What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. (I Corinthians 9:18,19;24,25 NKJV)
Sometimes people find themselves competing for something when they don’t understand what the prize is. There are people seeking greatness and recognition, but not wiling to do great things. There are people seeking the starring role (in everything they do), yet they have no clue as what the role encompasses. And many others seek positions of authority when they have no respect for authority and then wonder why, they are not respected as an authority in any aspect.
Before anyone seeks the end reward, they should know what prize they are seeking–how much they will have to give of themselves in order to be considered–prizeworthy.
Paul understood this dilemma well. He knew his conversion from religion to relationship was worth the prize–a crown given by God at the end of his journey. He also knew the journey would not easy. In fact, while he was in religion, he was a person who had been given authority to persecute Christians–as an authority for the Pharisees. He was free to travel and do all the evil he wanted to do–in the name of religion. Now, as a convert–in relationship with God–he found himself a servant of the Most High, willing to sacrifice himself by preaching the Gospel so that all might have an opportunity to know Truth, knowing the risks involved. He understood what the prize was and how he would obtain and he was determined to accomplish his goal.
Are we as determined to accomplish our goals? Do we even understand what the prize is when we find ourselves competing (sometimes against ourselves)? Do we understand the rules of the competition before we begin or are we just concerned about winning recognition from others?
In the church and outside of the church, we have people who want to be in the spotlight, the star of the show, but they have no clue what it means to “earn” the position. People (men and women) claim God has called them into ministry and they want everyone to know–they have a word from The Lord, but when they open their mouths, those who know The Word, recognize the person speaking has not read The Word with understanding. And when these same people finish making a fool of themselves, expecting a standing ovation for their performance, they are disappointed when people sit on them and think there must be something wrong with the people.
At the same time, we have others who seek leadership roles without understanding and when they fall on their faces at every turn, refusing to seek guidance or scorn it when offered, they get angry because others are recognized for “doing good works” and not just talking about doing things.
If we do not have a servant’s heart–a heart to please others–the prize we seek will always be just out of reach. In the pulpit–the prize should be a soul won or encouraged if all are saved. Outside the church, the prize should be to make a difference in the lives of others, not in seeking greatness. God knows our heart and He knows who has a servant’s heart and who is simply seeking recognition of people, rather than in pleasing Him.
Pleasing God means doing all things decently and in order–according to His Word. Of course, if we don’t know His Word, it would be difficult to do things His way and achieve His results. With His results, we earn His prize–eternal life. In the world, if our goal is to stand in the spotlight–for all the world to see–we get the world’s prize–temporary acknowledgement and when the spotlight falls upon others, we are soon forgotten.
Now think about it–will the prize sought be permanent or temporary? Eternal or temporal? From God or from people? I’m seeking the prize that only God holds–the crown of life and my goal–to promote the Gospel so as many who hear or read what I say, will be saved.