Pastor’s Ponderings: Focusing on the Goal

Posted by on Aug 20, 2021 in Pastors Ponderings | 0 comments

Big red apples that make us hungry, complements that make us proud, shiny objects that draw attention away from the goal. Sometimes it’s hard to focus.  But to win the first prize, we need to sear the goal line into our minds.  Looking to one side or the other and being distracted by things that aren’t the goal can knock us off target.

On 8/18/21 Pastor Jim reminded us of this truth with the following “ponderings” about an Olympian who failed to “press on to take hold of the goal…”


PLEASE READ: Philippians 3:12-14

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: 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.”

One of my favorite Olympic stories is an unusual yet wonderful story. When the Olympic Games were held in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904, there was an unusual entry in the Marathon…

A small mail carrier from Cuba named Felix Carvajal.   Carvajal announced one day to his fellow postal workers that he was going to travel to the United States and win the Marathon for Cuba. He did not have any money or financial backing, yet he quit his job with the postal service and began begging on the streets of Havana, seeking needed funds for traveling. He appealed to the people on the streets of Havana, “Help me go to the United States and win a race for Cuba.”  

No one took him seriously, but somehow he collected enough money for the trip. He boarded a boat and traveled to New Orleans where he promptly lost all his money in a night of gambling. From New Orleans, he hitched rides to St. Louis where he arrived hungry and was dressed in rags. Members of the American Olympic team befriended him and gave him some food and a place to sleep.

Carvajal had no running clothes and no running shoes, only heavy street shoes. He knew nothing about running and had no experience in track and field. Nevertheless, he cut his pants above the knees and wearing his street shoes, was at the starting line for the run. On this particular day it was a sweltering day; the heat and humidity were oppressive. One by one, many of the experienced and trained runners collapsed. It is reported that one particular American runner nearly died. Felix, however, being from Cuba, thought nothing of the blistering conditions. He went along the course well, and at times was laughing and sometimes even pausing to joke with spectators along the course.

With only two miles to go, Felix had a huge lead. He was running alongside an orchard and he spotted some apples. They fairly beckoned to him, and he stopped to eat some of them. They were green, and soon he was stricken with severe stomach cramps. He lost the lead, though he did come in fourth, doubled-over with pain. Of the thirty-one starters that day, only fourteen finished, and Felix was fourth among them.

What a story of having a clearly defined goal, and doing what is necessary to make that goal a reality. Yet at the same time, this story painfully reminds us of the dangers when we become distracted and do not put forth a level of commitment to God- First Priority or Last Resort?see the goals through to their completion.  If Felix Carvajal didn’t, perhaps, become over confident, if he didn’t stop to eat those apples, his goal is fulfilled and he would have won the gold medal. By allowing himself to take a side road, to become distracted on the road toward the goal, he lost the opportunity to become the very best. 

Oh to be sure, 4th place is honorable. But, first place was well within his grasp and he let it slip away.  He missed a golden opportunity.  This is why the Apostle Paul reminds God’s people, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 

In our daily walk with God through Jesus Christ, in our churches, may we press forward clearly following the goal God has set before us.  May we have such a level of commitment that we will not be distracted until we reach those goals.  Why settle for 4th place when God has called us to 1st place? 

Pastor Jim


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