Stay On Target!
I am a huge fan of the Star Wars movies. At the end of the first Star Wars movie that debuted in 1977 (Episode IV for those in the know), we find the forces of good launching a desperate attack on the immense and seemingly impregnable enemy stronghold. Despite all of the enemy stronghold's weapons and defenses, there is a weakness. To exploit this weakness and destroy the enemy's mighty battle station, all the forces of good have to do is navigate a fighter ship through a narrow trench and shoot a torpedo down an exhaust port that is about six feet wide. Sounds easy enough, right?

The forces of good carry out their attack as planned. As they enter the trench to approach their goal (the exhaust port), they discover it is protected by enemy gun towers that are mounted all along the trench, and they realize that enemy fighter ships are closing in to attack. It doesn't sound as easy anymore, does it?

However, despite the opposition and the odds, the forces of good press on, and it is during this sequence that we witness a very noteworthy scene.

Three pilots are making their attack run. One is a veteran; the other two have less experience. As they approach their target, the three find themselves being shot at from the front by the fortress' guns and from behind by the enemy ships. As the less experienced pilots give in to fear and doubt, the veteran pilot calmly utters: "Stay on target."

That one scene turns my mind toward II Timothy 4:1-8 where we have Paul the veteran issuing a charge to the younger and less experienced Timothy. Notice the difference between verses 1-5 (the charge to stay on target) and verses 6-8 (the reward for staying on target):

THE CHARGE - II Timothy 4:1-5
"I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."

THE REWARD - II Timothy 4:6-8
"For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."

In verses 1 through 5, Paul essentially tells Timothy to stay on target--to persevere and continue faithfully preaching the gospel--even when afflictions abound and when others "will not endure sound doctrine" and "turn their ears away from the truth" . By following Paul's instruction to stay on target and contend for the faith, Timothy could take comfort in the fact that he too would have a crown of righteousness laid up for him in heaven (verses 6-8).

Dear friends, let us always stay on target and travel the path that leads to righteousness. Let us give no place to fear or afflictions. Instead, let us proclaim like the apostle Paul, "but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13,14).