A challenge often given by a coach to his player(s) is “Stay focused,” encouraging them to keep their mind fixed on their goal. When I was the head tennis coach for our high school team, I would share a proverb with the team each week. One of those proverbs I used as the basis of a New Year’s challenge to the congregation at our home church yesterday as I filled in for the pastor. The proverb and challenge: “As you travel down life’s road, may this ever be your goal: keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole.” In other words, focus on what is of value, what will last, what will be productive.
The Apostle Paul, who definitely “stayed focused” on the ministry God gave him as the missionary to the Gentiles (as well as to his fellow Jews, see Acts 9:15), wrote this to the Philippian church which he established in Macedonia (Greece) on his second missionary journey: “…but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13,14). Paul, remember was initially known as “Saul of Tarsus,” was “of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless” (Phil. 3:5,6). But then, as he was headed to Damascus to persecute Christians, he had a dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ. His life was transformed and he soon became “Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ” (Col. 1:1), missionary and church planter. The same zeal and focus that he exhibited as a persecutor of the church, he now exhibited as a missionary evangelist and church planter. But, it took determination and discipline for him to stay focused on his new ministry and not dwell on the past with guilt and regret. He knew that he had been forgiven so had to forget the past and press on towards his new goal—“to know Christ and to make Him known.” He had to “stay focused,” to “keep his eye upon the donut and not upon the hole.”
The donut represents that which is of eternal value. Paul began living each day “with eternity’s values in view,” knowing that only what was done for Christ will last. He reflected this throughout his letters to believers in the first-century churches. To the church at Colossae, he wrote: “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1,2). He encouraged the believers in Corinth with these words: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Cor. 4:16-18).
This doesn’t mean that all we do each day is read our Bibles, pray and witness to people. Our lives involve work to make a living, interaction with family and friends and neighbors, enjoying hobbies, recreation, involvement in community activities, doing housework and yard-work, etc.; but in all aspects of our life, our focus needs to be on honoring and glorifying our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Remember Paul’s words in Col. 3:17, 23, 24: “And 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; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
So, if we are to “keep our eye upon the donut and not upon the hole,” what does the hole represent? Glad you asked! The hole represents the following: being tied to the past—things that you cannot go back and change, being immobilized by fear and worry over the future, over which you have no control; focusing on temporal things which don’t really matter and won’t last. Make it your goal this year to keep the main thing the main thing: knowing Christ and making Him known, glorifying Him in all that you do, and growing in Christlikeness. “Stay focused!” Keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole.