James Merritt - Aim High
If you have God's word, I wanna turn to it, we're in the book of Colossians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians Chapter 3. And I want you to hear two words, today I'm gonna say it over and over and over and over and over, and those words are aim high. I saw a movies, some of you may have seen it, it was a fascinating movie, a true story, it was called "American Sniper". I don't know if you saw it or not, but it's really a great movie about the greatest sniper that the American military has ever produced.
Well, I was reading about the Canadian Military and they confirmed a few years ago that a sniper with Canada's elite special forces crushed the world's record for the longest known killshot, you got to hear this, they didn't name who the shooter was, but he killed a target in Iraq at a staggering distance of 2.2 miles. That takes incredible discipline and accuracy to be a long range sniper. But what really fascinated me was the physics behind it, because a lot of factors go into it. I just wanna give you one. Just consider gravity. If you are a hunter, we've got some deer hunters I know in our church, if you're a hunter, you know this. At a distance of up to say 100 yards, a short distance, you can light up a target, like a deer in your crosss or in your scope, and all factors being equal, you're going to hit what you aim at at 100 yards, you aim at the target, you hit the target.
However, when you go beyond 100 yards, gravity begins to take over and the bullet begins to drop, and gravity will change the trajectory of the bullet. So it's very simple, the longer the distance, the greater the drop. So what does a sniper have to do? He can't aim at the target, he will miss it, he has to aim above the target. Now, the distance between the target that you're aiming at and where you have to shoot the bullet is called elevation. So it's very simple physical process, I'll show it to you sideways. So if you're at 100 yards, you aim here, but if you're at 2.2 miles, you aim here. You've got to take into account elevation.
Now, this is where this shot got really interesting. Keith Cunningham, who was a former sniper with the United States military, he calculated that the elevation required to hit that target, 2.2 miles away with a 50 caliber rifle would have been 150 yards. Here's what he said, I'm quoting. To do this, that is to hit this person 2.2 miles away, you got to pick a spot 150 yards above your target and aim at that. In other words, he said, when you're shooting a target 2.2 miles away, you're not actually aiming at the target, you're aiming at the sky. Well, Cunningham said he had never heard of a rifle that could account for 150 yards of elevation. So he estimated that that shooter would have had to what he called holdover, that's a term for aiming over the target, he would have to holdover about another 77 yards on top of the 150 yards to adjust for elevation on the rifle.
In other words, when this sniper made that kill shot from 2.2 miles away, he was actually aiming over two football fields above the target. When I read that, I thought what a great application to life, what a great application, the way we ought to live. See, every life ought to have a target. Your life ought to have a bullseye. You ought to have a goal, you all have an aim. As a matter of fact, I got to thinking, if you're a healthy individual, I would think you would want the following four things in your life. I want them from mine, I would assume you want them in yours. You wanna live the best life that you can, you wanna be the best person you can be, you want to have the best influence that you can have, and of course, after you're gone, you wanna leave the best legacy that you can.
I think anybody that's listening to me right now will say, yeah, I would like to have those four things in my life. Well, let me tell you how to pull that off. You gotta aim high aim. You can't aim low, you can't straight ahead, you've got to aim high. I am absolutely convinced of something. The reason why most people, most people, will live a life of little influence, little consequence, little impact, is because all of their life, they aimed too low. There was a great American poet, his name was James Russell Lowell, he lived in the 19th century. If you're familiar with literature, he wrote some of the most famous lines ever written. And I want you to listen to what he wrote, this so powerful. He said, life is a leaf of paper white, whereon each one of us may write his word or two, and then comes night.
In other words, what he was saying was life's short, you better write fast. Greatly begin, though thou have time, but for a line, be that sublime, not failure, but low aim, is a crime. I taught my three sons growing up, aim high. Guys, whatever else you do, don't do what most people do, don't aim low, aim high. We should all aim high with the life that God has given us, but that raises a big question. So where should our aim be? What is the target? How high should we go? Well, in this series, we're calling the guardian of the galaxy, let me tell you why I know the answer to that question, because what Paul has been telling us in all four of these chapters is this, Jesus Christ is over all, Jesus Christ is above all, Jesus Christ is in all, Jesus Christ is for all. And in the third chapter of this book, Paul tells us where to aim, how to aim, how high to aim and where that aim will take us.
