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
"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
"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.