WHAT GOD HAS PLANNED
Gold medals aren’t the only kind of gold to be had for winning an Olympic event. A gold medal winner gets $25,000 in cash but the real payoff comes from endorsements – which is why Missy Franklin, America's 17-year-old swimming star, has won the hearts of people around the world. She took a gold in the 100-meter backstroke and that plus her charismatic personality make her a company's dream endorser. Who could say no to the mega bucks you can make by endorsing a product? Missy can. She turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars in winnings and endorsement deals to keep her amateur status so she can swim in college.
But Missy Franklin is the exception that proves the rule. Athletes often have their eyes fixed - not just on the gold medal -- but one the gold that comes from endorsement deals. This is nothing new. Our generation didn’t invent materialism. At the original Olympic games in Greece the prize for winning wasn’t just a laurel wreath. They were awarded prizes like -- women, olive oil, clothing, animals. Typically an athlete was given a cash prize by their city-state when they went back home, some got lifelong pensions. In Athens the Olympic champions were guaranteed one free meal a day for life. If they won more than three events, they got a statue. A few horseback champions had their heads imprinted on coins.
Athletes are going for a prize. And as believers in Jesus we’re going for a prize. It’s a prize that exceeds anything the world has to offer. When Paul wrote 1st Corinthians he had athletic games on his mind. It was clear to him that there was a great analogy between those races and the Christian life. He brings it up in chapter 9:
“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
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.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. “
What motivates Paul? It’s the crown. It’s the blessings of the Gospel – which will last forever.
The blessings of the Gospel. That’s worth stopping and thinking about. Gospel means good news – it’s the good news that God is announcing to the world that Jesus’ death on the cross means forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all who believe. But it’s more than that. Paul says that the Gospel is chock full of blessings for the future – not just escape from the judgment to come, not just an uninterrupted life that will last for eternity but much much more. Great untold blessings are promised to those who put their faith in Jesus. Paul sees that prize as a great motivation to run the race of faith. After all, he says, athletes give everything they have knowing only one will win. Not everyone is going to be Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin. But as believers we’re running a race where everyone who believes will get the prize. And not only that, the prize we’re going to get is going to last forever.
What is this prize?
Or to put it another way – what will be waiting for us when we get home? What has God got planned for US?
Paul already touched on the answer to that question in chapter 2:
“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”—
but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. he Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”
What’s the prize? “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” It’s so wonderful that we could never have dreamed it up. It’s something no one has ever seen the likes of – no one has ever heard tell of anything as magnificent as what God has planned for us.
And it’s been planned. God has been planning this prize forever. It’s something God has prepared for all eternity for all who believe in Jesus because of his overflowing love for us. He’s given it careful thought and he’s planned it to be infinitely full of everything good.
I think there are three key words in these verses that give us a hint of what this prize is going to be: glory, secret and Spirit:
1. Glory. Paul says God has “destined” it for our glory.” Our destiny, the destiny God has planned for us -- as believers in Jesus -- is glory. Glory is something that belongs to God. It has to do with his surpassing greatness, his wondrous beauty and the great weight of his being. We can’t imagine it, we barely have words for it, but God’s glory is our destiny – we will to share in it with Him. I think that’s the crown Paul was talking about.
2. Secret. God had this planned since before time began but he’s kept it a secret from the world until now. No one in the world, no one who is not a believer in Jesus, has a clue about this prize. I think you can see that in how unbelievers talk about eternity – their ideas are limited to things that you can know on earth. But we as believers we know something that transcends this world and this life. Because we’ve been given the Spirit.
3. Spirit. Even though we can’t fully grasp the glory of God and even though our eyes are barely able to glimpse the future glory, still it’s not completely foreign to us. We’ve tasted it. We’ve known something of the sweetness, the joy, the utter fullness of being in the presence of God. And we’ve known something of what it means to be transformed into the likeness of Christ – just enough to make us long to be fully changed. God has given us a foretaste of what he has planned for us by giving us the Spirit.
There’s a prize, a crown, God has it all planned for us, all ready, all prepared. We run the race of faith with the joy of knowing its up ahead – that it’s something so wonderful we can’t even imagine it and yet we get little glimpses and those glimpses strengthen us to stay the course.
Chariots of Fire
For a gift of any amount
Winner of four Academy Awards including Best Picture! The inspiring true story of British athletes competing in the 1924 Olympics. Ben Cross and Ian Charleson head a sterling cast of newcomers and veterans. The story, told in flashback, of two young British sprinters competing for fame in the 1924 Olympics....
[Get It Now]