Listen to what he said. He said, since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above. Let me ask you a question right now, where's your heart right now? Just be honest. Where's your heart right now? He said, set your heart on things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God, set your minds. Let me stop right there, where's your mind right now? Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Now, you know, you read that at first, you think, man, Paul, you need to get your head out of the clouds, dude, I mean, we got a life to live down here. But Paul's really not talking about the metaphysical, he's not talking about the hypothetical, what he's talking about is very, very practical. 'Cause I want you to hear what about to say, don't do anything else, listen to this.
The life that you're gonna live, the impact you're gonna have, the importance you're going to have, the influence you're going to have is always going to be determined by two things. They will determine where you're aimed, they will determine your target, they will determine where your life is ultimately going to land, they will determine whether or not you're aimed at the right target or you're aimed at the wrong target and both of them are in this passage. The two things that will determine how high you go in life is your heart and your mind. Tell me where your heart is, tell me where your mind is, I'll tell you exactly where you're going. I'll tell you whether your aim too low or I'll tell you what your aim so high, it will never ever fail. Your life, how you live your life, how significant your life will be will be determined about two things, where do you put your affection, your heart, and where do you place your attention, your mind.
So let me make it very simple, I'm gonna make it real easy, you're ready? What your heart loves the most and what your mind thinks about the most will determine the life that you live. If your heart is all making money and your mind is on how much you can accumulate in this world, that will determine the life that you live. If your heart is set on being popular, being well-liked, being accepted by everybody, never being contradicted, never being criticized because you take a stand for what's right, if that's where your heart, your mind is, that will determine the life that you live. So that raises the big question, so where should we be aiming everyday? 'Cause here's one thing we know is true, you aim at what you look at. Wherever you look at, that's exactly what you're aiming for.
So the question is, how do you know that your life right now is aimed at the right target and how do you know that it's aimed at the right altitude? Well, Paul tells us three things we ought to be aiming at every single day if our life is gonna be what it ought to be. He says first of all, we should look up at a risen Lord, we should look up at a risen Lord. Now, Paul begins with this incredible statement, when you first read it, you kind of scratch and you go, what is he talking about? Listen to what Paul says. He says, since then you have been right with Christ, you've been raised with Christ. What does that mean? I mean, there are four things that separate Jesus, set Jesus apart from every other human being who's ever lived and ever will live.
By the way, I'm a follower of Jesus, make no bones about it, became a follower when I was nine years old. And if you'd like to know, well, why are you a follower of Jesus? Why don't you follow Buddha, why don't you follow Confucius, why don't you follow Mohammed, why don't you follow this why don't you follow that? There are four things that set Jesus Christ apart from every other person who has ever lived. His birth, he was born of a Virgin, his life, he lived a perfect life, his death, he died for our sins, his resurrection, he came back from the dead. Now, it's that last fact that Paul was referring to, it is that last fact about Jesus that makes all the other facts not only true but relevant.
You see Christianity is not just about a man who was born, it is not just about a man who lived, it is not just about a man who died, what Christianity is all about is about a man who came back from the dead. He was buried in a tomb, but he never needed a tombstone. He was buried in a grave, but we don't have a grave site because the graves no longer needed. He died, but he came back from the dead before they could even publish his obituary. He is alive. Then Paul says this though, we have been raised with Christ. What does that mean? Paul says right now, James, you have been raised with Christ. If you're a follower of Jesus, Paul is saying right now, you have been raised with Christ. What does that mean? Well, it obviously doesn't mean physically, we're here right now. We've not experienced death yet, we've not experienced the resurrection.
So he must admit spiritually, you are spiritually raised with Christ. We're not yet physically with Jesus, but here's what Paul says, spiritually, you are in Jesus. He is spiritually in you, you are spiritually with him, we are spiritually together. The power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead now lives in me. And Paul says this, this I want you to hear, because we've been raised with Christ, we may be in the world, but we should live above the world, we may be in the world, but we should live above the world. That's why it says, we should set our hearts on things above where Christ is. Now, what does he mean by things above. Well, that's where Jesus is. We're to set our hearts on him. By the way that word set literally means to seek. And here's what he was saying, if your heart is set on Jesus, if your heart is seeking Jesus, you won't focus on things below you, you won't focus on things around you, you will focus on the one who is above you.
