Pride is a wonderful thing. It gives us an amazing power to achieve great things. The only drawback is that it directs us to accomplish things that only give us glory, instead of God.
We seek that glorious prize – a 1st place trophy, a trophy home, a trophy car, or a trophy life – and we do so with a fervor that allows us to sacrifice better things to have it. Over time, we become convinced that reaching that goal is the most important thing, and that once there, everything will be better than it was.
We set goals and often work overtime to achieve them, only to get there and find that we are no more satisfied with our success than others are. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t set goals and work diligently to accomplish them, but it does mean that the reasons for achieving these goals must be different.
“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.” – 1 Corinthians 9:23-25
Here, the apostle Paul communicates to us that we must “run in such a way as to get the prize,” though we don’t actually have to be first, unlike an actual race. You see, for those who have Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, everybody gets the prize. We will all receive the crown that will last forever, regardless of how we finish.
Now, the above passage, in its context, Paul expresses our need as believers to be convicted with the lives we lead and how we conduct ourselves – being self-disciplined so that we may finish the race. Paul continues in verses 26-27,
“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
So we train, whatever the goal, as hard as we can so that those who are watching us can see our purpose and intention. For our purpose is not to be first, it is to run. But instead of training really hard to qualify for the race, we were first chosen to be in the race. Now we train – to finish.
First Place is nice. Maybe God has gifted us with a talent that allows us to achieve that primary position for a reason. So the question that must be asked of those who get there is “Why did God allow me to finish first?”
But did the guy who finished second try any less? Did he train less vigorously? Of course not. And for him, the question is NOT “Why didn’t I finish first?” But rather, “Why did God allow me to finish second?”
When we live for God, everything we accomplish can be clearly seen as what God has allowed or helped us to do. And quite frankly, it is impossible for us to fail if we’re doing it for Him, whatever it may be. But when our efforts are to our own gain, even our victories are hollow and meaningless. We can never be satisfied, and the grass could always be greener.
When we act on our own behalf, second place is painful and disappointing. But when we act as ambassadors of God, second place must be exactly where He wanted us to be. How, therefore, can that be a failure?
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.” – Colossians 3:23