I remember those days growing up. Not just playing sports, but competing athletically. On the field. On the courts. Off-season workouts. Beyond season teams. From the age of 6 through my early 20’s, sports played a major factor in my life. I often think back, now, at the hours, the days, the weeks, and the years that it consumed my life. For real, it really did overshadow so much.
For me, and I can’t or won’t speak for anyone else, I really enjoyed winning. There was just something about it. Sure, I loved the games and the preparation and the practices. But the motivation was being “the best” and “excelling” and “being a champion.” The trophies were the icing on the cake – and I collected many trophies in 15 years, across 3 or 4 sports. Back then (and to my kids, “way back then”) you were typically only given a trophy for winning; not for signing up, not for playing, not for 2nd or 3rd or 4th place. The victors were given THE FIRST PLACE TROPHY. Second place usually got a ribbon or a medallion necklace. Beyond that…nothing.
A few years ago now, when we were back home in the Shenandoah Valley visiting my Mom and family, I remember being upstairs in the very house I grew up in and seeing the boxes of trophies I had, tucked away, all but forgotten over 2 decades. I ripped the tape off, pulled the flaps back, and beheld those trophies – looking at each inscription on each of the face-plates. Then, like a train coming barreling down the tracks at a high-rate of speed and power – I remembered instantaneously this passage from God’s Word:
“These things I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ. It’s far more than that. I consider everything worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord.” (Philippians 3, vv.7-8, GWT).
The Apostle Paul knew, personally, all about this. Throughout this chapter, he goes through many things that he accomplished. Some have called it a resume because they were in fact things he could boast and brag about – had he chosen too. And he once did. These things were part of his accolades and a part of his very own heritage.
In v.13, he writes: “Brothers and sisters, I can’t consider myself a winner yet. This is what I do: I don’t look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3, vv.13-14).
All of a sudden…those trophies really don’t mean so much. Those trophies don’t mean so much to me as they once did. They really are nothing compared to knowing, really knowing, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I don’t know what trophies you are competing for. I don’t know what accolades and accomplishments you are seeking to fulfill. But I do know this: They are nothing compared to His glory and power, and one day, all of those trophies we spent so much time, effort, and money earning, will be laid aside forevermore. They are simply not going to mean much of anything. I am not saying we shouldn’t do our best, that we shouldn’t have spirited competition, or that excelling in a gifted area is bad – I am just saying in comparison – our trophies fall exceedingly short.
I am reminded of this saying, as I close: “One day everything will come to pass, and only what’s done for Christ will last.”