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I have never been much of an athlete. In part, this lack of athletic prowess can be traced to my inability to keep my eye on the ball. When I golfed I always lifted my head. In baseball I would lose sight of the pitch. Even in football I wasn’t always sure who had the ball—pretty important information for a defensive safety.

So when people tell me that I need to keep my eye on the ball, I always look for another axiom. Personally, I prefer to be encouraged to “keep first things first.”

Whether I am keeping my eye on the ball or keeping first things first or staying focused or making sure that the main thing is the main thing, the meaning is the same. I need to make sure that the less important things in my life are not replacing the truly important things.

Becoming distracted is part of our human condition. It can be difficult to stay focused on what really matters in our lives. We should not be surprised when God instructs us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We, or at least I, lose sight of God. The pressures and obligations of our day-to-day lives distract us from what should take priority.

Such lack of focus affects our relationship with our heavenly Father, but it impacts our human relationships too. Wives and husbands focus more on careers and cash than on each other or their children. Sports and hobbies replace time together. Books and television become substitutes for good conversations. “First things” become second, third, or fourth. The main thing becomes peripheral.

Don’t misunderstand me. Sports, hobbies, careers, cash, books, and even television are not in and of themselves evil, or even the problem. They are simply the things that can and do distract us from what is really important in our lives.

This same phenomenon can plague our churches and our ministries. This month Church@Work features an Annual Ministry Report of the wonderful, life-changing work being done by the Christian Reformed Church around the world.

As a denomination we have committed ourselves to “transforming lives and communities worldwide.” We do this in our local congregations, and we do this through the agencies, institutions, and ministries we support with our prayers, encouragement, and gifts.

When I have the opportunity to observe the work we do around the world, I am continually amazed at what God is doing in us as well as through us. From broadcasts to boreholes (water wells) to vacation Bible schools, we are engaging in God’s transformational project around the world.

All of these wonderful ministries are important. Not only do they impact the world for Christ, but they provide significant opportunities for Christians to use their gifts in ways that enhance the body of Christ and allow us to embody Christ to others.

At the same time we cannot allow these ministries to replace the first thing. We need to keep our eye on the ball. Christians are, by directive of Jesus, first and foremost disciple makers. In his final words to his followers, Jesus commissioned them to “go and make disciples.”

In Acts 2 we read that those converted at Pentecost devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and to prayer. The focus, the main thing, was devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ and a relationship with him.

From that devotion, that focus, wonderful ministry flowed. People’s actions were shaped by an encounter with the truth of Jesus Christ. The main thing was the main thing. First things were first, and other activities followed.

I ask that you continue to support the ministries and work of the Christian Reformed Church around the world. And even more, I encourage you to keep your eye on Jesus. He is the main thing. He is first. He is what truly is important.

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