Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12: 1-2 (NIV)
It would be the toughest baseball game of the year for them. Everything they had worked and hoped for was within their grasp. They were within one game of fulfilling their focus which had been in place since before the season began.
A record crowd of 5,783 partisan fans came to witness game two of the Super Regional in Gainesville, Florida a few nights ago. They came hoping for a University of Florida victory against arch-rival Miami which would propel them for the sixth time to the NCAA College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
From the Dizney Plaza framing the baseball field down the left field line—a favorite spot for family and little league team gatherings—all the way around home plate and on down to the very corner of the right field standing-room-only walkways, people were crammed within the confines of McKethan Stadium at Perry Field to cheer their beloved Gators on in their quest. There were even a few heads peering above the right field fence—reminiscent of childhood days when some of us couldn’t afford a ticket.
As a coach and as a collegiate baseball team, it’s what you hope for—a trip to Omaha and the College World Series in June each year. Nearly three hundred teams set out as baseball seasons begin across the country with that goal in mind—and only eight teams make it. It’s the focus for universities, coaches and baseball teams across the country—a trip to Omaha for the College World Series.
And that’s okay, in the right context. Because if we stop for a moment to think about it—nearly three hundred teams fail. And in many cases that failure begins to define them—and their coaches, players and staff—in the eyes of fans, athletic departments, the collegiate community and the world of sports. Forget all the other good that may have been accomplished—they fell short, they failed.
Should that define them? Should that define us? Or is there a bigger picture, a bigger point for our focus and for us to reach toward, for us to seek—which will define us?
The scripture above makes it clear that there is a focus which helps us to run with perseverance the race we will all face in so many different arenas. A focus which will energize and empower us to our best in all we undertake, but which carries us through and beyond the games we play, the problems we face and the temptations and failures we will experience.
Look, I don’t know what you’re facing in life—illness, broken dreams, your career is off track, a relationship has been lost or is struggling, the wind seems to always be blowing in your face and your legs are always wobbling. With the focus which the writer of Hebrews suggests, what we face will not matter, because what you and I will know—is that we are not alone. The One who loved you and me first, loves us most and stands with us. He has already run the race and crossed the finish line for you and for me and He sits watching, waiting, cheering and encouraging us on, through the games and valleys, over the mountains, and through the storms that seem to test, challenge, buffet and bounce us, sometimes temporarily causing us to lose our focus.
In the 1994 Winter Olympic games in Lillehammer, Norway, an American speed skater, Dan Jansen, was about to skate in the final speed skating event of those Olympics and most probably of his career—the 1000 meters. He was an American and world record holder, but in this, and previous Olympics he had never won the ultimate focus—the gold medal. In the 500-meter race in which he was favored, and which he skated two (2) days earlier, he fell. His family waited and watched from their seats in the stands—including his little baby daughter, Jane.
He won! The gold medalist in the Olympic 1,000 meters speed skating race!
And during his victory laps around the track he held his baby daughter Jane in his arms waving to the thousands of witnesses cheering the accomplishment of his first gold medal. And if you watched the face and eyes of his little daughter throughout those laps—you would catch a glimpse of the kind of focus the writer calls us to. Her eyes were fixed, focused on her Daddy—her head never turned from looking at him—despite all that was going on around her.
Facing the toughest game or moment of your day or life?
Focus on Jesus. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Lord of all there is, ever was and ever will be and run with perseverance the race set before you, remembering that He has already finished it and is with you as you go.
That will define you—and along the way you may still get to Omaha.
In His Name—Scott