The word pursuit is a noun that is the action of following or endeavoring after someone or something. When I hear the word pursuit, I immediately picture the football drill we used as conditioning; but also, to create the mindset to never give up. The drill was to have defensive players set a pursuit angle to cut off the runner before they scored. A player pursued till the whistle or if they caught the runner. I witnessed the drill playing out in game situations that prevented several opponents’ touchdowns, including one that was the difference in a win.
Some people when they hear the word ‘pursuit’ think of the Declaration of Independence and “the pursuit of happiness.” However, as Denis Waitley, the motivational speaker said, “It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.”
The concern becomes what is being pursued. Our pursuit reveals what we value – money, fame, recognition, love, God, etc. Are we pursuing happiness or purpose? Happiness is a fleeting thing; but purpose brings real joy. Needtobreathe’s inspiration for their song “Happiness” came from the sacrifices made in the name of pursuing change, change made for the right reasons. In their words, “this song shows us that the people who really do love us want us to pursue our passions and the things that God wants us to do.”
Our pursuits determine our journeys, as well as the people we associate with, and even the character we develop. Pursuit of excellence, of elegance, of truth, of what’s next, of change, of value, of results, of relationships, of service, of knowledge, and of something bigger than ourselves. A failure to pursue clarity leaves us lost in the fog. A failure to pursue creativity consigns us to routines and the mundane. A failure to pursue change, wisdom and discernment approves apathy. A failure to pursue integrity leaves questions on our character. A failure to embrace pursuit can cede opportunities to others. We cannot attain what we do not intentionally pursue.
A president of my former company, at our National Business Meeting said, “Leaders bring others into the chase.” Pursuit in its purest form is highly collaborative, very inclusive. My alma mater, Lafayette, hired a new Athletic Director a few years back and she inherited a program that was stumbling along. She instituted a program called “Climbing the Hill” (Lafayette sits atop a hill overlooking the city of Easton, PA) and with transparency brought the alumni, faculty, and community into the pursuit of athletic excellence. I have seen firsthand a young man come into the local FCA ministry and bring others onboard his passionate pursuit and the difference it made. The best high school football captains were not always the best players, but those that brought their teammates along with them on the journey of conviction and determination – from the weight room in February, through the heat of two-a-days in August, to Friday Nights.
I think the principle of leaders bringing others into the pursuit is critical in today’s challenges. One area of concern is who is leading and pursuing the common good? Several are leading and pursuing their extreme agenda (happening on both sides) and bringing others along; their objective is to defeat the other’s agenda. Man’s world fosters a performance-driven mindset where what we earn and gain is determined by conquering and impressing, rather than impacting or attaining significance. This high-performance pursuit can be addictive. There is the thrill of climbing the rungs of society’s success ladder– more money, more power, more influence. The focus is on winning and not necessarily purpose or fulfillment. When focus is on the outcome who pursues discovery? Who seeks dissenting opinions? Are we driven to pursue or called to a pursuit?
In his 1983 Templeton Prize acceptance speech, Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, warned the West that our meaning of life “ceased to stand for anything loftier than the pursuit of ‘happiness.'” He added: “We ourselves, in our daily unthinking selfishness, are pulling tight that noose” as we “unavoidably slip toward the abyss.” This was in 1983. The change in course he advised was to “reach with determination for the warm hand of God, which we have so rashly and self-confidently pushed away.” He noted that, “our life consists not in the pursuit of material success but in the quest of worthy spiritual growth. Our entire earthly existence is but a transitional stage in the movement toward something higher, and we must not stumble and fall, nor must we linger fruitlessly on one rung of the ladder.”
As Christians our priority needs to be pursuing God, out of love and obedience to Him. This pursuit then fuels everything else we do. St. Paul’s first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:11-12) notes that as we pursue God, we also are pursuing righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
Our pursuit includes a tremendous head start because it begins with God pursuing us. God initiates the relationship. He calls us and we respond. He created us, loves us unconditionally and continually and relentlessly pursues us. Ezekiel 34:11, “For thus says the Lord GOD: Look! I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.”
The twenty-third Psalm is a beautiful example of God pursuing us. He makes us lie down in green pastures, He leads us to still waters, He restores our souls, He guides us along the right paths, He walks with us, He anoints us, and in 23:6, “Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life.” Goodness and mercy were the blessings of God’s covenant with Israel.
God wants the best possible outcome for our lives. He became incarnate and has invested everything, including His son, to pursue us and have a personal relationship with us. We need to mirror that pursuit and as Matthew writes in his gospel (6:33) “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” Scholars note that Matthew’s use of the word “righteousness” means the saving act of God. To fulfill all righteousness is to submit to the plan of God for the salvation of humanity.
The only pursuit in our life that is guaranteed, the only area that we can truly count on, is our relationship with Jesus Christ. The pursuit of a relationship with Jesus; a path to salvation. Let us go after Him with everything we’ve got, experiencing the fullness of His love, seeking Him first and His purpose and plan for our lives – to give glory to God. Like the football drill, never give up and bring others into the pursuit.