To some, Checkers is a past time - a game played on rainy afternoons or while waiting for a table at the local Cracker Barrel. Playing Checkers with my father-in-law was Wimbledon, The Masters and The Super Bowl rolled into one.
Seven years ago, on a beautiful autumn evening, Papaw, as we affectionately called him, challenged me to a Checkers match. We’d played countless games, yet Papaw's record remained the same: undefeated. Make no mistake, I never let him win. In fact, I tried every possible way to win - even browsing the internet for various strategies - all to no avail. I made excuses for my losses – “I don’t want to feel guilty for beating an old guy,” or his personal favorite, “I would hate to jeopardize my high ranking in your will.” Truth is, I couldn't beat him.
"Why can't I win?" I asked during that particular game. Papaw looked at me with piercing eyes and said something I’ll never forget: "Your problem is that you only look at your next move. If you want to win, you must look ahead." I immediately realized what a profound statement that was. Papaw may have been referring to Checkers when he made that statement, but we both knew it applied to so much more.
Later that evening, my husband and I were discussing Papaw's insightful advice. "Words to live by," I stated as we drove home. As wise as Papaw was, he wasn't the first to offer counsel on looking ahead.
Here's what Paul told the Christians at Philippi:
I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. My friends, I don't feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. - Philippians 3:12-14 (CEV)
Keep in mind, when Paul was writing to the Philippians, he was in a Roman prison. Clearly, he wasn't looking at his next move - but he was looking to the future.
THE 10-10-10 RULE
Years ago I came across a magazine article that offered advice on decision making. The author used a method she termed The 10-10-10 Rule. When making decisions, she asked herself the following question: What impact will this decision have on me in the next 10 minutes? The next 10 months? The next 10 years? By using The 10-10-10 Rule, the author explained it forced her to focus on the future rather than the present. This prohibited her from making impulsive decisions based on instant gratification - but decisions that would be productive for the future.
I had no way of knowing that autumn evening would be the last time I would play Checkers with Papaw. Four days later he suffered a stroke and passed away days after. I'm amazed that the last conversation Papaw and I had is one that will impact me forever. Fourteen days after that Checkers match, I had the honor of speaking at Papaw's Celebration Service. I recounted that story to a crowded church. Today I urge you to do the same. May we not be consumed with looking at our next move but instead look toward the future. If we strive for what's ahead and focus on the ultimate prize, we'll win every time! Until the day I can join Papaw in Heaven and have a Checkers rematch, I will keep running, struggling, and striving for the win.