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“Keep Your Eye on the Ball.”
By Pastor Bill
I played a number of different sports growing up, and one thing that was always impressed upon me was the importance of “keeping your eye on the ball.”    When a ball is hit your way, watch it into your glove.  When a football is thrown your way, watch it the whole way into your hands.  Don’t be distracted by a baserunner, by a defender about to tackle you, or by a girl in the stands.  You never know when the ball may take a bad hop, or get deflected, causing it to hit you somewhere other than in your hands. 
I’ve continued to keep those words before me as I’ve grown older, especially as I look to follow Jesus.  “Keep your eye on the ball, Bill”…the ball being Jesus, of course. 
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…” Hebrews 12:2
These words from Hebrews bring back to my mind a message I had a chance to prepare and preach back in the Spring, not long after the onset of  COVID.  While glad for the opportunity to share truths and insight with others, those who write sermons and prepare lessons will often talk about the deep impact a passage will have on them through the preparation process.  Such was the case for this particular passage of Scripture: 
“Rejoice in the Lord always.
 I will say it again:  Rejoice!
 Let your gentleness be evident to all. 
The Lord is near. 
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” 
(Philippians 4:4-7)
The Lord used this passage to impress upon me two important insights that I have tried to keep before me over these past few months and days.  
The first insight dealt with the word “Rejoice.”   I used to think of rejoicing in terms of excitement or exuberance…but in preparing the message I came across one of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard:  A sense of buoyancy.  
Rather than being pulled down or pulled under, keeping our eyes on the ball –  fixing our eyes on Jesus – helps us to rise above whatever is unfolding around us.  We know that Jesus is on the throne (and always will be), but we are also told that He is near.  This awareness helps us to be able to truly rejoice and rise above anything that might look to distract us and pull us down.
In a similar way, the second insight that came out of this passage dealt with the word “anxious.”  We looked at a time when Martha – a friend of Jesus – found herself anxious because of being distracted by what Jesus called “many things.”   Jesus knew that He was one of the many things in Martha’s life, but it wouldn’t be until He became “The One Thing” that she would come to experience true peace.  This spoke to me, and I have been looking to spend more time with Jesus – talking to Him and listening to Him – ever since…in order to experience His peace.
I need to keep my eye on the ball – fix my eyes on Jesus – because it’s the only hope I have to talk like Him and live like Him….which I desire above all other things.   And I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to do the same.  Today church, let us keep our eye on the ball…Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.  
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”