The Prize!

The Prize!

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

For those who understand the nature of competition, the goal is to obtain a prize.  However, in Christ, we are not competing for a prize as mere mortals understand it. We are running a race to obtain the end promise-eternity in Heaven with Jesus. If we are competing for any other prize that will rust, fade, or tarnish, we may miss the opportunity for the true prize.

Professional athletes compete to win world recognition and rings and trophies for the team. In order to do that–they prepare by participating in grueling workouts, team practices and disciplining themselves to stay focused on the goal. And when they win national competitions, many on the winning team tell reporters–the next stop in their journey is Disneyland.

Musicians in high schools compete for medals and trophies. In order to win, they prepare by studying the music, practicing their instrument and disciplining themselves to focus on the end goal.

Writers compete for prizes in various genres and sometimes just for the sake of energizing creativity and stamina in staying focused in completing a project under deadline. In particular–the National November Writing Month is not about competing with others necessarily, and there is usually a great deal of support from other participants to encourage one to keep going to write that 50 thousand words in 30 days. I’ve entered the competition for three years and always finished under 15 days. The win–though rewarding–did not garner me anything other than bragging rights and a certificate. And so this year, I’m not writing because I have already won–the knowledge that I could do it.

Unfortunately, in the same competition–some people start out with projects they have started years before and in essence–they’re cheating themselves because their participation and possible completion has been rigged with the early start. So even if they complete the goal–it’s not really a win.

That’s how I view our recent election–a rigged election for a win is not really a victory–and the evidence of such is so apparent that even a blind person could see it. But until we change how we do business, we are stuck with the possibility of more rigging–through deliberate lying and undermining–trying to win by any means. But winning an election is not the prize–it is a responsibility and a commitment to govern all people–with equity and justice for all. If this role is not taken seriously, then democracy begins to unravel and we become vulnerable to all the predators who seek to destroy. For their goal–is to control.

Though there are some who say we simply have to accept the status quo, I believe that change begins with action and until there is action, there is no change. So, I’m going to use the same discipline exercised in competing for a prize, to energize others to see change that benefits all–starting now, so that we have a leader who knows and understands the need for preparation in order to govern and lead. 

Enduring To The End!

But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:13 ESV

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  I Corinthians 9:24,25 NIV

Today, I’m participating in a walk-a-thon to raise money for band camp for our students’ Marching Band and it appears that we’ll be walking in the rain on a cooler morning than we saw yesterday. I will dress to meet the test!.

To get ready for this event, I’ve been working out to a song for 20 minutes every morning and walking when weather permits. I can normally work a mile in under 20 minutes and recently have walked 2 and half miles in 40 minutes. Today, the goal is to walk 5 miles and I have at least two hours to get it done.

I wonder, if we knew how much time we had left to get living right for God, what we would do. Would we practice living right or just think by some “magical event” it would just happen?

Living right for God according to His Word is a daily exercise–physically and spiritually and the best time to start is early morning–to set the pace for the day. Get into His Word, meditate upon His Word, and then practice what you have read with all you meet and greet throughout the day. Living right for God is not going to just happen–like anything else that we value–we must practice. Exercise faith in the moment every day and watch how God will work in your lives.

Only those who endure–keeping the faith and exercising the Word–will be saved and in my case today–if I endure to the end of the time allotted–I shall reach my goal and will have earned enough from pledges to support two students for band camp.

Our God is awesome and at my age–I need His awesomeness to strengthen me at the turn of every lap until I complete my 20 laps.  Thank You, Lord for power from within and without to achieve-to Your glory!

What Prize Are We Seeking?

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.