I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14
Do you have any dreams about the future? Any unmet goals? If so, why haven’t you met them? Could it be because you don’t know how to get there? Or possibly because you think it’s just too hard? Maybe you think it takes time, which you don’t have, money, which you can’t spare, or knowledge or credentials that you may need.
Today at Celebration Church’s Difference-Maker’s Conference, Dr. Chuck Kelley from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary shared a verse with us that most of us have heard many times, but he put a new twist on it. The verse was Matthew 4:19, “Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” Most people know that in this verse Jesus was telling “simple” fishermen (not trained ministers or scholars) that they will be discipled by Him and they will become some of the primary founders of His church – a church that has lasted for over 2,000 years despite persecution and other barriers. They didn’t have any know-how or expertise, that’s not why they were called. They were called simply because Jesus saw something in them. And Jesus sees something in ALL of us!
The interesting twist to this verse was that we interpret “fishers of men” to be evangelists – people who build the church. And that is what it means. But Dr. Kelley said that the only training we need in order to be those evangelists, or to accomplish anything, is to FOLLOW HIM. He said note that the verse says “follow me AND I WILL SHOW YOU HOW,” or other versions say “I WILL MAKE YOU fishers of men. Following Jesus is the focus here. If we do that, everything else falls into place.
This reminded me that this is true for all of our goals and dreams. Sometimes we think of the STEPS we have to take, and we become overwhelmed. To be a doctor, you must do well in biological sciences, you must get an undergrad, then you have to take complicated tests to qualify for pre-med training, then you have to go to medical school, then internship. And school is very expensive. If you look at it that way, it seems almost impossible to accomplish. But if you want to be a doctor, then focus on the end result – your dream of being a doctor. You will still go through those hurdles, but you won’t be thinking about them or stressing about them as much – they are merely the steps you take to meet your goal.
This was true for me. I was a high school dropout, and I decided I wanted a college degree. It was hard. It was expensive. Without a high school education I failed remedial math TWICE. But I wasn’t looking at that – I wanted a degree – that was the goal and I crossed the necessary bridges when they were in front of me. As I crossed each hurdle, it melted away, until one day my dad looked proudly on as I walked down the aisle and got my diploma.
When we focus on Jesus and on the things of God, we will become more like Him. If we try to focus on “being good” for its own sake, we will probably fail. But if we focus on knowing and pleasing God, we will have more success. The same is true for all of our goals. So if you are feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, stop and remember your desired outcome — not on what you don’t know or haven’t done. Then walk confidently towards your dreams.