Alabama’s Shattered Glory

This year the Alabama Crimson Tide rose to the top of the college football scene, earning the right to be called the best of the best. Their only regular season loss came at the hands of LSU in overtime; a loss soon forgotten as Alabama crushed LSU 21-0 in the BCS championship game. Along with the title of National Champions, Alabama was also privileged to take home the coveted BCS coaches trophy. This beautiful, crystal trophy is hand-sculpted in Ireland, and is valued at $30,000. Unfortunately for Alabama, their prize for all that hard work and dedication came crashing to the ground last Saturday. One of the player’s fathers accidentally tripped on the rug that sits beneath the trophy, knocking it off its podium during practice. Suddenly the exquisite symbol of their athletic achievement lay shattered on the ground in just a matter of seconds. This fiasco in Alabama reminds us that no matter how spectacular our worldly accomplishments might be, they will not last.

The Greek city of Corinth hosted the Isthmian Games every other year. This great athletic competition was second in prestige only to the Olympic Games. Paul used this as an illustration to help the Corinthian brethren view their relationship with Christ as a race:

Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:25–27 emph. added)

The trophy that champions of the Isthmian Games received was a wreath composed of woven branches. Eventually, the crown would decompose and the competitor would have nothing to show for their efforts. Paul here reminds us that the wreath Christians can look forward to will never fade away. This is all the more reason to put forth our best efforts to receive this reward.

This passage completely refutes a common philosophy that once you become a Christian you can go on with your life however you wish, because your salvation is “guaranteed.” Notice what the inspired apostle Paul says about his own Christian walk. He says that he has to beat his body and make it his “slave” on a daily basis. What would happen if he did not treat his relationship with God like an athlete who devotes all their time to their sport?  He makes it plain that he would “be disqualified” from the Christian race (v. 27). It is certainly possible, by means of spiritual laziness, to forfeit that imperishable wreath offered to faithful Christians. This is NOT salvation by our own works at all, but God only extends His grace to those who finish strong (cf. Rev. 3:5; 1 Tim. 4:16; James 1:12).

There are two important lessons here for Christians that we must always remember: (1) You must devote more energy to your relationship with God than worldly accomplishments, because the reward offered is the only one that will last forever, and (2) Make sure you discipline yourself to make everything count toward your Christianity, otherwise you’ll be disqualified from the race.

It doesn’t matter if you have a dozen Ph.D.’s, 5 Nobel Peace Prizes, millions of dollars, are the strongest human on the planet, or the BCS National Championship trophy to your name. Since each of those awards will fade away they are completely worthless when compared to the reward God offers to faithful Christians. What’s your current game plan to finish your race on top? Are you pushing yourself with the vigor of a top athlete, or are you trying to “ride the bench” all the way to the championship?

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Posted on April 18, 2012, in Putting On The New Self and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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