“Fame is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.”
I’m sure many of you have heard of Dr. James Dobson. He’s the author of numerous books, the founder of Focus on the Family, and is one of the most well known evangelical leaders in America. His ministry has blessed my life, and his thoughts have influenced my own writing.
I’ll never forget a story that goes back to Dobson’s college years:
As a college freshman, Dobson set his heart on winning his school’s tennis tournament. He achieved that goal—twice. A trophy inscribed with his name was put on display so that all could see what he had accomplished. I imagine he proudly smiled every time we walked by that trophy case.
Years later, a friend sent the before-mentioned trophy to Dobson. He had found it sitting in the school’s garbage bin. The tennis tournament and its winner had been long forgotten.
Dobson often tells this story to students, concluding with this thought: “Given enough time, life will trash your trophies.”
How true this is! Most of our achievements, no matter how great, will be quickly forgotten.
Paul used a similar analogy in his letter to the Corinthians:
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.
-1st Corinthians 9:24-25
As I’ve explained before, Paul was referring to the Isthmian games—similar to our modern-day Olympics. Those who wanted to compete underwent intense physical training just to qualify as a contestant. The winner only received a pine wreath and a few moments of glory (I’m not sure which would be the first to fade).
Modern-day athletics, of course have come a long way since then. We now live in a time of gold medals, television coverage, and multi-million dollar endorsements. But these spoils, grandiose as they may be, are just as temporal as a pine wreath or a tennis trophy.
Paul contrasted such temporary rewards with the “eternal prize.” For Paul, preaching the gospel and winning souls for Jesus was the only cause worth giving his life for.
I’m not trying to discourage you from achieving goals (athletic or otherwise). But I do want to challenge you to live with an eternal perspective in mind. Are you investing your life in temporary trophies or in timeless treasure?
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