The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 — “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Simply, we do what we do to please God.
Again, in his letter to the Christian community in Colossae, Colossians 3:23-24, he writes — “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving . . .”
I firmly believe in putting forth my best effort in everything I can. It is one of the great principles my parents instilled within me. I’m not always successful because there are times when I get lazy and do just enough to get by, but thankfully they are the exception not the rule in my life. In addition, if know that if I put forth my best effort, it doesn’t really matter that I might fail. Sure, winning the prize is always preferable, but if I gave it my all I can be content because I have pleased my Lord. This principle used to be the way we operated as a nation and as a people, striving for excellence. So, when did mediocrity become the accepted norm and governing rule for the day?
With this season of graduations upon us, I have again heard about more longer the scholastic goal toward which we strive. The attitude now is that the other students who did not achieve this level of excellence would be sad and disappointed. It wouldn’t be fair to them. I think it is called the “participation trophy” syndrome.
As proof of such a reality, there was a story recently about high school cheer leaders who had the usual demanding tryouts at which time several were chosen to be a part of the team. However, as has always been the case, not all who tried out were skilled enough or had the necessary qualities to do the job. Their participation in the tryouts was appreciated, but they just didn’t make the cut. Apparently, one of the girls complained which resulted in all who tried out getting a spot on the team. This had the backlash of having those girls who had worked hard and made the necessary sacrifices feel, justifiably, that all their efforts were negated. Why bother if in the end it doesn’t matter?
I’ve noticed that life isn’t fair. In the real world there are winners and losers and being a loser in a job or competition doesn’t mean you have no value as a person. I’ve endured loses more times than I care to remember. Yet, in every case, upon a little personal reflection, I realized I had learned important lessons for life. Losing isn’t a bad word if one truly gave it one’s best. It just means one must try harder or try something else at which you can excel. God loves tryers.
This standard of mediocrity which is becoming more and more prevalent in all aspects of our culture (and the church) is a frightening thing. When did it become okay to do just enough to get by or worse get a prize for just showing up? In everything God does for us He never blesses us with anything except when God made all of creation, He declared it good because it was His finest.
When God made us, humanity, we became the pinnacle of all He made with a potential of being all He intended, His best.
When God took on flesh and came into this world as Christ Jesus to free us from the bondage and slavery of sin it was nothing less than His best.
How dare we do anything but our best in return, if not for His glory, then for our own personal pride and integrity in who we are as human beings, God’s children. Abraham Lincoln put it this way, “I do the very best I know, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”
You can keep your participation trophies and effortless mediocrity. If a steady diet of bland, tasteless gruel satisfies you, knock yourself out. As for me, I like life with spice and texture, a good chew that satisfies the soul and pleases my Lord. I strive to win and if I can’t win, then I will do my very best. And those are my thoughts.