Last week I needed to say these words when I was playing tennis with my son. Once I did, my play improved. But then I began meditating on how important it is to take one stroke at a time. I was distracting myself. When my opponent hits the ball over the net inbounds, it is my challenge to return the ball in play. If I want to do well at tennis, that is my responsibility. I cannot control how my opponent responds to my shot. I cannot control whether he returns my stroke or not, nor can I control how he returns the shot. I am responsible only for stroking the tennis ball inbounds to my opponent's side of the court. And each time the opponent hits it back to me, I have to choose to be responsible to try my best to hit it back to his side of the tennis court.
If I am dreaming of my victory, before I win the point or the game, I might not play so well. If I am salivating over a peanut butter ice cream shake, I might swing and miss. (Not only that, I might make the ball wet.) If I don't care about the game of tennis, I might let the ball go right by me.
All of this to say, if I want to play well, and possibly win, I need to focus on each shot I hit. I need to play tennis one stroke at a time. I am not saying you don't need any strategy or any plan. But the plan or strategy is only as good as you play one shot at a time.
Now, some of you are not sports enthusiasts. That's alright. This is true with all aspects of life. If you are in school or college, you don't worry about the final exam now. You focus on learning the material that you need for the class today. If you are hoping to earn a merit raise at work at the end of the year, then you better focus today on doing your job well. If you are hoping to crochet a beautiful blanket, you need to take one stitch at a time.
Let's change this to our life in following Jesus. If you are wondering what is God's will or purpose for your life, obey him today. If you are seeking to have victory over a sinful habit in your life, aim for victory in this moment. Then the next moment. Then the next. If you want to improve your prayer life, pray this moment.
It's nice to have a strategy or a view of the future in mind, but you can only do it one step at a time. So, I challenge you and I to stay focused on this present moment. As you do, it will lead to those words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."