Nothing can start a war quicker in a preschool classroom than different colored chairs. Some kids will refuse to sit unless they can claim their preferred color. If someone else has that color, an argument ensues. There may be tears. Or a tussle. Teachers must arbitrate.
To adults, this seems like a silly thing to fight over. Yet we tend to battle over things that are equally insignificant — and fail to fight for things that really matter.
In the wake of recent school shootings, we see politicians fighting over gun laws, the use of social media, and how to detect mental illness. They fail to see the deeper issues: how to reach the lonely kids who have no godly influences in their lives; who have no moral values instilled in them; who have no God to turn to when they hit life’s road-bumps. Kids who are already broken by the time they reach their teens and want to lash out at those who have hurt them.
Christians, we should be mounting a battle of prayer against the forces that seek to destroy so many youth. The battle is a spiritual one—for the hearts and minds of the next generation. Pray for those who are reaching out in various ministries to troubled youth. Pray for God’s love to invade our schools, communities and homes. Pray that the broken will be healed.
Watching Olympic figure skaters can be a nail-biting experience. As they prepare for high leaps, turns and spins, you hold your breath. Will they make it? Will they fall?
Sadly, falls will come. Points will be lost. But the program isn’t over as long as the skater recovers and continues. You can be sure the performer will be working on that element to assure future success!
In the world of competition, winning is everything. But in the Christian life, losing can be winning! This is how the Apostle Paul saw it:
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7,8).
Paul was willing to abandon worldly success to gain an eternal prize. He understood that one can gain the world and lose his own soul. He chose to forget the past and to press forward. Losing can be winning when we learn from our mistakes, redirect our energies, and focus on what really matters. Stumbling blocks can become stepping stones to even greater victories.
Monuments. Trophies. Medals. Certificates. While they may not hold monetary worth, they serve an important purpose. These markers of past victories remind us of battles fought and won. They point to goals achieved and challenges overcome. They inspire us to reach higher.
The Ark of the Covenant was a symbol of victory for the Israelites. It was their guide through the wilderness. The priests carried it to the Jordan River— and the waters parted. They carried it when they marched around Jericho — and the walls fell! When they carried it into battle, in accordance with God’s direction, their enemies were defeated. It was more than a good luck charm. It represented the very presence of God. It reminded the Israelites that God was fighting for them. And it struck fear in the hearts of their enemies.
For God’s people today, His Presence is not a symbolic object, but a living reality. It is our source of peace and strength.
When we face personal challenges and obstacles, our key to victory is to carry the God’s Presence into the battle. When our hearts are tuned to God’s purposes through prayer and worship, we can rest in the assurance that the battle is not ours, but His. His solution will be the best and we are the winners.
The winter Olympics will soon begin in South Korea. Athletes in every sport will be racing for the finish line. Those who cross first will be rewarded with gold medals and international fame.
But victory is more than crossing the finish line first. It includes all the steps you took to get there. The dedication. Hours of practice. Maintaining fitness. Focus. Faith. In this sense, every serious athlete is a winner.
In Christian circles, not every faithful believer will be seen in the spotlight or declared “hero of the faith.” Their deeds of service may go unnoticed. Their sacrifices unrewarded. Their contribution may be deemed insignificant. Yet these are the steps that will finally lead to eternal victory.
For the Christian, “crossing the finish line” means more than claiming a medal or achieving fame. It means entering the presence of God and hearing Him say, “Well done.” Our heroes in the Bible aimed for that reward, laying aside any earthly ambition. Their example challenges us to aim higher and to keep running toward that goal.
As the Apostle Paul pointed out, “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.”