At this moment, my family and I are watching Olympian athletes competing for the top prize of their sport. The performances are incredible. But what’s really amazing to us is their ability to press on: requiring years of dedication, discipline, and devotion.
A few weeks ago, I preached a sermon about “pressing on toward the prize” (see Phil. 3:14; if you want to listen to it click here). My thesis was that Christians seem to be confused about what the “prize” is. Depending on what the prize is determines how hard we press on. Olympic athletes know the prize they press on towards, but do Christians?
In the sermon, I used the story of Willie Wonka, Charlie Bucket and the Chocolate Factory (the famous children’s book by Roald Dahl, made into two movies). The coveted prize was the “golden ticket” hidden in five Wonka bars. For some this prize meant access to Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory. For others, the prize meant getting a lifetime supply of chocolate. But Willie Wonka knew the ultimate prize was far beyond these things; the prize he was really offering (unbeknownst to the golden ticket holders) was the opportunity to become his heir and inherit the entire chocolate factory.
In the same way, too many Christians settle for lesser prizes. Some settle for access into God’s Kingdom (eternal life, see John 3:16). While the promise of heaven is an amazing prize, it is not the ultimate prize that Paul writes about in Phil. 3. This settling for the lesser prize affects how we “press on.” Once you’ve “prayed the prayer,” you’re in. All there is left to do is to hold on until we “graduate” to eternal life or Jesus returns – whichever comes first.
Others see the prize as a lifetime supply of “spiritual chocolate” or the abundant life (see John 10:10). While abundant life is a wonderful asset to being a follower of Jesus, it is not the ultimate prize either. Those who pursue this prize find themselves pressing on in order to gain abundance, but get challenged when the “abundance” stops flowing. When trials come, when prayers are not answered, when things get too difficult, it’s easy to give up rather than press on.
The ultimate prize for the Christ-follower is to become like Christ. As Willie Wonka’s goal was to find a worthy heir, God’s goal for us is to also become worthy heirs of the Kingdom of God; and that is to become Christ-like. The eternal life and the abundant life are by-products of what happens when we are “transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).
So we don’t wait until “Kingdom come” for the prize. We press on in this life for the prize that continues in the life to come. We don’t live for the abundant life, but the abundant life flows from us as we become more and more like Jesus. The ultimate prize comes as we stand before the throne of God and hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share in your Master’s happiness … take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matt. 25:21, 34).
Now that’s worth pressing on for! That’s the prize that motivates us to live out Whole Life Worship.
– What helps you to be reminded of the “prize” God has for you in Christ?
– What is your motivation level to live for Christ today?