I was sweaty and nervous. It was my first organized basketball game, and for the first time, I was standing at the foul line. All eyes were on me. When the referee handed me the ball, it felt like a brick, like someone removed the air and replaced it with concrete. Yet, somehow it still bounced.

So, I took my normal two dribbles, bent my knees, and shot the ball/brick. Time moved in slow motion as the ball traveled through the air. Spinning and spinning the it made its way toward the hoop until . . . nothing. I mean I hit nothing, not even the net. That’s right, my first foul shoot was an air ball.

I could have crawled under the floor. Embarrassment broke out in a new shade of red all over my face. Seeing this, the referee grabbed the ball and pointed to the back part of the round orange cylinder. With a kind fatherly voice, he said, “Aim there.”

Because of those two simple words, the story of my second shot was different than the first. Instead of a miss, it was a make. Instead of embarrassment, there was a sense of accomplishment. And the difference between the two was the simple words, “Aim here.”

I did not realize at the time, but the fatherly ref gave me more than shooting advice. He gave me insight for life, a quick primer on how to be effective. For so many times in life the difference between effectiveness and ineffectiveness is focus and aim.

What is true in life, is true especially true in a school. We need a clear target to bring focus and effectiveness to our program. We need a shared understanding of what we are trying to do if we really want to make a difference.

The question is: what is the right goal? We have financial goals, and we must, or we will not exist. We have academic goals, and because we are a school. But are those goals the ultimate goals, or do they serve a greater goal?

We believe there is a greater goal. We believe that ultimately that greater goal is the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). But how does this work in a school setting? Yes, we focus on displaying the glory of God as we train students. Yet, that is not specific enough. What are we training them to be and do?

Perhaps a biblical picture is in order. One of the great prayers in the NT can be found in Philippians 1:9-11. After sharing his deep affection for his fellow believers, Paul is moved to pray these words, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and all discernment so that you may approve what is excellent and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.”

While a full-fledge exposition of the prayer is beyond the scope of this post, there are some important things to mention as it applies to discipleship through education. First, he prays that their love would continually expand more and more. In other words, the goal Paul’s instruction is to be a catalyst for the maturing and expanding of love for God and others.

Notice, however, the kind of love in view. It is a love that abounds and overflows with knowledge and all discernment. The word “knowledge” points to a deepening understanding of the Christian faith. The term “discernment” points to the application of the knowledge across the spectrum of human life. Hence he prays that there love will flourish in the rich soil of a deepening knowledge of Christ with a broadening ability to apply the knowledge to all areas.

In other words, he prays for wonderful and powerful combination—head and heart in their growth in Christ. Not only is it a wonderful prayer; it is an ambitious one.

Yet, Paul does not stop there. What is the function of this love that grows in knowledge and insight? His answer is discernment. That is, maturing Christians will be able to approve what is excellent. As I have heard it said, one who grows in this way will be able to test for the best.

When all of this comes together, you will see the fruits of righteousness that come through Jesus Christ. The sweet fruit of Christ-likeness will grow in such a way that our thoughts, words, and actions are pleasing to God.

Finally, the end result is precisely the result we are created to produce—the glory and praise of God. This is the good life. This is a picture of human flourishing.

That is why we like to say at CLA: We are here to train students to be fully alive and ready to thrive.”

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