[Note: The first draft of this post was started while blasting through the air at 550 mph in a pressurized metal tube, 39,000 off the ground. 🙂 ]
In earlier days, I accumulated a few trophies: high bowling score, high handicap game. My wife and I won a 2nd place trophy in the league we used to belong to. In fact, I joke that the only reason I married her was because she beat me bowling. Before the Lord saved me, I had thoughts of becoming a professional bowler and spent hours at the local bowling alley. (This was back when you could bowl 3 lines [games] for a dollar, so you know it’s been a while 🙂 ).
After the Lord saved me, I went to Bible College, then to a church where I met my then-future wife. I didn’t bowl very often, but could still put together a decent game. The young people’s group of which I was a member would go bowling once in a while, and Sharon joined the group and went with us. On the occasion when she beat me, it wasn’t so much that she beat me; it was the score she beat me with – a 99. If you’re not interested in bowling, then this score means nothing to you, but let me tell you, it isn’t particularly good! I guess I figured that if I couldn’t beat her, then I should join her 🙂 .
If you’re familiar with miniature golf, then perhaps you know Putt-Putt miniature golf courses. One opened up where I lived and for a while I held the record for low score – a score long since beaten, I’m sure.
The place I worked when I retired held an annual 18-hole “best-ball” golf tournament. The first year I played, the foursome I was in won the tournament with a 62.
I’ve rolled a “300” bowling on the Wii – a perfect game – but admittedly considerably easier than in real life. The best I ever did then was, I think, was about 240 – it’s been a long time. My wife and I enjoy “golfing” on the Wii, again, much easier than in real life. We’re pretty evenly matched, but I think she beats me more often than not – and, no, I don’t “let” her win! I’m much too competitive for that.
My point to all this rambling…?
The Apostle Paul was also a sports fan. Even though he didn’t have golf or bowling or their easier versions on the Wii, he still made several references to running, boxing and wrestling and what it required to participate at a high level in those sports. In I Corinthians 9:24, he applied this effort to the Christian life. He wrote that these athletes work to the point of agony for a “trophy”: Now they do it for a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown, I Corinthians 9:25 (NKJV). This “crown” was a laurel wreath placed on the head of the winner of one of these events.
I learned this verse as “incorruptible crown,” and as a young Christian and Bible student, more than once heard and read that this “crown” was one of a group of five different crowns Christians could earn. However, as I began to read the Bible for myself (something which I’ve since learned, only partly tongue-in-cheek, can get you into trouble), it seemed to me that Paul wasn’t referring to a class of crowns distinct from other crowns, but was teaching the characteristic of the crown: it was “imperishable,” as opposed to the temporary nature of earthy crowns and trophies.
The laurel wreath soon wilted. The bowling trophies I won – what’s left of them – gather dust in a closet. The cup I won for rolling a 220 at Bowlero Bowling Lanes makes a dandy holder for pens. The other “accomplishments” are meaningless as my wife and I sit here in the airport waiting for a connecting flight home.
Indeed, perhaps, by the grace and mercy of God, these few words may be of more significance than all the trophies I could ever win, even to a Super Bowl ring or Stanley Cup trophy, if I could even rise to such a high level of competence.
Oh, let me encourage you if you are discouraged in your efforts to serve God. You may not be cheered on by the world and what you can do might seem insignificant compared to others, but, remember, our Lord taught that even something as simple as a cup of cold water given in His name to someone who is thirsty will have its reward – and that reward is “imperishable.”