I read a fantastic story recently concerning the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. The games took place in Athens, Greece and were mainly remembered for the incredible performance of Michael Phelps. The story, however, centered around Matt Emmons who represented the United States in the fifty-meter rifle event. Matt was dominating the competition and looked to be well on his way to a gold medal. In fact, he was so impressive that all he needed to do on his last shot was hit the target. Not a bull's-eye, but literally anywhere on the target and Matt would be declared the winner! Emmons prepared for the shot with precision as he had always done, carefully looked down his scope, exhaled one last breath and took the shot.
The next few moments were nothing short of chaotic. Matt's gun had clearly fired, but upon viewing the target there were no signs of a puncture nor did the monitor on the TV broadcast indicate which part of the target was hit. Emmons couldn't believe it. There was no mark, he had no score, and the judges were in total confusion. Ultimately, the head judge made a ruling which shocked not only Matt, but the entire viewing audience as well. The score given to Matt was "zero" and according to the judge there had been a "cross shot." Emmons dropped his head in disgust and humiliation and the crowed let out an overwhelming gasp! You see, a cross shot is when a competitor hits a target that's not the one they were supposed to be aiming for. At some point when Matt was preparing his shot he had accidentally keyed in on the wrong target next to the one he was to be aiming for.
Not only did Matt Emmons fail to win the gold medal, he fell completely out of medal contention because of his error. The lesson to be learned from Matt's mistake is this: always be sure you're aiming at the correct target. In a world full of targets to be aiming at, which one is the right one? Which target is most meaningful, most beneficial, most productive, and most worthy? Certainly we all have targets and many of us are well-meaning in our aim and our motive. However, let's be honest and ask ourselves, "Is this the right target?" After all, it would do none of us any good to hit the bull's-eye only to find out we were aimed at the wrong target.
Biblically speaking, there is a right and wrong target as well. Sadly, many Christians (including myself) are guilty of shooting at the wrong target and often hitting the bull's-eye. We hit the targets of wealth, social media notoriety, academic success, athletic achievement, and often church activity. We become so obsessed with accomplishing tasks and obtaining knowledge that we forget Jesus in the process. In other words, we hit a target, but we missed the target. Ultimately, we boil the Christian life down to a list of do's and don't's and neglect the relationship with Christ which our souls so desperately crave. We end up filling our existence with a bunch of empty tasks, which in and of themselves are not wrong, but they are not the life Jesus died and resurrected for. That life is not the one our Creator intended for His redeemed people to live through the grace and power of Christ.
When we look at this check-list version of Christianity we see some striking and painfully obvious wrong targets. We hit the daily target of Bible reading but did we genuinely hear from God? We hit the target of church attendance each week but did we truly worship our Savior with brothers and sisters? We hit the target of giving to noble causes and ministries but did we do it with a cheerful heart? We hit the target of praying each day but did we really have communion with the King of Kings? We hit the target of memorizing scripture and accumulating doctrinal knowledge but has it captivated our hearts to love people with the Good News of Jesus? Again, these targets are not necessarily great evils, but I'm afraid they aren't the target we need to be aiming for.
My prayer is that we get our focus off of the wrong targets and turn our full attention to the one target which matters above all others: Jesus! I pray we all have the same desire for Christ which the apostle Paul wrote of in Philippians 3:10 when he taught us to die to our own selfish natures and personal targets so that we may "know Him and the power of His resurrection." I hope we can all pursue that and through the grace of God we can! So, let's fix our sights, take aim, and faithfully fire away in our love for Jesus...the only target which matters.