Only the winner gets the prize

Published 9:26 pm Friday, February 3, 2017

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

Tomorrow is the Super Bowl, and it is a day that carries special memories for me, especially of my father.

My dad and I almost always watched this game together, so it brings back lots of  father-son memories. After heading off to college, I watched the game with college friends.

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One Super Bowl in particular stands out from my college years. It was the year the Raiders won the game, and the commissioner of the NFL, Pete Rozelle, had to award the Lombardi Trophy to Raiders owner Al Davis, with whom he was in a deep legal dispute. That was an interesting moment.

Much of the intrigue around this year’s game centers on a similar situation. The current NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, is embroiled in a bitter dispute with the Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, and the Patriots superstar quarterback, Tom Brady.

Goodell, as you may know, alleges that Tom Brady had some footballs illegally deflated during a game a couple of years ago, and suspended the quarterback for the first four games of this season.

But the Patriots still made it to the Super Bowl, and now much of the world wants to watch Roger Goodell award the Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft. Again, that would make for an interesting moment!

The Apostle Paul talks about an awards ceremony at the end of a sports contest. Paul, who lived in the first century, almost certainly would have watched the Isthmian Games, which were similar to the Olympics.

He would have seen the awards ceremony, when the winner received the prize, which was a laurel wreath placed on the head of the winning athlete, sort of like a crown.

He uses this scene to draw an analogy to the Christian life. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)

The day is coming when all of us will stand before God and give account for how we have run this race called life. Paul knows how he wants that day to play out.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

If Jesus returned today (and He could!), would you “love his appearing?” Are you ready to meet him?

We don’t know when Jesus is coming again. What we do know is that the Day is closer with each passing day. We don’t know when our own lives are going to end. We are not promised tomorrow.

That means we must be ready today to meet Christ. There is one way and only one way to be ready. Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

Turn from seeking to do life your own way. Place your life in the nail-scarred hands of the Savior who died for sinners, and rose again.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.