"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." - 1 Cor 9:25
Apostle Paul wrote about a strict training everyone in a race must go through. Such training to get a crown cannot come from our own power especially to get the crown that will last forever. The training we need is to humble our rebellious selves and surrender totally under the grace of God.
Reflecting on my personal journey from darkness and indulging every form of sensual pleasures, that ranged from clubbing to smoking and much more - some I even feel ashamed to mention or call to mind now as a child of God. In the early years of my Christian journey, I tried to break these sinful chains on my own strength but failed miserably time and time again, until one day, God reached into the core of my heart and whispered, "My child, do you love me more than these?" Many times, He did it, until the dam broke and all the brokenness and sinfulness were exposed in the light. It was like old skeletons that were locked in my heart, inaccessible to anyone, including the numerous therapists, and countless priests who heard my repeated tearful confessions without any real change of heart.
This was the pivotal moment in my life that finally, I had learned to surrender it all to the Lord of lords (& King of kings), to quietly whisper, "Yes LORD, You know that I love you." But His gentle reply without any rebuke was, "Come to Me child, hold My hand & I will show you greater things than these." I finally understood the strange paradigm at work in God's kingdom. As the LORD's own spoken words in Luke 5:31-32, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." - captured in great detail by Dr. Luke, the apostle who had carefully scribed these details of Jesus' earthly ministry as precious lessons from Heaven.
Or as the fiery Apostle Paul who taught, and considered his illustrious Jewish lineage and scholastic achievements as rubbish in the light of the gospel, and preached the saving message of Christ until his dying breath. "It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: 'Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.' " (1 Cor 1:30-31).
Similarly, I consider all my past achievements - be it the degree from NUS or even a short-lived stellar sales career - as worthless trophies, now seen in the glorious light of Christ's amazing saving grace of me, a sinful wretch before knowing Christ, and all of humanity. Amen.
Reflection on 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 by Chris Tan