(Portions of this devotional are taken–with permission–from an article written by Bill Graf of Rio Grande Bible Institute)
The story is told of a bloodhound who started chasing a deer but a fox crossed his path, so he started chasing the fox instead. After a while, a rabbit crossed his path, so the hound chased the rabbit. Later, a mouse crossed his path and the hound chased the mouse into a hole. The hound, which had begun his hunt on the trail of a magnificent deer, ended up watching a mouse hole!
Now, for those of you who are our age, that may sound like a typical day. We set out to look for our car keys or the TV remote and notice we left a coffee cup on a table, so take the cup to the kitchen, only to notice the sink had not been rinsed out after the dishes were done….and so the day goes. Sound familiar? Probably most of us face the problem to some degree of being distracted from what we set out to do. But often our lives become like that as well. We fall prey to the “tyranny of the urgent.” It isn’t so much that we are distracted to do bad things. It’s just that we find ourselves filling our time with good things that really have no value. The Apostle Paul, whom I’m sure was of like nature as we are, wrote to the Philippian believers: “…but one thing I do…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13,14). He also challenged the Christians at Ephesus to “walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15,16). Obviously each of us has only a limited time in which to live out our days here on earth before God calls us home. It is important that we spend our time and energy wisely, and not end up “watching a mouse hole!”
But how should we spend our time? What should be the focus of our life? There are so many causes to which to dedicate ourselves. There are so many worthwhile goals to strive to achieve. Plus we have responsibilities in this life too. We have to make a living to support our family, try to have an impact on our little world, take time for ourselves and continue to learn and mature. And of course, we need to discover how God has uniquely gifted us physically, mentally and spiritually and should train and excel in that which we are good at, shouldn’t we? After all, if I am a gifted athlete or musician or speaker, or artist, or…, just look at the opportunities I have to have an impact and be a role model for those watching. But in order to be that top-ranked athlete or musician or speaker or artist, etc. I am going to have to dedicate my time and my efforts to becoming the best I can be. This must become the focus of my life. But, could that lead to a mouse hole? That is an interesting question: how can I know if a trail is worthy of my time and effort to follow if I don’t know what will be at the end of the trail until I get there? How can I avoid embarrassment and regret at the end of my trail? How can I avoid sitting and watching a mouse hole?
How sad to hear the regrets of those who have scaled the ladder of success only to find it leaning against the wrong wall! How disheartening it must be to arrive near the end of the trail and find that you have been following a mouse! The years have been wasted, the reward has slipped through your grasp; how extremely sad, especially for a Christian. Even the Apostle Paul expressed concern that his life might just end up being that way. Note what he wrote in I Cor. 9:27: “But I buffet (discipline) my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” The word Paul used that is translated “disqualified” (“castaway” in the KJV), is adokimos (ad-ok’-ee-mos) which means “unapproved, castaway, worthless, disqualified.” It was used in reference to a “cracked pot,” which was not thrown away, but put on the shelf and no longer used. When you go back to I Cor. 9:24-26 to see the context of v. 27, you find Paul talking about running a race and running to win by staying focused on the goal and exercising self control in all things. You can’t allow yourself to be distracted if you are going to win the race. You have to remain focused. The same is true if you are going to win a prize fight. After all the rigors of training, when you step into that ring and face your opponent, you don’t go in there to shadow box. You focus on delivering every ounce of strength of your body right to the tip of your glove as it impacts the body of the opponent.
In His second letter to Timothy, Paul uses a couple other metaphors to describe the focused life. In II Tim. 2:3-6, we read: “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.” In addition to the athlete, Paul compares the Christian life to that of a soldier on active duty and a hard-working farmer. When you serve in the military, you can’t be engaged in other pursuits and interests while you are enlisted. You have to be prepared for immediate changes of location and sudden changes of plans. In the eyes of the military, you are government property. Even when you are on leave or liberty, you have to remember your commitment. You could be court-martialed even for getting a sunburn because that is destruction of government property and could jeopardize the safety of your unit, your ship, or your plane. You have to be totally focused.
So, does that mean that the only way to be a committed Christian is to be a pastor or missionary or to be in some other Christian vocation? Can you be a professional athlete, musician, artist, plumber, electrician, school teacher, nurse, engineer, etc, and still be focused on one main goal? Yes. God works as an “infiltrator,” by giving believers abilities and gifts to use in all sorts of vocations and walks of life. We are all to be disciples of Christ, but often come disguised as athletes, musicians, artists, etc. I think, for example, of Tim Tebow, who was born on the mission field in the Philippines. The doctors had recommended to his mother that she have an abortion because of the likelihood of complications, but, as a Christian, she knew that was not the right thing to do. Well, for those of you who know Tim’s story to date, he became a very gifted athlete who took his Florida Gator football team to the national championship. He won the coveted Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, and is now quarterback for the Denver Broncos. So, football must be the most important thing in his life. Right? Wrong, serving Jesus Christ is, and he has done so at every level along the way. His main goal is to glorify God.
You see, that’s the secret of not ending up sitting and watching a mouse hole. No matter what God has gifted us to do, He has called us to be His ambassador (II Cor. 5:20), to represent Him in every walk of life. All the trophies and awards and remuneration we receive along the way for working hard at what we do will one day be gone. They are just temporal things that will be left here when we die or are raptured. It’s only what we do for Christ that will last. The Apostle Paul said, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father…Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men…It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:17,23,24). In everything we do, we should have one purpose–to glorify God. In every relationship, every conversation, in every platform of influence, we should be focused on the goal of exalting Jesus Christ and pointing people toward a relationship with Him. In every one of our plans we should be focused on doing not our own will, but His.
So, don’t get distracted! Don’t end up sitting at a mouse hole when you started out pursuing a deer!