In front of my desk, to the left of my book shelves and to the right of that weird alien in a jar that I inherited when I moved here, sits a trophy. It has the year “1992” rising out of the base and has an Olympic-like figure holding up outstretched arms and holding a wreath-like crown. The base also contains an inscription that reads: “Athlete Of The Year, Neal Pollard, Faulkner University 91-92.” Just so you know, I paused for symbolism while you laughed. Yes, the same Neal Pollard you know. It was awarded to the intramural competitions’ participant who had the highest score at the end of the year. Certainly, if you played each of the sports with your social club, you received automatic points. There were other manly competitions, checkers, foosball, ping pong, and the like, that earned you points for signing up and playing. In individual competitions, you scored higher the better you did. The only individual competition I won was the free-throw contest. A big reason I won was because I participated in every possible event. I was rewarded for involvement and a few times for showing up when no one else did.
While I still have that trophy two decades later, I understand its relative value (or lack thereof). But, each day I live, from the time I rise and pray and read my Bible throughout the day in thoughts and words and deeds, I am striving for an unparalleled prize. I will not receive this for being the most notable preacher to live in my generation. I will not receive it for the most prominent Christian in my community. I will not receive it for being the most popular Christian in my congregation.
God will give it to me because, once I was washed in the blood of Christ through baptism (cf. Heb. 13:12 + Eph. 5:26-27), I was an active participant. I was involved, despite the presence of sin in my life, striving to walk in the light (1 Jn. 1:7-10). I was trying to abound in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58). I offered my life as a living sacrifice for Jesus (Rom. 12:1-2). I tried to flee worldliness (1 Jn. 2:15-17; 2 Tim. 2:22). I look forward to the day of His appearing, when I receive this peerless prize (2 Tim. 4:8).
Who knows how long I’ll keep that cute little trophy for “athleticism”? Who cares? I long for a “trophy” that is fadeless (1 Pet. 1:4), that will be enjoyed in a “time” that is endless (Mt. 25:46) in a “territory” that is matchless (Rev. 22:1ff).