The date was Sept. 23, 1908. The game was in New York between the New York Giants and the Chicago Cubs. The winner of this game would win the National League pennant and go on to play in the World Series.
It was the last of the ninth inning; the score was tied. There were Giants on first and third base, with two outs. Moose McCormick was on third base, and Fred Merkle—a substitute first baseman—was on first. The batter, Al Bridwell, lashed a single to left field. McCormick scored the winning run. Fred Merkle ran from first base halfway toward second, but seeing McCormick score the winning run he threw his arms triumphantly in the air. Then he saw the fans streaming onto the field. He ran over to join in the celebration, so he didn’t continue on to second base—he cut across the infield to the dugout to avoid the crowd.
Now the throw had come in from the outfield. Somehow the Cubs pitcher had retrieved the ball, because the Cubs second baseman was frantically calling for it. So the pitcher threw the ball to second, the baseman stepped on the bag, and the umpire called Fred Merkle out. Since he had not touched second base Merkle was forced out. And since he was the third out, the run that crossed the plate did not count.
The league’s Board of Directors ordered the entire game be replayed the next day, and the Cubs won that game and, thus, the pennant. They then went on to win the World Series championship over the Detroit Tigers, four games to one. The Giants lost out on going to the World Series, all because Fred Merkle got distracted.
Now what does that incident have to do with us? The Giants just lost a ball game, but our stakes are much higher—the Kingdom of God. That is our goal. Could you, like Fred Merkle, be distracted from the victory of the Kingdom of God?
The Race Set Before Us
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
What did Paul mean by “lay aside every weight”? The Greek for weight means a burden or encumbrance. We who want to be a part of the Family of God must throw aside every weight and sin—every distraction—that might hinder us in our race toward that goal.
Perhaps we have an affection for worldly things that at the moment seem more desirable than the Kingdom of God. No man can have the love of the world in his heart and ever hope to make the Kingdom of God (1 John 2:15-17). James tells us that if we are a friend of the world then we are the enemy of God (James 4:4).
Then we must run the race with “patience.” We have a race set before us—the prize being eternal life in God’s universe-ruling Family as the Bride of Jesus Christ. In this particular race we don’t have to come in first. We need only to finish. If we fail to, it’s not just a simple loss—it’s eternal life that we lose.
Let’s be certain we finish the race that has been set before us. “[L]et us start, run on, and continue running till we get to the goal,” as the Adam Clarke Commentary phrased it.
Have the Right Priorities
What is the best way to run this race? Firstly, keep your eyes on the goal. Keep your eyes fixed on the God Family vision, “Looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). Put your complete confidence in Jesus Christ. He too had to run the race and complete it, and now He sits on the right hand of Almighty God. This race was begun under Christ, and under Him it will be completed (Philippians 1:6). If we don’t focus on what we hear in sermons or read in the literature and see the need to change certain things in our lives, then sin will easily beset us.
God’s plan is to change us to what He wants us to be—sons of God. But our hearts are “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). God did not make them that way, but years of living in Satan’s society have shaped them thus. God requires that we change, and He will help us to come out of this world and become that new person.
God wants us to make His way of life, His Work, prayer and Bible study the top priorities in our life. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
But it is easy to get distracted by the cares and worries of this life. We must not be distracted by putting priority on the wrong things.
Society today is anti-child, anti-father and biased against family. We must recognize and resist anti-family pulls. Don’t be distracted by the things that are not associated with the Kingdom and the Family of God. These worldly things will eventually be burned up. We should rather put our trust in God who has it in His power to save or destroy (Matthew 10:28).
Just what are our priorities? Do we observe the Sabbath to the fullest? Do we make every effort to attend Bible studies when possible? After all, we are in God’s Church to be prepared for our jobs as Spirit-born kings and priests, teachers in the World Tomorrow. What could have a higher priority than that?
In Matthew 22:2-14 is the parable of a king who invited many people to his son’s marriage supper. Many refused because they had other priorities. This parable is a type of our coming marriage to Jesus Christ. Christ said that if a person has been invited to the marriage supper and fails to attend, that person is unworthy to be there.
“But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise” (verse 5). “Made light of” is translated from the Greek word ameleo and means to neglect. The same word is rendered neglect in Hebrews 2:3: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.”
We can lose out on our salvation if we do not make God’s Work and His way of life our highest priority!
