Trophies

[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. ūüôā ]

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 ūüôā ).

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 ūüôā .

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.”

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“…to be seen of men,” Matthew 6:1-5

Our Lord scolded the Pharisees on more than one occasion.  One of the things He charged them with was doing it for the attention they received.  Ostensibly, they were serving God, but really, they were serving themselves.

One time, Spurgeon referred to ministers who sought out snippets of praise like a cat sniffs out a mouse, that they might have them for their breakfast.

There is something “heady,” if you will, about standing in front of people and being the center of their attention, at least for a little while. ¬†This is why some pro athletes and movie stars find it so difficult to “retire,” and sometimes “come back” when it would have been better for them to have stayed retired. ¬†They miss the “center.”

A couple of you have nominated this blog for awards.  Thank you.  It means a great deal to me.

At the same time, I sense in myself the attitude Spurgeon commented on. ¬†I’m disappointed when there seems to be no response to something I’ve posted. ¬†When there are comments, I’m happy. ¬†I have to ask myself, why? ¬†Am I disappointed because I’m not receiving the attention? ¬†I’m not in “the center”? ¬†Do I seek praise as the cat seeks breakfast?

In all truth, I’m just an instrument in the hands of God, amazed that He’s pleased to use such a contrary one. ¬†When a tourist goes into the Sistine Chapel, he doesn’t ask to see Michelangelo’s paintbrushes. ¬†He is awed by the painting.

I’m just a “paintbrush” in the hand of God. ¬†Even that statement seems almost to be one of insufferable pride. ¬†If I know anything of Scripture, it’s only because God has allowed that. ¬†If I’m able to write, it’s only because God has given me that ability. ¬†If something is blessed to you, it’s only because God has blessed it to you.

I do love to write. ¬†Some men and women are able to take wood or stone or some other material and make something of it. ¬†I use nouns and verbs and punctuation. ¬†Yet all of that is in vain if God doesn’t own and bless it.

I thank those who have nominated me from the bottom of my heart, but I can’t in good conscience receive these awards. ¬†Thank you for thinking of me like that. ¬†I don’t deserve such honor. ¬†Jacob told God, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth that You have shown Your servant,…,” Genesis 32:10.

I’m not, either.