"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)
So I'll cherish the old rugged cross till my trophies at last I lay down. And I will cling to the old rugged cross And exchange it some day for a crown (The Old Rugged Cross by George Bennard)
The childhood trophy is chipped, the high school letter jacket is worn and faded, the running ribbon frayed, and the college certificate moth and mouse eaten. Some of these treasures have been stored up for close to 50 years and like the winner of the trophy, the wearer of the jacket and ribbon, and the recipient of the certificate, they are showing their age.
I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic lately, as I have been spending a lot of time in the attic and basement of the house I grew up cleaning out mementos and clinging onto memories. In addition, it’s now October and for the first time in decades I will miss both my high school and college homecoming due to COVID cancelling seasons. I’ll miss annual reunions with old classmates and teammates, and the chance to remember the past through rose-colored glasses dimmed by time, and to recall the old expression, “The older I get, the better I was.”
When reflecting on his faded glory the Apostle Paul noted that if anyone had reason to walk around with an air of confidence, based on their past achievements, it was him. He then cites an impressive list of credentials that might land him in the Hebrew Hall of Fame – an Aramaic speaking Academic All-American, a Jew’s Jew, and First Team Pharisee. After listing all of his accomplishments, he than delivers a surprising conclusion. “I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:7-8 NLT).” Every honor, every accomplishment, every attaboy Paul has attained, Paul emphasizes, compared to having a personal relationship with Jesus, is junk! Actually, it’s worse than junk. If you research the meaning of the key descriptive word in Greek, the King James Version nails it when it translates Paul’s comparison, noting, “for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ (Philippians 3:8 KJV).” That’s right, for Paul and the rest of us who claim to be Christians, compared to a personal relationship with Jesus, our popularity, prizes, first place finishes, prestige and prestigious place on the podium or corporate ladder is poop.
Of all people, Paul, it would seem, would relish going back to his homecomings and class reunions. He had been a Big Man On Campus, or perhaps more accurately, in the synagogue and in Jewish circles, but instead of recalling how he was the best, the Holy Spirit gave him the wisdom to write, “…I am the worst.” “But for that very reason,” Paul emphasized, “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life (1 Timothy 1:15-16 NIV).”
Instead of looking back and resting on our laurels, including our past acts of faith and Christian credentials, we need to look forward to our next act of kindness and Christian service. We need to look to the Holy Spirit for our inspiration and direction. We need to focus on His glory and not ours. To expand on the meaning of George Bennard’s hymn “The Old Rugged Cross,” we need to cherish and cling to the message of The Cross. We need to put aside our trophies and everything the world tells us has value. We need to endure the inconvenience of evangelizing the Gospel message of hope, truth and grace. For by doing so, one day we will be able to exchange everything we endured on earth for Christ, for the eternal crown of life (James 1: 12). What a Homecoming and Reunion that will be. God bless.