So how do you do that? Well, when you're looking up at a risen Lord, in every situation, you're always asking these questions. So what would you want me to do? What would you want me to say? How would you want me to respond? How would you want me to act? Because Jesus is the Lord of your life, he will be the love of your life. If he's not the love of your life, he's not the Lord of your life. If you wanna be what you wanna be and do what you ought to do and go where you ought to go, you gotta aim high, you gotta look up to a risen Lord. But then Paul says something else, we need to look up, he says to a reigning Lord. He's not just come back from the dead, he's not just alive, he's not just risen, he is a reigning Lord. He said, we ought to be laser focused on Jesus.
We look up to a risen Lord, but that raises a question, okay? So where is Jesus right now? Well, Paul tells us. Since then, you've been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is, and where is Christ? He is seated at the right hand of God. He's on the throne. Well, who sits on a throne? A king. And what does a king do? A king rules, a king reigns, a king commands, a king controls. Now, I wanna tell you if there's ever been a day that we ought to rejoice, that we can look to a reigning Lord, it ought to be in this day and this time, but there's a lot of things I don't know. But let me tell you one thing I absolutely know, there is a risen Lord sitting on a throne, reigning, he is in complete control of everything that's going on, every single thing. You see, nothing is really out of control because he is in total control.
Let me tell you what that means, if Jesus is over this world, that means the world is under his feet. Did you hear that? If Jesus is over this world, that means the world is under his feet. And here's why I love this. You know, when things get real tough, a psychologist will say, look within, an opportunist will say, look around, the optimist will say, look ahead, but the wisest will say, look up. Let me give you some good news. When it's raining on your parade, Jesus is reigning over your parade. When its raining on your parade, Jesus is reigning over your parade. Hey, Jesus reigns over disease, it doesn't matter whether it's COVID-19 or cancer Jesus reigns over disaster, whether it's a shattered economy or a lost child, Jesus reigns over death, no matter how it comes, when it comes or where it comes.
The world spins on its axis, 24/7, but it never spins out of control because Jesus is in control. That's why Paul goes on to say this, set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. He says, listen, set your affection, your heart on Jesus, heavenly things, not earthly things. He says, look, put your attention on Jesus, on heavenly things not on earthly things, because listen, where you put your affection, your heart, where you place your attention, your mind, is going to determine how you live. So here's what Paul is basically telling us right now. Your feet everyday are on earth, but your mind ought to be in heaven, your feet are on earth, but your mind ought to be in heaven.
Let me just be honest with you, I wanna get in the boat with you in case you don't realize this. Some people think, and it's easy to do, you put a pastor on a pedestal, you think yeah, he's got a red phone and he's got a hotline to God. You know, he can do things I can't do and all that kinds of, listen, I'm just like you. I got the same issues, I deal with the same problems, I handle the same anxieties that you do. But let me tell you something, as I was working on this message, this thought hit me. When I look back on my life, this is so true, every time I get hot and bothered, every time I get anxious or angry, every time I get discouraged or depressed, every time I get broken or bitter, you know what happened every single time, my focus, I started aiming too low. I went from looking here to looking there. Instead of focusing on heavenly things, I focus on earthly things.
So while I'm in the neighborhood, let me just give you a little secret about earthly things, okay? You're ready? Trophies tarnish, riches rust, earnings evaporate, wealth withers, but heavily things, they last forever. I wrote a story, this is fascinating. There was a psychologist, and he went with a bunch of mountain climbers on an expedition and he made this fascinating observation. He said there was a deep distinct connection when they were climbing up the mountain, he said there was this distinct connection between cloud cover and contentment. He said, he noticed that when the skies were clear and the peak was clearly in view, he said the climbers were energetic, they were excited, they were enthusiastic. He said, but when the gray clouds got in their way and they could no longer see the peak, they could no longer see the top of the mountain, guess what happened?
They got depressed, they got discouraged, they got divisive, they got defeated. The same exact thing happens when we aim high, when we keep our focus, not on things on the earth, but things in heaven. When we keep our focus on Jesus and nobody else, I'm telling you, there will be a joy in your heart, there will be a smile on your face, there will be a bounce in your step, but the moment we lower our focus, the moment we start looking at what is below us or what is around us, you get anxious, you get angry, you get bitter, you get broken, you get defeated, you get discouraged. We look up to a reigning Lord and we remember every day, you know what? Everything's under control and everything's going according to plan.
