by Tim Hall
As each week of the NFL season passes, the tension increases. Not since 1972 has a team gone through an entire season undefeated. The last team to do it, the 1972 Miami Dolphins, have attained legendary status. We’re told that members of that championship squad meet together for a champagne toast when the last undefeated team falls. How will they respond if the New England Patriots supplant them?
This past summer, Henry Aaron watched his 33-year-old career home run record broken by Barry Bonds. Six years earlier Bonds surpassed another such milestone when he hit more home runs in one season than any other player (73). The old record was only three years old, held by Mark McGwire who hit 70 in one season. The mark he broke had been held by Roger Maris since 1961.
Sports enthusiasts sometimes speculate about records that are “unbreakable.” Are there such records? Perhaps. But many that have been so acclaimed have later fallen to someone with greater power, speed, accuracy, or longevity. Records, as they say, are made to be broken.
How can a person gain “immortal” status in a career? If the mark I set will likely be surpassed by someone after me, what’s the point? And what if I can’t reach the records that others before me have set? Does that mean my career didn’t matter?
God shows us a more satisfying approach to life. No, he doesn’t condemn competitiveness, per se. But He does point to different standards for measuring the value of life.
“Blessed are …” said Jesus, as he began the famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12, NKJV). In saying that, he taught that “blessedness” does not depend on the world’s standards, but God’s. In that list of people God regards as blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, and peacemakers. As we contemplate these descriptions, one fact stands out: Anyone can attain this blessed status. You don’t have to be a superstar or in the Hall of Fame. Submission to God’s will is the only criterion.
Jesus taught this in his account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. One man was rich by worldly standards, suggesting he had succeeded at something in life. Others doubtless bowed to him, flattered him and sought his friendship. Lazarus was likely regarded by most as a dismal failure. He was a beggar, repulsive to look at because of his sores. Yet after death it was Lazarus who was “carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22), while the rich man was found in torment.
Will my life matter? If I use the world’s standards, maybe not. But when I turn to the one who created me and live by his standards, I have hope. I know that anyone, great or small, can live in such a way that they’ll hear at the end of their life, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21).
by Tim Hall