You can learn an important lesson about life from flying on an airplane. Once I share it, I’ll bet you remember it every time you see an airplane in flight.
Planes are different from every other mode of travel in a very significant way. I’ve ridden in cars all over the world. I’ve traveled in boats so small that three was a crowd and on ships so large you can land a plane on them. I’ve been on trains, trolleys and rickshaws. Heck, I’ve even ridden in a horse-drawn cart. You know what? Each of these and many other modes of transport are capable of going in reverse. Backing up is not an issue.
But planes are incapable of moving in reverse. Even when sitting on the ground, moving backwards requires an outside source to push them backwards. Planes are designed to move in one direction, and one direction only. Forward. Always forward, ever forward. The wings of the plane are designed to give lift to the aircraft as it moves forward. The largest plane in the world can lift over 1.4 million pounds into the wild blue yonder. That’s close to 650 tons of cargo!!
But only when it’s moving forward. There’s no stopping, and no going backward. Amazing capacity, but dependent on constant progress.
Today’s verse says ALL ATHLETES ARE DISCIPLINED IN THEIR TRAINING. THEY DO IT TO WIN A PRIZE THAT WILL FADE AWAY, BUT WE DO IT FOR AN ETERNAL PRIZE.
You’ve heard me say often that salvation is a gift. It’s freely offered, it’s been bought and paid for by Jesus choosing to make His sacrifice for our sin. There’s nothing we did to deserve it, and nothing we could ever do to earn it. All of that is true. We were dead in our trespasses and sin, and then Jesus came along and offered us life.
Being born into new life in Christ is very much like being born the first time. You had absolutely nothing to do with your first birth. You didn’t impact when or where. Your very existence is a gift delivered by your mother.
But once a child has been born, a process begins. Healthy children continue growing, developing, learning — and finally contributing. Disciplined training and education provide a platform from which they can impact the lives of others. They develop and apply their skills, talents and abilities; making a difference in their lives and the lives of those around them. Great things can be accomplished by those who do this well.
Our spiritual life is no different. We had nothing to do with our spiritual birth. Even the faith to believe in Jesus comes from Him as a gift. We were dead in our sins, remember? Dead people don’t do anything.
But once we’ve been given His life, we are expected to do something with it. He gives us spiritual gifts so that we can use them to advance His kingdom. The bible tells us to fight the good fight of the faith. That sounds like there is significant training and effort involved. God tells us to take hold of the eternal life to which you were called. Clearly there’s one thing freely given, and another thing we need to work hard to take hold of! The apostle Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me a crown of righteousness.” Peter talks about getting an unfading crown of glory.
We’re not talking about EARNING your salvation, that is a gift freely given. But THEN — once we have been made alive in Christ — all followers of Jesus have a job to do. Those who work hard at it will receive a great reward. Those who don’t will be saved, to be sure. But REWARDS in heaven will be for those who have earned them by their sacrificial life.
In many places around the world, every participant in a sporting event and other types of “competitions” get a participation trophy. If you manage to show up, you get a prize regardless of how well or poorly you performed. In fact, you can get a participation trophy just for being part of the team – whether you stepped foot on the field or not. God does NOT work that way, my friend. He gives us life freely as a gift, but He rewards the one who leads a disciplined and sacrificial life for Him.
I’m not talking about spiritual life, but about what you DO WITH IT. God is the ultimate judge, and He knows precisely the reward we have earned. The bible speaks of several different types of crowns, and multiple rewards and blessings. Our minds cannot even begin to conceive the incredible rewards He has in mind for those who have loved Him well. But the rewards are not automatic, only salvation is. Jesus made His life a gift to us. His rewards are given to those who invest their time, talent and treasure to make their lives a gift to Him.
Don’t waste the life He has given you. Invest it.
In Christ we all have life, gifts, talents and treasure. We need to develop them, invest them and take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. WE DO IT FOR AN ETERNAL PRIZE.