So Paul says aim high. We look up at a risen Lord, we look up to a reigning Lord. Boy, he says one of thing, this is so good. He says, we could look up for a returning Lord. We look up for a returning Lord. Now, he concludes by saying this, we're gonna take this one piece at a time. He says, for you died, but what does that mean? He doesn't mean physically, he mean spiritually. When you give your life to Jesus, the old you dies and the new year comes to life. You died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. What does that mean? If you're a follower of Jesus right now, he says, your life is now hidden with Christ in God, here's what he's trying to tell us. The best way, this is something you parents want to ought your kids, this is something your grandparents ought to teach your grandchildren. The best way to live in this world is to stay above this world. The best way to live in this world is to stay above this world.
So here's what Paul has said so far, here's what he said. When you remember you don't belong to this world, you will know how to behave in this world, when you remember you don't belong to this world, you will know how to behave in this world. So here's what Paul said. He said, your life is in with Christ in God. Let me tell you what that means, I bet you've never thought about this before, people who do not know Jesus never see your real life. You ever thought about that. Your next door neighbor, if your next door neighbor doesn't know Jesus, they don't see the real life that you live. They don't really see it because the real life is not the life people can see it's the life people can't see.
And that's why unbelievers just don't understand believers, because they don't see the power we have within us, they don't see the person that lives within us, they don't see the presence we carry with us because it's all hidden with Christ in God. That's why when an unbeliever becomes a believer, all of a sudden, they look at another believer and they say, so that's why you live the way you live and that's why you act the way you act and that's why you talk the way you talk, and then Paul closes with a bang, listen to this. He says, when Christ, boy, what a great statement, when Christ, who is your life, appears.
Now, I want you to stop onto those five words, Christ, who is your life. Not just the support of your life, though he is, not just the strength of your life, though he is, not just the supply of your life, though he is, he is your life. You know, so many people today, it breaks my heart. they're searching for identity. And we're being, we're telling people now more and more, hey, just look within yourself and you'll find out who you are. No, you won't. You look within yourself, you'll find out who you're not.
Let me give you a little secret, my identity is not in my sexuality, my identity is not in my feelings, my identity is not in my vocation, my identity has nothing to do with what I do, it has nothing to do with what I feel, my true identity is who I am, and who I am is in Christ. I love my wife more than any husband in this world loves his wife, but my wife is not my life, I love my children more than any father in the world loves their children, I love my grandchildren more than any grandfather in the world loves their grandchildren, but my children and my grandchildren are not my life. I love this church more than any pastor in the world loves their church, but this church is not my life, Jesus is my life, Christ is my life, he is the Lord of my life, he is the love of my life, and because of that, I know how my life is ultimately going to end.
And this is the way Paul closes, listen. He says, when Christ, who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory. You know, there are a lot of people out there and they think, let's just be honest, and more and more this is true. There's a whole culture out there, there's a whole society out there, there's a whole group of people out there and they're growing faster and faster and faster, they think we're just following a myth, they think we're making a mistake, they think we're wasting our life, they think we're just a bunch of religious fanatics. And I don't mean to sound arrogant or snarky when I say this, but I'm just gonna tell you, there's gonna come a day and there's gonna come a moment when nobody's expecting, Jesus is going to appear and we are going to appear with him. And everybody that's ever lived is gonna be forced to say, we were right all along.
So I want you to listen, a Christian is not just someone who accepts what Jesus has done for them, it is someone who applies who Jesus is to them. So let me just say this thing. If you remember these things, you'll aim high every day of your life. Our identity is in Christ, he is our life. Our security is from Christ. My life is hidden with Christ in God, nobody can take it from me. Our destiny is with Christ, when he appears, we will appear with him in glory. One of the most beautiful cities I've ever been to and I encourage you to go sometime is Rome, I've been there several times. One of the most amazing things you'll ever see are the Roman arches, they're still standing there over thousands of years, there they are. There were the foundation of Rome's architectural mastery. They allowed them to build bigger buildings and longer roads and better aqueducts than anyone in history.
In fact, if you know this, you're an architect, this is actually the ancestor of modern architecture. One of the first things you learn in architectural school is how they build those arches that have lasted for thousands of years. So the question is what was the secret of their stability, how they lasted all this time? Well, the Romans had a very interesting policy. Whenever they finished building an arch, the engineer in charge of the project was asked to stay in right under the arch when they took the scaffolding away. So if the arch wasn't built right and it didn't hold, he'd be the first one to know it and the last one to see it. He made sure it was right. Now, I wanna leave you with this. If you will get under the arch of the gospel and you will aim high at a risen Lord, at a reigning Lord and at a returning Lord, you will know and one day the whole world will know our aim was true. Let's pray together.