Enamored With the Lesser

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.”  D.L. Moody

The Summer Olympic Games are over. The dust has cleared, the crowds have all gone home, and the media has turned its gaze to the upcoming elections; save one trailing headline — the tale of an American swimmer who squandered his integrity and marred his own image as an Olympic athlete.

The story is the equivalent of a modern day fable through which we learn that being a true champion hinges upon which race you win.

The Olympic Games are arguably the pinnacle of athletic exhibition. With coveted medals as the reward, athletes the world over are inspired to invest years of their lives in hopes of proving themselves in the Games. Yet in the midst of this world-class event, the focus dramatically shifted to one athlete who was untruthful in his testimony. Why? Because there was a nobler game afoot, and spectators across the globe knew it.

As I reflect on this, I am reminded that missing the mark is not always about choosing evil. It is sometimes simply a matter of choosing the lesser thing —having our eyes fixed on the wrong prize.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus Philippians 3:14

My middle daughter recently returned home from the mission field for the purpose of earning additional Bible credits required by her mission board. However, as she has shared with me, it appears that the Lord orchestrated the opportunity to confront her with some painful truths about where she had set her sights. He has been working in her heart to remind her that service to Him, even the spreading of the Gospel, is not the goal. The true goal is to know the One who gave it all to redeem us. The apostle Paul put it this way:

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3:6-8

Those verses make it clear that, in comparison to knowing Jesus, all other aspirations are an inferior investment of our lives. Yet all too easily we become distracted, even enamored with lesser things, until the lesser thing becomes an idol as it replaces Christ on the throne of our heart.

The amazing thing is that we don’t run this race alone. Christ has gone before us and already won the medal on our behalf!  Victory for each us means simply allowing Him to reign in our lives and to move us toward His own likeness through the transforming power of His own Spirit —to which end He freely laid down His life.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected: but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Philippians 3:12

With so many ‘good’ things to aim for in this life, we need to be reminded that there is only one race worth running.  We must run it with all of our might, always remembering to keep our eye on the prize.

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. 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. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

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