Jordon was watching the Olympics and was quite impressed with the medals given out. He said he would like to have one, but couldn’t imagine being able to perform what they did. I told him it took years and years of commitment to drills and practice, years of saying ‘no’ and sacrifice for a greater ‘yes’, keeping their eyes on the goal. It is not for the faint-hearted but for those with determination to go through rigorous training. We get to see the moments of glory, but not the hours of pain and discouragement. Their prize is well-won. Their medal is more than a piece of gold – it is a statement, a shout-out declaration, of great achievement to them, producing a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. It would not mean the same if it could be bought or just given out to someone who wanted it.
The conversation reminded me of Satan, jealous for the worship offered to God alone. We respond spontaneously in worship to God when we see and experience His goodness and His love. He proves that He alone deserves our highest praise. Satan, who knows nothing of and cares nothing for goodness and love, craves the worship without the cost. He knows he can’t get it ‘legally’ so he does what any ‘good’ prosecutor will do – discredit the witness so that the truth gets blurred, testimony discounted. He causes doubt as to God’s goodness and love – beginning in Eden. And yet God, knowing this, allows ample opportunities for us to question as we go through hardship and suffering. He knows we shall come forth as gold as we keep the beauty and practice of worship despite what we experience, for it comes from a place deep inside us and goes beyond our personal and temporary circumstances. The same circumstances Satan would exploit for his own means. The worship Satan can get will essentially be without meaning, but he is determined to substitute whatever he can for it.
Another ploy he has is to pull down God (as if he can) in our hearts and minds. To make the holy, ordinary. To make the sacred, less so. To make a ‘set apart’ God, common. To profane the sacred and holy through profanity, through offering false religions, through distraction, through whatever means he can. He can dangle what seems like a gold medal in front of our eyes, but little do we know it is cheap plastic painted with gold paint. But if it serves to keep our eyes from the true prize and requires less personal sacrifice, he has accomplished it. Cheapened it. He works to reduce the sacredness of God. He works to make the sacredness of marriage seem old-fashioned. To make the sacredness of the beautiful differences between God’s highest creation, man and woman, to be blurred and gender confused, so that what is right seems wrong, and what is wrong seems right. If all is ordinary, all is out of order, then and only then can he emerge as the object of people’s worship. Only then can he re-place God.
(We can even see it at work as he seeks to replace the uniqueness and ‘set apartness’ of the USA and its godly foundations and ally of Israel by causing division and making it seem like the nation that has been a strength to the world should not be so, but should be like everyone else. He makes our strength seem like a weakness and magnifies every weakness, causing discontent and disrespect. Americans who once gloried in our strength, given and set apart by the Creator, now see it as weakness and shame in the eyes of the world)
And unfortunately we fall too easily into his game, his ploys. Why, when we know the One True God Who created us, gave us a mighty purpose and power, redeemed us and has a glorious future ahead for us – why do we fall into it? We lose sight of the big picture and quibble among ourselves or become defensive rather than conquering by love, by overcoming evil with good. Jesus experienced the consequences of the fallen world, including the mocking, shame, pain, betrayal – and yet kept His eyes on the goal. He endured all of that for the joy that was set before Him. He championed over sin and death and is our example of pressing on. Of enduring for the goal, the prize. He deserves the medal of our praise and worship. He ‘won’ it rightfully and victoriously!
We live in a less-than-perfect world. Eternity is set in our hearts so we long for more, for heaven or Eden or perfection for our less-than-perfect circumstances. We know this can’t be all there is. We know we have missed out and desire the gold medal, but don’t feel worthy of it as we stumble on our way. Yet, maybe we are only truly perfected if that is what we CHOOSE given the smorgasbord of what the world offers. It is the process of many ‘no’s’ and sacrifices for greater good and glory. It is the process of experiencing less than perfect circumstances so that we can truly experience God in all His many facets. Maybe this is ‘what is meant to be’ so the crown of glory means something to overcomers, just like a gold medal means something greater to an Olympian. God wants fire tested, tried, true, faithful followers, ones who stay faithful to finish the course. And in the end, we will not only experience heaven and crowns and glory, but the True Prize of God – Himself.
And, amazing thought that it is, we will be His prize.
In the meantime, press on toward the calling of God, not veering to the right or the left. And know the cloud of witnesses cheering you on.