Psalm 17: 14aBy your hand save me from such people, LORD, from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
Anyone who has pursued elite sports understands the concept of sacrifice, the idea that you must give much up in order to achieve athletic goals. There may be some sports phenoms who can step into a sport or event and have immediate success, but to achieve the highest level with consistency there are no short cuts.
One of the greatest high jumpers ever is Stefan Holm of Sweden. In a revealing documentary, Holm shows videos of himself at 14 years running up to the bar and not jumping. He said he spent the entire year doing this, probably because he was afraid to fail. Despite not being a prototypical jumper, standing only 1.81m (5ft11) as an adult, Holm continued to train and within 10 years he was an Olympic Gold Medallist and the greatest jumper in the world, topping out at 2.40m.
If you track Holm’s career though, after a quick rise there was significant failure. There were no rewards for him finishing off the podium at most major events. Most people had counted him out; there were no rewards for him. But it did not end there as he persevered and eventually was at the top of his field. Holm’s secret to success? He is convinced that no one in the world has attempted more jumps than he has. His secret to success was nothing more than perseverance. As Holm says: “It was a long way to go, but worth it”.
If we were to sit Holm down and ask him what he sacrificed to achieve his dreams, I am sure the list would be quite long. Surely as a young teenager he could have been out playing with friends, or undertaking various recreational activities, as opposed to running up to a mat and jumping over a bar for hours at end. But Holm had another goal in mind, one which was many years removed. His reward would not come today, it would not come in the next months or years, it was many years removed, but that reward finally came.
As a Christian, it can be demoralizing especially if we look around and see friends, or even the ungodly prospering. Why do they have no financial worries? Why does everything they touch turn to gold? This has been a question of many a mature Biblical character. The prophet Jeremiah asked: “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (Jeremiah 12:1b). Job asked “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?” (Job 21:7). The answer is we do not know, but what we do know is that our reward is not on this earth, but it is in the life to come. We need to keep our eyes focussed on our Lord in heaven and live lives worthy of our calling as believers, whatever the cost. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). I am certain that if we were to speak today with any of the Bible heroes who ever questioned God about rewards on earth, they would simply smile and shake their heads because they now understand what true rewards are, the one’s only found in heaven. Persevere!