"Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."
- Colossians 3:2
She was in the process of setting a new world record: swimming 26 miles in the open ocean. You see, in 1952 Florence Chadwick was one of the world's most famous "open ocean" swimmers. By this time she had already set world records by crossing the English Channel in record time... twice. Her first time, she navigated the English Channel from the shores of England to France, in just over 13 hours. The second time, she accomplished this amazing feat going against the current, and crossed from France back over to England in about16 hours. This double accomplishment earned her the title as the first female swimmer to cross the English Channel both ways! Amazing!
But now, Florence Chadwick was about to embark on another jaw-dropping feat: performing a 26 mile open ocean swim from the west coast of California to the island of Catalina. To make matters worse, the waters off the coast of California could be very frigid during certain times of the year, and they're also infested with man eating sharks. But none of this deterred the iron willed athlete Florence Chadwick. For months on end now she had been training her body for the frigid waters and a grueling swim to Catalina Island. She was determined to conquer the water, and to set a new world record.
When the fateful day of her record breaking swim took place, she embarked into the water surrounded by a team of paramedics, medical professionals, and was even followed by her very own mother in a boat. The purpose of this medical and support team was to protect Florence from any possible shark attack, but also to render medical assistance, if necessary, over the course of her swim.
After Florence had been swimming for over 15 hours, things suddenly took a turn for the worse. A huge bank of fog rolled over the water, and was so intense that the entire team was disorientated. Florence was no longer sure of her position relative to the shore. As if this wasn't bad enough, to Florence began to be overcome by muscular exhaustion, fatigue, and possible hypothermia. She was disoriented and confused in the water, not sure of her position or direction. Her emotions began to crack under the strain of the mounting circumstances.
Eventually, Florence's iron will began to crack. She feared that she no longer had the stamina to complete her swim, and was afraid that she wouldn't be able to make it to the island. This world renowned athlete began to lose hope, and started to cry.
Her mother and her personal doctor tried to encourage her and reinvigorate her hopes, but to no avail. Florence, after being disoriented by the fog, overcome by physical exhaustion, and now emotionally drained, made the decision to quit her swim. She was pulled out of the water and wrapped in a blanket, as the team attempted to determine their distance from the shoreline.
Once Florence had been pulled into the boat, her team navigated their way through the dense embankment of fog and mist, only to emerge from it and discover, to their horror, that Florence had quit her swim within just 1 mile of the shoreline! Surrounded by the fog, and unable to keep the shore in view, she had given up within reach of her ultimate goal.
Later, at a press conference covering the event, Florence Chadwick made this tragic comment regarding her decision:
"I think I could've made it, if I only could have seen the shore."
This true life story from the life of Florence Chadwick aptly illustrates the struggles that many Christians are facing today. Surrounded by the fog of life, and engulfed in the mists of problems and tribulations, many Christians simply feel like they should give up on their walk with Christ, and throw in the spiritual towel. Discouragement, depression, spiritual warfare, and many other problems afflict Christians to such a degree that they feel despondent, detached, and apathetic towards the things of God.
But they simply need to follow the advice of this world class athlete: keep your focus on the "shoreline" of Heaven! Isn't that what Paul told us to do in Colossians 3:2 when he wrote:
"Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."
Another modern translation words it like this:
"Let the realities of Heaven fill your thoughts."
Isn't it interesting that in a time of discouragement and depression, what did Jesus choose to focus His disciples attention upon? Heaven! He told them in John 14:1-3 that the REPRESSION for our DEPRESSION is the promise of HEAVEN:
"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
Have you ever stopped to consider what the Lord purposefully chose to give to the members of the Early Church, that were experiencing brutal persecution and gruesome martyrdoms at the hands of the Roman caesars? In Revelation 4:2-4 Jesus showed these troubles saints a wonderful vision of Heaven:
"Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads."
In order to strengthen, inspire, and empower these early disciples, who were experiencing so much pain in this world, Christ gave them a beautiful glimpse of the next:
"Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” - Revelation 21:1-5
So if you're feeling tired today, exhausted by the trials of life, about ready to throw in the towel and give up....don't!! Remind yourself of the coming glories of the Heavenly Kingdom; be inspired again at the thought of seeing your Master face to face, in the Heavenly City; be empowered by knowing that His Kingdom is coming, nothing can stop it, and there is a special place in it - just for you!
By the way, Florence reattempted her world record swim...and did it! Want to know what the secret was? When asked what she did different this time around, she simply answered:
"During my entire swim I made sure to keep in my mind a clear picture of the shoreline. I burned into my mind the image of my final destination, and it kept me going until I finished!"
Let the reality of Heaven fill your thoughts, keep going forward, and finish strong!