Tag Archives: 1 Cor. 9:24

Bee Perfect

Last Thursday night, I was captivated by a contest televised on ESPN: the 92nd Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.  Let me say that I am not an advocate for the cultural predilection toward presenting  “participation awards” (the ubiquitous practice of giving everyone on the team a trophy, regardless of the score); both winning and losing has the ability to build character and excellence ought to be recognized.  So, as I began watching the ‘evening finals’, beginning with round nine where sixteen children were still competing, I was very-much looking forward to seeing a champion crowned and the other 15 children cheered as they walked off the stage, defeated but undaunted.

The ninth round of words was perfectly executed – all 16 mastered the words they were given.  Then, over the next 5 rounds, eight participants misspelled their word and exited the competition.  At that point, the remaining eight spellers broke the system, correctly spelling the next 47 words.  It was announced at one point that they were running out of words and, after a few more rounds, all those still spelling would win.  After a total of 20 rounds, the directors of the bee declared all the remaining contestants the winner of the competition.  Rishik Gandhasri, age 13 (who spelled ‘auslaut’), Erin Howard, 14 (‘erysipelas’), Saketh Sundar, 13 (‘bougainvillea’), Shruthika Padhy, 13 (‘aiguillette’), Sohum Sukhatankar, 13 (‘pendeloque’), Abhijay Kodali, 12 (‘palama’) Christopher Serrao, 13 (‘cernuous’) and Rohan Raja, 13 (‘odylic’) all walked away with the $50,000 and the trophy as champions of the National Spelling Bee.

This was not, in any way, a participation award.  It was a pronouncement of excellence, as each one perfectly executed the task before them.  These eight great spellers finished the competition without error and were declared the winner.  The unfolding of this competition reminded me of the words of Paul to the church in Corinth:

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.  1 Corinthians 9:24

These young competitors all expected that there would be only one winner and they prepared accordingly.  They competed to win the prize and they finished the competition in first place.  They won – they all won – together, giving one another High-fives and cheering on one another’s correct (always correct) efforts.   The rules of the competition did not change, only the fact that many finished perfectly, together.

In many ways, I saw a glimpse of the heavenly in the very early moments of May 31st.  The conclusion of the spelling bee reminded me of the concluding moments of life: we are diligently competing for the prize, surrounded by our fellow competitors, when the director of the race, the Lord Almighty, states that all who cross the finish line first will be declared winner.  At that moment, we interlock elbows and all step across the finish line together, all securing the prize.  We celebrate one another, realizing that we are not competing against the other runners, but the course itself.    All those still standing at the end will receive the prize.

One last word to spell:  H-A-L-L-E-L-U-J-A-H!

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God and the Gridiron

The other night as I was reflecting on the fact that the New England Patriots had just won their fifth Super Bowl©, it made me think of God’s grace and guidance. Sure, as a Pastor, I often connect random occurrences in life with Biblical themes; the progression of Sunday’s game and its outcome makes my job easy.  For the Patriots, this was a season which required the team to deal with consequences for bad actions, demonstrated determination when excuses might have been easier and exemplified fortitude and the discipline of finishing strong.  These are things we all could afford to reflect upon, and learn from, as we face the struggles of life.edelman

As even the casual football fan knows, Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season ultimately due to his refusal to cooperate with the NFL Commissioner’s investigation into “Deflate-gate”.  After a lengthy process involving the courts, Brady agreed to accept his suspension, albeit with no admission of guilt.  He then was forced to sit out the first four games of the season.  While we can argue, and many have, about the fairness of the Commissioner’s decision, it was what it was.  Tom Brady, and the team, suffered the consequences of his actions.  Then he was restored to active status and played the remainder of the season.  As I saw the Commissioner shake TB12’s hand and later hand him the Super Bowl© MVP trophy, I thought about grace.  To an even greater degree than the NFL brass and its players, God is correcting and rebuking His children and then, after confession and contrition has been made, fully and completely restores them, separating their sin as far as the east is from the west.  Do the crime, do the time, receive forgiveness and restoration, and go back out and compete.

Before the big game was played, it was reported that Tom Brady’s mother had been battling an undisclosed illness for eighteen months.  Also, the Patriots had suffered significant injuries throughout the regular season, including an injury which sidelined their most powerful offensive weapon, Rob Gronkowski.  No one would have blamed the Patriots if they had said that this was not their year, that the obstacles were too great and the challenges were too overwhelming.  Instead, the team worked hard, utilized “lesser” members, and seized victory.  To an even greater degree, God is drawing together and equipping His church to claim victory over darkness.  He has brought together a wide variety of people with a wide variety of abilities, all broken in one way or another, to become stronger together than they would ever be separately.  Do your job, do it to the best of your ability, trust those around you and taste victory.

Even the most optimistic ‘homer’ in New England may have thrown in the towel at six and a half minutes into the third quarter when the Falcons took a commanding 28-3 lead.  It is almost inconceivable that the Patriots (who had scored 3 points in the first 36:29 of the game) could score 25 points in the remaining 23:31 of regulation.  It is almost equally inconceivable, given the difficulties they had on defense, that they could hold the Falcons scoreless for the remainder of the game.  But that is exactly what happened – touchdown, field goal, touchdown, two-point conversion, touchdown, two-point conversion.  Tie game.  Overtime.  Touchdown.  Champions.  The accolades and the prize goes to those who finish strong.  To an even greater degree, that is the attitude God desires in us.  God’s people ought not to start strong and ultimately give out, but finish strong and ultimately win out.

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.   1 Corinthians 9:24

Congratulations to the World Champion New England Patriots.  I am grateful to God that He can use such an earthly endeavor as a football game to remind us of His great plans and hopes for us.