10 The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings. It includes being conformed to his death 11 so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead.
12 It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. 13 Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. 14 The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.
After every Super Bowl, people ask winning players and coaches, “To what do you attribute your team winning the championship?” The answers usually cite hard work, team effort and the team’s agreement before the first game of the season that the championship was their goal. “Easy” is not the road to special achievements, in football or life. Former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz said, “For victory in life, we've got to keep focused on the goal, and the goal is Heaven.”* The apostle Paul said his walk of faith was a determined, forward-looking, life-long pursuit of “the prize of God’s upward call.”
O God, Our Father, grant that nothing may hinder me from being what I ought to do and being what I ought to be. Amen.
* Quote found at https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/lou_holtz.
“No pain, no gain.” Those were my dad’s favorite words the summer before I left for college and started my college volleyball career. After signing my scholarship, I was sent the dreaded “Summer workout plan.” The idea was to help the incoming freshmen be up to speed physically when they checked in at the beginning of the fall season. So there I was, a high school graduate, listening to my dad (and self-appointed trainer) yell “no pain, no gain” at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning as I headed back up the bleachers for one more round of grueling sprints. Let’s just say it’s a good thing he couldn’t hear me as I mounted the steps and headed for the top.
There were plenty of days that I didn’t appreciate my dad waking me up early to train for a team I hadn’t even met yet. That all changed the day I checked in for training camp. Having grown up in southern California I had done all my training at sea level, and the college I was attending was at the base of the Wasatch mountains in Utah. The first day of training I was pretty sure my lungs were going to explode. I can’t even imagine how much worse it would have been, or how much longer it would have taken me to adapt to the higher elevation, if I hadn’t done my summer workouts. I wish I could say that I never complained about another workout, but that would be a lie. I did learn, however, to appreciate that the work put in early would lead to better results later.
These days I have stepped into my dad’s shoes as my son has started swimming on his high school team and now has practice starting at 6 a.m. Ouch! We have had the same conversation at my house that my dad used to have with me. I may have even said, “no pain, no gain” once or twice. (Don’t tell my dad.) We’ve talked about the sacrifices you have to make to get better and become more competitive, in this case sleep. It’s a lesson that has value far beyond sports though. Really in anything we want to accomplish we have to put the work into getting better, moving ahead, and making changes. This is true when we are learning a new skill, taking a class, building a new relationship, and
especially in our faith.
I love that Paul was so laser focused on his goal; a goal to be more like Jesus. So much so that he was able to forget about what happened yesterday in order to keep his sights focused on the here and now. This is a lesson any athlete can tell you is easier said than done. It’s hard to let go of last weeks loss and focus on the game in front of you. What helps you be able to do that? Preparation. Knowing you have put in the hard work and are ready for what comes next.
Someday I hope to be able to say like Paul that “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) And no championship, no reward, no prize will compare with hearing my heavenly Father say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” That’s my goal and if you’re reading this, I bet it’s yours too. So what’s on your summer workout plan? Flexing your serving muscles? Building a team with a small group? Or maybe it’s just some good time spent talking with your coach? Whatever it might be, let’s keep our eye on the goal and remember "no pain, no gain." Luckily, it’s not all pain. Some of it is downright fun!
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