While going for a walk I noticed, amongst a pile of items placed on the footpath for hard rubbish collection, a battered cardboard box brimming full of trophies. As I walked on (after taking the accompanying photo) I imagined the recipient of each of those trophies proudly receiving it at an awards ceremony, applauded by family and friends, beaming with pride as they returned to their seat, proudly showing it to others, and giving it pride of place on the shelf at home.
I will never know the full story of those trophies in the trash, or of their recipients, or of how they found their way into the hard rubbish, but still there is a message in it for us. We are reminded just how fleeting and temporary our earthly achievements are, and how easily the things we treasure can turn to trash.
Someone commented recently that the profusion of items on hard rubbish piles during COVID-19 lockdowns may not be simply because people have had time to clean up. It may also be that the uncertainty caused by the pandemic has caused people to reevaluate what is important in life.
If COVID-19 has caused us to re-evaluate our priorities, then that must be a blessing. What ‘trophies’ – achievements, money, lifestyle, financial security – have we allowed to take precedence over Christ and his greatest achievement for us? Are we looking to those things for our security, or to the living God? What are those trophies worth in comparison to the gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation we have in Christ? Those questions are equally as valid for us to ask of our schools and churches as well as our own lives. Have our comfortable lifestyles and relative security contributed to misplaced trust in worldly ‘trophies’ rather than in genuine zeal for the gift and mission of our living Lord? St Paul asked himself similar questions, even of his so-called ‘religious’ achievements. He spoke about his former life as a devout Jew, a Pharisee, a scholar of the law, blameless in living it and zealous in defending it. What were these ‘trophies’ worth to him now?
In Philippians 3 he wrote, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:7-9).
Praise God if he uses these days of uncertainty as ‘days of grace,’ providing for us the opportunity to re-evaluate our lives and priorities.
Praise God if the uncertainty of these days provides an opportunity to think about the ‘surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord,’ whose grace alone is truly valuable and where our true hope, security and glory may be found eternally.
Praise God if the ‘righteousness… which comes through faith in Christ’ causes us to consider ‘everything as loss,’ and to count all earthly achievements as ‘rubbish,’ ‘in order that we may gain Christ and be found in him.’
Prayer: Gracious Father help us to see all our earthly achievements as ‘trophies in the trash’ compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ as our Lord. In his name we pray. Amen.
Pastor Lester Priebbenow
District Bishop, Victoria and Tasmania