I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 3:14
When you read this, I will be finishing my 4th month of being a pastor. Ten years ago, there is no way that I would have ever believed that I would have been the pastor of a church. It isn’t easy trying to manage a family, a teaching job, and the job of being a pastor, but then again, it isn’t easy doing any one of those things. In these 4 months, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the kind of Bible teacher that I want to be.
In my past church experiences, especially as a teenager, I don’t recall ever hearing that God Himself is the prize. I do remember hearing that saying a “sinner’s prayer” would allow me to avoid Hell and go to Heaven. Back then, that was the prize I chose. I thought the Christian life was about Hell avoidance. When I did wrong, I simply said “forgive me, Lord” and treated God like He was obligated to forgive me regardless of my willingness to repeat my sinful behavior again and again.
Years later, I would begin to follow the rules. I found out that following God’s rules produced short term suffering, but long-term reward. In fact, one of the first reasons that I ever tithed is not because I loved God, but because I bought in to a few preachers who taught that my tithe was a “seed.” I looked at it as putting money in the ground simply to grow more money. The thing is, it worked. Tithing forced me look at my overall budget and set financial boundaries. It helped me cut back on the majority of my senseless buying that always ramped up my credit card bill. I have more money now as a result of tithing than I did when I kept it all for myself. For a season, that was the prize I chose.
I say all that to say this: I want to be a preacher that teaches plain and simply that God is the prize. Even though it took me a couple of decades to figure out, there is nothing like having His Presence in and on my life. When I get up early in the mornings, it isn’t simply to read my Bible or pray, it is to set my mind on Him, to be with Him. He is there! Isn’t that amazing in and of itself? God is teaching me the very thing that I hope I can teach others, that He is the prize. He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5) So why didn’t I get excited about that? I got excited about avoiding Hell. I got excited about giving up money to make more money, but I read right over Hebrews 13:5 and Philippians 3:14. I have heard many sermons on Hell avoidance. I have heard many sermons on giving money. I have heard very few on God Himself being the prize. That is what I want to preach for the rest of my life. The World needs to know that there is nothing like experiencing God. He is always there.
Find some time to just be with Him today.
He is the prize.