Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Main Thing

Many years ago I was a member of the National Rifle Association – the NRA. The primary reason I joined was to get the subscription to one of their monthly publications, American Hunter. Although I put the NRA membership sticker on my car, I wasn’t particularly a huge ‘supporter’ of all that the NRA stood for (I’m not sure I even knew what the NRA stood for at that time).
I eventually ended up not renewing my membership because of the NRA’s constant harping about the 2nd Amendment and the need to protect the rights guaranteed by it. (I wanted more information about guns and shooting stuff.) At the time, I didn’t see any real infringements on my gun ownership rights, etc. and it seemed like the NRA was just a bunch of ‘alarmists’ turning every discussion or article into something about the 2nd Amendment.
But as I’ve learned a thing or two in life (in other words, ‘gotten older’), I have developed a whole new appreciation for the way the NRA conducts its business and how it approaches its purpose.
Please understand: it is not my goal to take a political position one way or the other or to affirm the goals of the NRA or convince you of the legitimacy of their positions. My point is not about ‘gun rights’. Instead, what I have grown to appreciate about the NRA is the fact that they are single minded in keeping their main thing the main thing.
The NRA seems to understand (better than most people or organizations) that if you give in a little here or don’t hold fast to your beliefs there, you end up on a slippery slope and soon find yourself in a position of wondering how in the world you got where you are. The NRA seems to understand that the time is now and the line is already drawn in the sand. They remain urgently steadfast in keeping focused on their main thing.
There are tons of other organizations (including churches) that started out with a particular purpose in mind and then got distracted or watered down to the point that they lost their relevance, at least with regard to their initial founding. Some get caught up in ‘mass appeal’, or politics, or endorsements and soon lose sight of what they were really all about. They may try to be all things to all people and out of fear of stepping on someone’s toes, they soon stand for nothing and they lose all relevance.
Likewise, individual believers can lose relevance and no longer be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ when they make little concessions along the way and fail to keep the main thing the main thing. We often stress the concept of ‘lifestyle evangelism’, yet our lives are seldom noticeably different from those of nonbelievers all around us. Why? Because our lack of focus on keeping the main thing the main thing has us sliding down that slippery slope.
We can sometimes end up somewhere that we never would have consciously chosen to be because we made little decisions (or concessions) that set our course in motion. We failed to maintain barriers, we left options open that shouldn’t have been, we didn’t stand firm or stand up to opposition, we lost focus. Too many things got in the way of the main thing.
So, what is ‘the main thing’? Is it ‘the Gospel message’? Is it serving? Is it caring for orphans and widows? Is it evangelizing? Is it giving?
Well, I think that in any group of Christ followers, each person’s answer is going to tilt toward what passions God has placed in their heart. I have a friend who thinks everyone should be in the mission field; another thinks everyone should participate in at least seven Bible studies per week; another volunteers every possible minute at the homeless shelter and is convinced you should too.
While all of those are good things and are vital, we are not all gifted in the same ways. (Which is not an excuse – if your gift is ‘encouragement’, you should still evangelize; if your gift is ‘evangelism’, you should still give.)
But, back to the NRA – they do what they do because they stay focused on why they were formed in the first place. They keep their main thing the main thing.
For followers of Christ, I believe that the main thing – the reason we were formed in the first place – is stated by Christ Himself in Matthew 22:37: ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’
When we stay focused on that, when we run all of our life experiences through that filter, when we are urgently steadfast to that ‘main thing’, we can make a difference in the world. You see, when that is the ‘main thing’, other things can’t be. When that is the ‘main thing’, we don’t have divided loyalties. When that is the ‘main thing’, we don’t get distracted, led astray, watered down, or become irrelevant and inconsequential.
Is that the ‘main thing’ for you? Or is that just ‘another’ thing?
When you make that the ‘main thing’, and when you keep the main thing the main thing, it makes all of the difference in the world.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth
.
Psalm 73:25, NLT (emphasis added)

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