Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
There was a young man who invited his older friend to dinner in his home.
They laughed and enjoyed each other’s company, discussing work and life. The young man pointed excitedly to a glittering piece of plastic adorning his mantle. The trophy showed a runner and read “1st place” in carved lettering. He explained about months of hard work, waking up early to run, eating healthy, and training for the race. It was a hard fought victory that paid off!
His guest laughed, admiring the trophy. “I have one of those too.” His host was a little taken aback. This older man was in poor health and quite out of shape. His guest explained. “Mine was a hard fought victory too, but in the end I got the price down from $5 to $2!” They both laughed.
The older gentleman went home that night and the next morning, the young man received a call. His friend had passed in the night from a heart attack. His heart swelled with pain, especially a few days later when his friends widow arrived with a small gift bag. Inside was his friends matching trophy. He placed it proudly on the mantle beside his own, making sure to leave the “$5” orange sticker in its place.
What is the purpose of my stand? At the beginning, I would have confidently told you that marriage restoration was my reason. I realize now that this goal was an idol. A piece of shiny gold plastic to place on the mantle for all to see. What is my real reason for running? Is it really just to get that prize at the end? Or could there be something more to this race?
Philippians 3:2 (Message translation) says, “Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they’re interested in is appearances.”
Heres the thing. I can put this shiny gold thing up the mantle and have the appearance of a runner who has won a race. In my old marriage, I put the marriage up on the mantle to show the appearance of a pretty family, all put together in our white picket fence. Something I have learned is that appearances don’t matter. I could have the trophy and not have done any of the work to earn it and I have nothing. In fact, the word tells us that those who gain by short cutting will lose everything.
Job 27:16-17 says it like this, “Though he heaps up silver like dust and clothes like piles of clay, what he lays up the righteous will wear, and the innocent will divide his silver.”
Proverbs 13:22 says “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.”
I have to understand in my stand that my goal is not the trophy. I am not doing all of this work, training, exercising, getting up early, eating right, running so that I can get a piece of plastic. The plastic is a trophy to remind me of the victory. I am doing it for the victory.
In my life, I am not standing for my marriage for the sake of the prize – the restored marriage. Though that trophy is nice and will look great on my mantle and I will proudly display it when it is won, my reason for this race must be something more.
My reason that I run this race is for the relationship with Christ. For myself. For those around me who will be impacted by my journey. Because I love the Lord.
When I am in training, my Spirit is becoming strengthened. My relationship with the Lord is growing deeper. Just like our runner is becoming more fit. His body is becoming strong through his training. This stand is Spiritual training.
Paul goes on in Philippians 3 to say, “The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it—even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials…The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’srighteousness.
I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.”
The fact is, as the young man learned in our story, this piece of plastic was pretty valueless in the scheme of things. It meant much to him, but by itself, was worth practically nothing and could be purchased by anyone. The value of it came in the work put in to accomplish the goal. The trophy was a reminder of that accomplishment – the journey. The growth. The work it took to get to the victory is what mattered. Not the reminder on the mantle.
And don’t make a mistake. I want the trophy, my marriage restored. I would love to win this race. I am fully confident that with Christ, I will. But I realize that I am not running this race for that trophy. This race is being run for me and my relationship with the Lord. This race has given me a beautiful love with the Lord. I am running, even if I never get the trophy at the end, because I love the Lord. Because of the spiritual growth. Because of our relationship. Because of His plans for my life.
And another thing to remember is that our runner, in the end, had his physical health. We will at the end of our stand have our spiritual health, but easily we could lose focus and forget our routines and lose it. With that trophy adoring his mantle, the runner could easily be satisfied and give up his training and become the same as his guest.
Lets not only run the race towards restoration, growing Spiritually as we run, but let’s set our minds to continue even after the victory is won. Let’s make sure that the trophy adorning the mantle at the end of this race will inspire us to keep going on to win new victories, not leave us content and lazy.
Like Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7, I want to say that “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Kept the faith.
Not just run for a goal, but run for my growing relationship with the Lord. Not just win my victory and put my prize on the mantle, but keep my faith and Spiritual growth by continuing to pursue Christ all the days of my life.