Do we ever skip our prayer? Do we skip Bible study? If we do, we lose the very source of power that helps us grow and overcome.
Some, when they have a problem, try to solve it by staying home from Church services, which actually feeds the problem. We need to glean every bit of information we can from every message at every holy day, Sabbath and Bible study. We need God’s help.
Let’s not neglect the things we have been taught. Every Sabbath service and Bible study is an opportunity to learn and grow. Keep the Kingdom of God, God’s Work and God’s plan at the top of your list of priorities.
We could also be distracted by habitual sins.
Have we had sins with us so many years that they don’t seem like sins anymore, since God hasn’t struck us down? Does that cause us to fail to put forth the effort to overcome them? God’s laws are in motion for all. God doesn’t have a double standard for people whether in or out of the Church. Christ said that only those who overcome will be in the Kingdom of God. Let’s not deceive ourselves. God expects us to rise to the standard He has set.
When Hebrews 12:1 instructs us to “lay aside … the sin which doth so easily beset us,” beset means to surround, hem in, habitual. Sins that we continue to live with do easily beset us because we get used to them.
The Living Bible says to “strip off the sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us.” Don’t be deceived by thinking, God doesn’t care; God doesn’t know. God does know, and He requires that we overcome these sins. And He will give us the power to do so!
No Respecter of Persons
Another way we could become distracted is by personality conflicts, whether it be between God’s people or people in the world. Also, we could fall prey to racial prejudice.
God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). But so often sins of this world can creep into the Church, and prejudice is one form of that. Some come into the Church with racial prejudices—which God condemns. Remember the account of Cornelius and how God showed Peter that the Gentiles were just as important to Him as anyone (verse 28). Should we be different from God? If we ever had any racial feelings they should be put aside. God is no respecter of skin color, and neither should we be.
Realize we are all here because God has called us, and now He has sifted us out of the Laodicean Church. God did not do this because of our color, our looks, our shape or our personality, but because we wanted to hold fast to His truth. What the ministry looks for in a person is that he is obeying God and keeping the commandments. If he is not, then he won’t be here long—black or white, tall or short.
Don’t allow yourself to get distracted by any kind of prejudice.
Could we be distracted by a shallow understanding of the Sabbath and God’s holy days and what they picture? How well do we understand these days and God’s plan for mankind? This will be directly tied to how much we want to be a part of God’s Kingdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever” (Psalm 111:10).
On the other hand, we could be easily distracted by thinking we understand everything all too well. Some of us have been around God’s Church for so long and heard so many messages that we get calloused to some of the things we hear, tune some things out, and start to forget the basics.
Nothing can distract us more from this goal than thinking we have heard it all before, and that we know it all. Realize that there will always be something to glean out of any scripture or message. Closing our minds to things we have “heard before” means we will also have our minds closed to any new understanding. If we think we have heard it all, then when some new revelation does come forth, we might be slow to respond. There is plenty you haven’t heard yet.
Always be teachable and open-minded, and don’t be distracted by “I’ve heard this all before.” That attitude can lead to us becoming self-reliant, thinking we don’t need God’s help—which can distract us in a severe way.
We all have problems. Many of us, instead of going to God and asking for His help, try to tough it out on our own. There are times when we just cannot manage without God’s help. We need to ask God for His help and ask Him to help us make right decisions.
We need the power of God, or we will be distracted from this incredible vision and potential.
Finish the Race
The race we are involved in is not a game. It is a lot more important than that game played in 1908. Fred Merkle never did live that incident down, even though he went on to play another 15 years. He was called “Bonehead Merkle.”
We have a lot more at stake than a ball game; we have eternal life in the God Kingdom and the most exalted position in the Family of God. If we ever get distracted to the point where we lose sight of this goal, and if we don’t finish the race that has been set before us, we will lose more than a ball game.
With his 15-year career after the mistake, you could say Fred Merkle had another chance, but we do not have that luxury. Either we go all the way and finish the race or we strike out. Let’s never let anything distract us and get our minds off the goal. When the going gets tough, remember what Christ said in Matthew 28:20: “[L]o I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” God will be with us, helping us, until the end of the race. Isn’t that a fantastic promise? Let’s not forget what we have learned. Keep focused on the marvelous vision ahead. If we do that, we will never be distracted.
From the Archives: Royal Vision, November-December 2002