Time for some more truth... from me ... about me. I am a naturally competitive person. Apparently, so is he, a competitive person. I was abreast of him in the jetway as we were boarding our Orange County flight to Oakland. He was ripped (muscles, I mean), and I was curious about the tattoo that showed only partially beneath his right shirtsleeve. 'Scuze me,' I said, 'what does the rest of your tattoo look like?' He proudly pulled up his sleeve and quickly supplied, 'it is a wrestling match between Jesus Christ and the devil.' Hmmm.
Okay, that was a new one . . . right? He continued, 'I wrestled in high school, I wrestled in college and this is a tat that means a lot to me.' 'Who wins-Jesus or Satan?' I inquired. 'Oh Jesus, of course,' he responded, squaring his shoulders. 'So you're a Christian then?' He smiled easily, 'Yes'. 'Uh huh, me too. In fact, I write Bible study and send it via email...' 'Hey, could I give you my e-mail address?' he asked, not skipping a beat. 'Of course,' and I handed him my phone to put in his info. Yes, all this, in the three or so minutes we were in line. My new friend, Ralph, knows what it means to compete; he also knows that the evil one competes for him, and he is not about to let him win. Hmmm . . . I say again. Such meaningful conversation - such an adventure, the Christian life.
Yes, I am a competitor - and when there is a prize? Fuggetaboutit. I will win. Especially the one I am talking about today.
Apparently, so was he, a competitive person~ brother Paul. Consider this claim of his: "I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize"1
Then Paul gives us a few hints about how to truly be effective/competitive in the Christian life:
"I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize
for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us2...
Paul knew the race would be won by pressing on-not giving up. . .
That the race is won through relationship with Jesus
And the end of the race is what God is calling us toward...
My friend, you too are called. That is quite lovely, isn't it?
You are not supposed to cast about aimlessly because you have a purpose,
and you have a divine destination.
as Paul declared, We are citizens of heaven3
But in order to press on, we must forget the past4--let go of past failures, let go of past sin and guilt, let go of disappointments, wrongs done to us, hurts and heartaches, and
look forward to what lies ahead.
And one more thing my young friend, Ralph, already knows. In order to be competitive, in order to even show up on the wrestling mat, gotta be disciplined. Paul knew that too, of course. I love how he expressed it, "Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything.I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified."5
Hmmm. Not running aimlessly, not shadowboxing or beating the air. But disciplined.
My youngest son, Danny - 19, just started Mixed Martial Arts. Like his brother, Dylan, he loves the athletic challenge, the speed, the boxing, the kicking - and like his mama, he loves to compete...he likes to have a reason to 'get in the ring' and work toward his personal best.
How about you . . . ready to get in the game, the one that matters most in life? The one that leads to heaven and an eternal prize? Do not let yourself settle. Mediocrity feels cruddy, and you know that. Let's press on, let's give Jesus our best, our all . . . let's win, breaking the tape with our chest as we burst forth into Heaven someday. Whaddayasay?
Competitiveness is good ~ especially when it calls us to lead with our personal best for Christ.
1 - Philippians 3.14, God's Word Translation
2 - verse 14, NLT
3 - verse 20
4 - verse 13
5 - 1 Corinthians 9.25-27