Striving for the Prize

Volunteering with International Friendships (IFI), Peggy and I enjoy rich, enduring relationships with students from around the world who attend area universities during this important season of preparation and transition. Some apply themselves toward undergraduate diplomas while others strive for Masters or PhD-level degrees, all of them growing in knowledge and understanding as they equip themselves for what lies ahead, uncertain as that is. We celebrate their accomplishments with them, smiling at how they’ve matured since we first met.

It has been 40 years since I graduated from something—college is a distant memory, and much of that for which it prepared me is likewise in my rear-view mirror. Yet no matter our age, the eternity that lies ahead is no less vast, nor any more measurable than when we began our journey on this earth; it is as certain and promising as it ever has been, even though “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”1 Such confidence is ours; such peace!

In this assurance, Paul applied himself with the focus and intensity of a graduate-level student pursuing an imperishable diploma: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.”2 What did he discard in his striving for heavenly gain? His worldly credentials. “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

Then is our earthly learning of no value? Of course not. How greatly God is glorified when in Him we apply our skills in the trades, our insights in the professions, our knowledge in the lab or our savvy in the marketplace. Yet we yearn for the day—and may we strive for it—when we win the ultimate prize for which He has called us: being found in Christ and welcomed into the presence of God.

Father, thank you for such a certain hope in such an imperishable prize. This moment, I pause to set my sights heavenward, and I ask that you would guide me all my days here. Amen.

1 1 Corinthians 2:9
2 Philippians 3:13-15
3 Philippians 3:8, 9

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