Summary: Don’t stop after clearing a hurdle. Keep going till you finish the race.
The 110M Hurdles
Does anyone here make out these little “To-Do” lists? You know, we’re busy people and we have so many things going on that we can’t remember them all and we need to make a list of things that need doing throughout the day. Call Aunt Jane, laundry, pick up Billy at piano, take Julie to soccer practice, more laundry, groceries, pick up Julie at soccer practice, defrost the fridge, change the oil in the car and rotate the tires.
Then AFTER breakfast………
For those of you who make these lists, do you always complete your list everyday, or do you sometimes have to carry over some things to the next day? If you seldom complete your list, then I guess you could say that these things listed are more like GOALS that you would like to accomplish. These are things that you shoot for, HOPING to finish.
When you have a long list of jobs to do one day and you actually get them all done, how does that make you feel? Didn’t you feel great? You’re thinking, “I did it! I got everything done that I wanted to get done today!” It’s a great feeling. It’s an occasion for joy. I’ve been there and crossing off everything on my “to-do” list feels good.
THEN……dum-de-dum-dum: tomorrow comes! And all those things you accomplished YESTERDAY mean, what? Not much. Those goals you met yesterday mean nothing. That’s old news. Today brings new goals, new challenges. And you have to start all over, setting new goals.
That’s the bad thing about goal-setting. You always have to come up with new goals when you meet the ones you’ve already set. That’s life. Everywhere you go in life, you’re gonna have goals, placed on you by yourself or others. You all went through school. You know what I’m talking about. You may have been told, “You did a great job in fourth grade. You passed your tests, met the goals the state mandated, made the honor roll. You did such a good job meeting the GOALS of 4th grade, we’re moving you up to 5th grade, with new goals, tests, challenges.
You meet those 5th grade goals, well then, we’ll just move you up to 6th grade, 7th, 8th, and so on. You can’t rest on your laurels. There’s always a new challenge, a new GOAL to try to attain.
It works that way in life, too. This year you’re the top salesman in your region. Great Job! Congratulations! What is your company gonna do? Why, they’re gonna raise the bar. You had $100,000 in sales last year? This year we want $110,00 in sales. Go get’em, Tiger!
Now, that’s good in a way. We have to keep striving to improve. We need that carrot out there in front of us, motivating us to run faster, jump higher, practice longer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals. We need the incentive. The problem arises when we reach the goal before us and are satisfied.
We see this over and over in sports. Oh, I’m not saying it never happens, but rarely do you see sports teams win a Super Bowl or World Series one year and then win again the next year. The first time the hunger is there. They want that recognition as the “best in the world”.
Then, next year, they get knocked off their pedestal. They get complacent, thinking, “Hey, we’re World Champs, we don’t have to work as hard.” Of course, other teams are gunning for them, too. They want to take their best shot at the champions. This reminds me of an old western I saw where the aging gunfighter was called out by some young gun itching to make a name for himself. The old gunfighter loses and the kid is now the “fastest gun in the west”. And before he dies the old gunfighter tells the kid, “Good luck, kid. Now everybody’s gonna be gunnin’ for you.”
We can’t allow ourselves to become satisfied with accomplishments. We need goals to keep us motivated toward improving. This is what Paul is telling us in our scripture for today and I think he must have been a sports fan because he uses the image of a runner in a race. In a race you don’t stop and congratulate yourself or pat yourself on the back for leading the most laps. You keep running till you cross the finish line; “straining forward to what lies ahead.”
When I was working on this sermon, the image of life being a race like the 110M hurdles kept coming to mind. The runner starts the race with their gaze straight ahead toward the finish line. When the gun goes off the runner takes off like a rocket, just flying down the track. After a few steps, this thing pops into their consciousness, and they think, “Whoa, what is this thing doin’ in my way? I’m gonna have to hurdle over it to continue the race.” So they jump over the hurdle and continue on. Then what? You got it. Another hurdle. And another, and another.