By Dr. John Ed Mathison
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries
One of my good friends in ministry was Dr. Bill Hinson. We knew each other in college, and we were in seminary together at Emory. He became the pastor of the largest Methodist Church in America at First Methodist in Houston, Texas. I had the privilege to work with him on a lot of things for renewal in The United Methodist Church. He retired early to North Alabama; sadly, he suffered a heart attack and died.
Bill was a great preacher. I’ll never forget his telling about lion tamers who go into the cage with lions. They carry a four-legged stool. They also carry whips, poles, and pistols, but the purpose of the stool is fascinating.
The lion tamer always holds the stool by the back and points the four legs toward the face of the wild animal. The animal tries to focus on all four legs at once. When he does this, a kind of paralysis comes over him, and the animal becomes weak and disabled because his attention is fragmented and is unable to focus.
Too often we try to focus on too many things, and we become victims of discouragement and disappointment, and ineffective living. A lack of focus is destructive.
One of my favorite passages is Hebrews 12:1-2. The backdrop is an athletic event, the race. The writer describes that the runner always runs with focus and purpose. He says, “We must keep our eyes focused on Jesus, who is the Alpha and the Omega of our faith.”
You never see a runner win who is multi-focused while he is running. You don’t see him waving to people up in the crowd, or “hot-dogging.” The runner who wins focuses on the finish line and runs straight towards it. He doesn’t look at his competitors! He doesn’t get distracted. He is focused!
One of the big differences in success and failure is how well we are able to focus. Someone has said, “The successful man is the average man – focused.”
When a football team goes out of town for the big game, much of the planning centers on how to keep the team focused. Play off and championship games carry with them many distractions. The more focused a team can be, the better it will perform. Last year a German soccer team immediately changed hotels for its training camp. They found that a beauty contest was taking place at that resort hotel with 400 Russian models. Smart coach!
There is a convicting Old Testament story about a guard who was looking after an enemy who had been captured. His responsibility was to focus on keeping the prisoner secure.
When his leader came to check on him, they discovered the prisoner had escaped. The leader wondered how that could happen. Was the guard overpowered by the prisoner, or did some colleagues come and help the man escape? He asked the guard to explain. His explanation was, “While I was busy here and there, the prisoner escaped” (1 Kings 20:39-40). The guard had not stayed focused on his duty!
Stay focused on your purpose. A huge traffic jam recently occurred in Alabama where a truck driver took his hands off the wheel to pull out a loose tooth. He crashed his 18-wheeler along Interstate 20. While he grabbed hold of the troublesome tooth, he lost control, jack-knifed and veered off the road. He forgot about driving and focused on pulling his tooth. The highway patrol verified his dilemma when he said, “He had the tooth in his shirt pocket as proof!” But that did not untangle the traffic jam or fix his truck.
Remember, a lack of focus can paralyze you. Stay focused!
What is your FQ – Focus Quotient?
John Ed’s blog posts appear in For His Glory each week.1
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Editor’s Note: March Madness is a United States basketball tournament. It is to college basketball as the World Cup is to soccer.
By Dr. John Ed Mathison
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries
What determines who won March Madness? Was it the most points scored? Was it the most money made by coaches and schools? Was it the TV ratings for a network? Was it the clever commercials? Was it Warren Buffet? Or could winning really be something else?
If it was the most points scored in the final game, UConn won the March Madness. If it is the most money made, the coaches and schools won, but the players lost. The four coaches in the Final Four are making an average of $3.1 million from their schools and will together make over $1 million dollars in bonuses covered by their contracts. It is estimated that each school who played in the “big dance” received a $1.5 million benefit. The NCAA could be a big winner as sports in college is an $11 billion business, twice as big as the NBA, larger than Major League Baseball, and unparallel to the NFL!
The TV ratings were “off the charts.” A network has to pay millions of dollars to get the rights to telecast the games. Warren Buffet was a genius when he offered a billion dollars to anyone who could submit a perfect bracket. I prided myself of knowing something about basketball and joined 12 million other people in filling out a bracket. I was already planning how to spend $1 billion!
I had to quickly change my financial planning after the fourth game of the first round. Ninety-five percent joined me after the first day. Before the first round was completed, everybody’s bracket had been busted – even President Obama. Buffet got a lot of free advertising.
I propose that the real winner was not UConn, or the coaches, or the NCAA, or the network, or Warren Buffet. All of these concepts of winning are very temporary. They will be forgotten pretty quickly. Real winning is what happens in the long run – the real big win – eternity!
I propose that Baylor won March Madness. That is right – the Baylor Bears. Nobody expected them to even be in the tournament. But they are the real winner. Jim Denison cites the following facts about Baylor from FOX Sports Southwest report entitled: “Baylor’s ‘extraordinary’ season has left lives changed.”
It begins with the Bears’ loss to Kansas February 4, 2014, their seventh defeat in eight games. Head coach Scott Drew stopped one of the team chaplains after the game and said, “We may not win another game this year, and I may be a horrible coach, but if any of these guys leave without knowing Christ, that will be the real loss.”
Later in February, Kenny Chery, Baylor’s starting point guard, sat down in a hotel to talk to shooting guard Brady Heslip and assistant coach Tim Maloney. The two helped him give his life to Jesus. “I felt like I was a new person,” Chery said afterwards. “I felt like everything I’ve done bad in the past is gone. I’m starting new. I’ve accepted God into my life. The next morning I woke up, thanked God for waking me up, and I just had a whole new outlook.”
Taurean Prince plays forward on the team. On February 14, he told a chaplain he was miserable and didn’t want to live according to his plan anymore. The two prayed together, and then Prince invited Jesus into his life.
On February 25, 2014, Taurean Prince and Kenny Chery and three other players were baptized. Baylor lost in the Sweet Sixteen, but Coach Drew calls this his most important season ever. “Winning the game of life is a lot more rewarding than a 40-minute basketball game that’s so temporary,” he says. “To have an opportunity to help be a part of an impact on a young person’s life is the best feeling.”
The Baptist Baylor Bears (wish they were Methodist) cut down the most important nets and turned March Madness into March Gladness!
John Ed's posts appear each Thursday in For His Glory.
Contact: JAM Executive Suite 4 4131 Carmichael Road Montgomery, AL 36106 Phone: 334-270-2149 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org