."
If we are to be more of what God wants us to be, and make the coming year one of lasting happiness, it will be because we have chosen to sacrifice something in life to concentrate on other things that make us channels of God's love and light in this needy world. Get it out of your head that you can do many things, and concentrate on the reality that you can do something well for the glory of Christ.
Ghiberti was asked to make bronze doors for the baptistery in Florence, Italy. He took 21 years on this project, and they were illustrated with scenes from the New Testament. They made such a stir that he was immediately given the task of making another pair. He spent 27 years on these illustrating the Old Testament. He spent almost his whole life on two pairs of doors, but his work has been an inspiration to countless artists through the centuries. When Michelangelo saw these doors he said that they were beautiful enough to be the gates of paradise. He might have done hundreds of things with his gift, but he choose to concentrate, and by so doing became one of the immortals in the world of art.
Our happy new year, and happy forever, will be determined by how well we concentrate on beautifying the door of life, and that is Christ. For me to live is Christ, said Paul. He was devoted to using his life and gifts to make the door to the kingdom of God more attractive. One thing done well is worth many dozens of things done poorly. The first law of success in a world where a multitude of stimuli clamor for attention is, concentration.
It was no accident that God chose Paul to be the Apostle to the whole world of the Gentiles, and, thereby, expand the people of God to include the whole of humanity. God needed a man who knew how to concentrate to get such a work done. Everything He will do through you will also be because you learned to focus, and concentrate on a specific goal. Emerson said, "The one prudence in life is concentration. The one evil is dissipation." Carlyle wrote that the weakest living creature by concentrating his powers on an object can accomplish something; the strongest by dispersing his over many may fail to accomplish anything.
The point is, every Christian, no matter how ungifted they feel, has the potential to bless the body in some specific way, and their happiness and the health of the body depends upon each member discovering, developing, and dedicating their gift to the glory of Christ. Jesus loved Martha and Mary, but He gave the highest compliment to Mary because she had her life focused more. Martha was trying to hard to do many things. She had so many irons in the fire, and she was not a happy camper because of it. She was a nervous wreck because her sister would not join her in her self-imposed rat race. Jesus said, in response to her complaint, in Luke 10:41-42, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Mary was focused, and she was happy and content in her relation to her Lord. Martha was trying to be a super woman, and she was unhappy with herself and others. Jesus said, this was a matter of choice. Nobody forces us to give up a focused life to dissipate our energies in a dozen directions. Martha tried t get Mary to follow her in her folly, but Mary chose to concentrate on Jesus. She did not listen to the angry voice of her sister. She chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him instead. For me to live is Christ, she also said. What will your life say in the coming year? For me to live is fame; for me to live is fortune, or, for me to live is fun? All of these can be legitimate goals for the Christian if they are by-products of the highest goal, which is to live for Christ.
Vance Havner, the great American evangelist, and author of numerous books, considers this one of the most important lessons of life for Christians to learn. He wrote, "I am convinced that next to consecration comes concentration, and much well-meant devotion has failed because it dribbled itself away in too many ineffectual efforts instead of majoring on one thing." Jesus set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem, for He had a goal, and nothing could shake His concentration. A one track mind can be the track that gets you where you want to go. This one thing I do was Paul's motto. He had a one track mind. Vance Havner gives us this personal testimony.
"I have never forgotten something Dr. Torrey told me years ago. I was interested in a great many things then and getting no where at any of them. I was trying to preach and write and chop-talk and then I thought I would go in for music. He advised me to concentrate on one thing. Better do one thing well than half-do a great many things, -that was his position and he was right.
Here lies the Christian's peril and it shows up in the church at large. Never have we had a greater opportunity to minister to a needy world than today, and never has the church bungled its opportunity more miserably. We are pitching around, making a lunge first in this direction,then that, and breaking through nowhere. A lot of movements aiming at the same thing are overlapping each other, duplicating each other,busy trying to outmaneuver each other, but not making much impression on the enemy. If only the saints could get together and concentrate on one objective, we could make a breach in the devil's line."
As individuals and as a body we will make a difference in our world in the coming year only to the degree that we focus our energy on some specific goal for the glory of Christ. Our common goal is to be able to say with Paul, "For me to live is Christ," and, "This one thing I do." Each of us has to select some way we are going to concentrate to exhibit this commitment.
My challenge to you, and to myself, is to get serious about a specific goal you want to achieve in the coming year. Doing this will give us a future with a focus.