What’s Your Tennis Ball?
Don’t push. Get pulled.
Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox, said this:
“The happiest and most successful people I know don’t just love what they do, they’re obsessed with solving an important problem, something that matters to them. They remind me of a dog chasing a tennis ball: Their eyes go a little crazy, the leash snaps, and they go bounding off, plowing through whatever gets in the way. . . . It’s not about pushing yourself. It’s about finding your tennis ball, the thing that pulls you.”
We can live out our faith under obligation to all the things we ought to do. Or we can live out our faith in holy pursuit of the person God has created us to be.
Pushing versus pursuing.
The same goes for school: Who are the best students?
And jobs: Who are the best workers?
And family, and friends: Which people are the greatest blessings?
Anything: Pushing versus pursuing is universal.
In any area of life, your tennis ball might be a promise that attracts you, a moral wrong that makes you indignant enough to take action, or what you perceive as your destiny.
Pushing versus pursuing is much like the difference between bondage and freedom, drudgery and joy.
The difference is also like a dog passionately pursuing a tennis ball versus the fate of Sisyphus. In the ancient Greek myth, Sisyphus, king of Corinth, was punished in the afterlife for his pride and deceitfulness. He was condemned to push a huge boulder up a mountain, only to have it roll down the other side. And he had to repeat this futility for all eternity.
Wouldn’t you rather chase a ball than roll a boulder?
What is your tennis ball?
If you can’t think of one, what might it be? What in the world, or in your life, needs you to go after it? What pulls you?
If you’re up for it, I encourage you to consider two tennis balls:
- One in your vocation—to pursue your highest calling of what God has called you to do on this earth.
- One in your spiritual life—to pursue your highest calling of who God has made you to be.
Drew Houston could also have quoted the Apostle Paul. Since he didn’t, I will. Paul, who was at the top of his game as a young man, threw away his success, prestige, and power for the greater pursuit of knowing Jesus. He writes in Philippians 3:8 (NIV),
“I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”
Indeed Paul accomplished just that. He gained Christ. And as he writes this letter to the Philippian Church, he is late in his life. By this time he has started churches and Christian movements all over the Roman Empire. He has become arguably the greatest human tool God would ever use.
But still he says,
“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12–14 NIV)
That was Paul’s tennis ball.
What is yours?
Psalms 37:4-5, 7 4Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:… 7Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
In this psalm David is reflecting on the fact that the evil ones who threatened his life and plotted against him were ultimately unsuccessful. He is telling us the secret of his success and usefulness to God. If there are wicked people troubling your life, listen to David’s advice.
Delight yourself in the LORD. If your highest hopes and greatest joys are in the LORD, the LORD will give you your desires. There are two ways to look at that promise. One is that your desire for more of God and a closer relationship with Him will come to pass. If you are in Him, your enemies will find themselves fighting God. The other way to see this promise is that God will place His own desires in your heart so that your desires are God’s desires. I think both are true.
If you dedicate your actions to God, walking in His ways, desiring what He desires, then you can count on God bringing this to pass. That spells trouble for your enemies and turns you from fear and fretting to joy and trust. The commitment of the heart is met by the enabling power of the God that transforms you.
Instead of fretting and getting all worked up, wait patiently in stillness before God. Don’t act without acting in Him and at His direction, and you can know you will succeed. You will have the peace that guarantees the schemes of the wicked will ultimately be for your good. The final word will be a vindication of your righteous trust in God.
Consider: What should you do about the trouble facing you today? Delight yourself in the LORD, and commit your way to Him. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him.
Wisdom from Above
by Debbie Holloway, crosswalk.com
Recently I participated in a small group discussion on Christ-like humility. Our discussion leader had pulled up several Scripture passages for us to reflect upon, and one of them has been racing around in my brain ever since:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy (James 3:17).
Christ (such as in Mark 1:35) always sought wisdom from above before speaking and acting. Thus, as Christians (Christ-followers) we should be constantly seeking this godly wisdom and applying it to our lives and relationships. But that verse is a big verse. What does it look like to have this wisdom from above?
1. It is first of all pure. Our motives for doing anything should reflect a desire to live like Christ and be in right relationship with God. If our earthly “wisdom” tells us to approach a situation with impure motives such as greed, selfishness, or pride – that is not wisdom from above.
2. It is peaceable. Sometimes we get preoccupied with the imagery of Spiritual Armor and treat everyone we meet like an enemy solider. We must remember that Ephesians 6:10 says this battle is “not against flesh and blood.” Our Lord is a Prince of Peace, and we have a duty to act as citizens of peace.
3. It is gentle. Proverbs 15:1. If we speak gently, others are more likely to accept and understand God’s work and wisdom. But gentleness is not just about tone of voice. Remember the gentleness and patience with which Jesus dealt with children, sinners, and his apostles. Gentleness is a way of life.
4. It is reasonable. Another translation of this reads “willing to yield to others” – and both are absolutely crucial elements of wisdom. It may seem impossible to live a pure lifestyle while being reasonable and willing to yield, but the Bible says we must. We were given an astounding level of intellect and reason – let us use it! We mustn’t buy in to the lie that “reason is the enemy of faith.” It is necessary to yield to God daily with every decision we make. But it is also possible (and necessary, and wise) to yield to others. Whether it’s a matter of selfless giving or resisting the urge to have angry, theological debates, we are called to yield.
5. It is full of mercy. That parent who abused their authority? That government leader who makes you cringe? That blogger who sounds heretical? Wisdom from above tells us to look on them with mercy. After all, has not God shown us the greatest mercy of all?
6. It is full of good fruits. I’m sure many of us can list Galatians 5:22 of the Lord’s Spirit. When we use godly wisdom to discern what we should do, we will consider the fruits of our choices. Do we strive to make choices that result in the fruits of the Spirit manifested in our lives?
7. It is unwavering. Perhaps it might be strange to think that wisdom from above can be both “willing to yield” and “unwavering.” But don’t think of them as opposites. Perhaps think of it like a marriage or a friendship. Each person in the relationship must listen to reason and be willing to yield to the other. But the relationship itself must be unwavering. We must be bold enough to live unwaveringly as followers of Christ and good stewards of the earth, no matter the opposition.
8. It is without hypocrisy. If something seems like wisdom to you but causes you to be double-minded or deceitful, it cannot be wisdom from above. What we believe must match what we say. What we say must match how we behave. Otherwise, we misrepresent Jesus and the lifestyle we claim to live.
Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:7
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” — Matthew 5:7
At first glance, it may seem that Jesus is saying we will be shown mercy because we have shown mercy to others. Then we might think we are racking up “mercy points” every time we respond patiently to a screaming toddler, or we choose not to make fun of our boss for sweating through his shirt. And when all is said and done, we think God will look at our tally and reward us with mercy for all the times we have been merciful to others.
In that view, God’s mercy depends entirely on how well we perform.
But if that’s the case, the gospel is bad news for many of us (myself included).
Thankfully, the gospel is the good news that God has freely shown us mercy although we don’t deserve it. Jesus came into the world to save sinners before they ever did something to earn it. God’s mercy flows out of his character. It’s part of who he is, and how deeply he loves his people.
We find that we are blessed when we show mercy, because it’s evidence that we belong to God. Mercy is proof that we have been changed by God’s mercy. It shows we realize that our own forgiveness does not rest on our ability to be merciful. Instead, our capacity for mercy is a sign that we understand God’s forgiveness, and that we want to show his deep and unconditional love.
Father, help me to be merciful to everyone, as a way of showing your love in this world. Amen.