Running to Win
By John P. King
Let's face it, we live in a highly competitive world. This dog-eat-dog, rat race existence was underscored by Charlie Sheen's famous rant and declaration that he was "Winning!" Whether it's business, recreation, church, or even the family dinner table, competition seems to rule our lives. I make more money than you. My team is better than yours. Our church gave more to missions and has more members than theirs. I have more food on my plate than you do, and can eat more than you can.
We live with a never ending push to succeed and win. Of course, this leads us to constantly compare ourselves with others to see how we measure up. How am I doing compared to those around me? If we aren't winning, if we aren't out in front, then we are just another in a crowd of faceless losers. The expression in the sports world that sums up this perspective says, "Second place is first loser."
Sounds rather beastly, doesn't it? "First loser." Unless we make it to the top, success has eluded us and satisfaction turns to disappointment. We have been trained to feel this way – it is how this world works. Need an example? Next time you have a chance to watch or participate in a sport or game where there are many contestants, pay close attention to the awards given at the end. The Olympics Games is a great example. At the end of every event the gold, silver, and bronze medals are given out. Obviously, the happiest person on the podium is the one with the gold, the one who won. Years of work and sacrifice have paid off and a dream has come true.
Typically, do you know who the next happiest person is? It's the one with the bronze. Only three medals are given out, and they realize that, after all that time and effort, they came pretty close to going home with nothing. Not that they didn't want to win, but there is a sense of relief in having received something for their work.
The saddest person is the one in second. They look up to the winner and reflect on just how close they came to their dream, yet still lost. You can usually see it written all over their face. They put on a fake smile that says, "Yay. I got the…silver." Their sense of worth diminishes because they couldn't measure up. Never mind that among 6 billion+ people on the planet there is only one other "better person" out there. They are still the first loser among a host of losers.
We have to train ourselves to think differently, because the kingdom of God doesn't work that way. In I Corinthians 9, Paul writes about his experiences and motivations in working out the calling the Lord had given him;
"Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize." (I Corinthians 9:24 & 25 NLT)
Notice it says "we" do it for an eternal prize. We can all win! We can all go to heaven because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross.
However, just getting to heaven isn't the whole point. In his follow-up letter to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote this:
"For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body." (II Corinthians 5:10)
We may be in the race to get to heaven, but we are all running our own course. The Lord has a special individualized track for each of us. I'm not running your race, and you aren't running mine. I won't be judged for you, and you won't be judged for me, or anyone else for that matter. The Lord doesn't measure us against others. Winning not only means making it to heaven. Winning means making the Father proud. Winning means walking out our faith daily. Winning has nothing to do with how we measure up against others, it means how well we measured up against God's plan for us.
As Paul said, RUN TO WIN! Live for Jesus the way only you can. Because getting to heaven is just the beginning. God has a whole lot more for us than just that.
Copyright 2012 John P. King. Used by permission.
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John P. King is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and works as a prayer team coach at CBN's National Prayer Center in Virginia Beach. He has a Bachelor's in Bible from Valley Forge Christian College and an M.A. in Practical Theology from Regent University. John authored the devotional book, Don't Smoke the Newspaper and Other Lessons Learned by a Pastor. He and his wife, Genevieve, have two grown children. Send John your comments.
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