You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. —1 Corinthians 9:24-26, The Message
It’s easy to criticize the orgy of self-love that is the Academy Awards—Hollywood is an easy target. It seems peculiar (to me) to lavish so much honor on actors instead of fireman or surgeons or soldiers or mothers—sometimes, glitz trumps substance.
But look past the fawning, posturing and self-promotion for a moment, and what these awards really celebrate is excellence. The Oscar is Hollywood’s Olympic gold medal. Winning an Academy Award is the achievement of a lifetime; it means a guaranteed spot in the history of the cinema arts and a gushing mention in People magazine.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, he compares life to a race.
“Run to win,” he says. “Train hard.” “Give it everything you’ve got.” In other words, pursue excellence; don’t settle for second-best.
If an athlete expects to win, he must endure the pain and discipline of intense training. She must set difficult goals and pursue those goals with unflagging determination. He must deny himself whatever may weaken the body, mind and soul.
An actor who hopes to win an Oscar pursues his craft with the same rigor and discipline of an athlete. He studies and imitates great actors. She practices at every opportunity and takes any role she can find, knowing that she can only improve through experience. He subjects himself to the painful criticism of peers and coaches, knowing that excellence is never achieved effortlessly, no matter how easy the very best can make it look.
Follow God’s example in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him. —Ephesians 5:1,2, NLT
Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on the cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. —Philippians 2:5-11, NLT
The excellence God calls us to is a life of holiness, goodness, selflessness, a life of humble obedience to God our Father.
Train hard. Run hard. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.