How competitive are you? If I posted a prize and listed a series of steps you must take in order to win it, how hard would you work for it? Does it encourage you to work harder if you see the progress others are making toward the goal? 

I imagine some of you are geared up just by the suggestion of a competition. Others of you want to know what the prize is or who else is competing. And some of you just dismissed me in total apathy; competition is not your thing.

But what if this is another place where our enemy has taken something good and twisted it into something it isn’t? 

The Competitor Within

What we face may look insurmountable. But I learned something from all those years of training and competing. I learned something from all those sets and reps when I didn’t think I could lift another ounce of weight. What I learned is that we are always stronger than we know.

~Arnold Schwarzenegger https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/arnold_schwarzenegger_168326
I’m not that competitive in most things.

I’m not that competitive in most things. Every once in a while something sparks inside me, but for the most part, I don’t really care. You want to win? Great! Go for it! I’m not fighting you for it.

A couple of friends, though, are quite the opposite. A couple of years ago, one friend got a fitness watch for a holiday.  Over the next several weeks, I laughed at some of her antics as she and her husband competed for the most steps in a day. 

Lack of the Fighting Spirit

I’ve thought about this before. I’m okay with the knowledge that I’m not competitive, but the question I tend to ponder is should I be. Should I be okay with not straining toward winning the prize in whatever competition surrounds me?

And that leads to other questions I’m not sure I have good answers to, such as:

  • Is my non-competitive nature God-given? Or learned?
  • Am I merely being apathetic? Lazy? Undisciplined?

Looking back over my life, I can see bits of all of that.

I see times in my life when competing was wrong for me. When I fought toward winning against others rather than maintaining my focus on the fight to improve myself.

If I get really honest, more often than I want to admit, I never even asked God if I should be participating in the first place. Was the prize before me one I should be winning?

At other times, I didn’t compete with others because I was apathetic or choosing laziness and a lack of discipline.

For example, in high school band class, second chair suited me because my friend who sat in first chair had far more training and worked harder more consistently than I did. Why push myself when someone I cared about and was content sitting under sat before me? And when taking her spot added nothing more than responsibility to my shoulders?

Our Heavenly Competition

Paul says something in Philippians that I recently came across thanks to a Bible study I’m working through. It made all of this about winning the prize resurface in my mind.

Take a look at this passage of Scripture that may be familiar to you.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14, NIV
We all win

I press on toward the goal to win. We all win, at least all of those who are pressing toward God’s calling.

That struck me because I think my mindset, my tendency, is to evaluate the competition and estimate my chances. If the other person is more than likely to beat me, I drop into apathy. 

But in God’s kingdom, I win merely by competing. That’s huge for the non-competitive among us. First place is within reach. I get to win. And so do you.

Winning the Prize, Not a Participation Trophy

But the competitive ones among us shouldn’t get discouraged either. This is not one of those participation trophy deals.

Paul makes it clear that he’s not casually strolling toward heaven. He’s straining, pressing forward. Pushing forward with effort.

Reading the rest of the New Testament makes it clear that he’s fighting against his own flesh and the enemy of our souls. Both are daily battles. Sometimes moment-by-moment battles.

And it’s never for the faint of heart.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Let us, then, be up and doing, with a heart for any fate; still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor and to wait.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/henry_wadsworth_longfello_388923?src=t_achieving

What does all this mean? Is competition good or bad? Should we be worried about either extreme, the too competitive or the too non-competitive?

Zig Ziglar once said, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” 

What you become. Doesn’t that always seem to be God’s goal? If our goal is heaven, what we become as we strive toward winning the prize God’s placed there for us is a prize in and of itself. 

Read More

Life has not been kind to Amber Griffin, and she’s chosen to not participate as much as possible. She easily falls in line with the non-competitive among us. But what will she do when God presents her with an option she no longer allows herself to dream about?

Crossing Values

She avoids relationships, but this family challenges her view of God.

Crossing Values

For years, Amber traipsed around the Northwest avoiding the skeletons in her closet. Job-hopping every few weeks, she refuses to let anyone get close to her, protecting herself from the pain that relationships bring. As winter plants itself firmly across the Rockies, though, she decides to take a chance on a job at a logging company with a family different from any she’s ever known.

But is this family genuine?

Watching the family interact creates more questions than answers for Amber. The adults love to spend time with each other and dote on the little ones. Even more mysterious, the parents treat the married spouses like their own children and carefully keep watch on employees and friends.

Feeling like she’s entered the happily-ever-after written at the end of fairytales, Amber watches for cracks in the façade. Surely as the days pass, the play-acting will cease and the real family will emerge.

Or could she be wrong? Could this family hold the key to what she’s seeking?

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