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It has been a summer of Games: the Commonwealth Games, the European Championships, Cricket matches in various formats, Wimbledon, and of course, The Lionesses!

But what comes next when the games are all over? After winning your first gold medal, you want to go on and win another one. After winning one cup-final, you want to go on and win another. But, as the England captain Ellen White has sensibly decided, there comes a time to hang up your boots or your running shoes - and what then? You may still be quite young, so what next? You have scored your last triumphant goal on the football field, so what is your goal now?

It is a question for all of us, whether we are interested in sport or not, and whether we are young or old: what is your goal in life?

The Apostle Paul was familiar with Games. He lived for two years in Corinth. The ancient Greeks were as keen on Games as we are, and the city of Corinth hosted the Isthmian Games once every two years. The Isthmian Games were second only in importance to the Olympic Games. The prize for the champions at that time was not a gold medal, but to be crowned with a wreath: a wreath made, unlikely as it seems, of celery! But it made a point for Paul.

Paul compares life to a race, in the sense that all the athletes have one and the same goal: to win, and to receive a gold medal, or a wreath of celery! But the wreath withers all too quickly; the moment of glory is past, and for the rest of their lives athletes have only the memory of their former achievements to cherish. But Paul has another goal in mind. The reward of attaining this goal is not something that will pass as soon as it is won, but a reward that will never perish: life everlasting. And this is a reward, not only for the one person who wins the race, but also for everyone who has competed: "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever." (1 Corinthians 9.24-25) This 'race' is not so much like one of the races in the Commonwealth or Isthmian Games, but more like the London Marathon. In the London Marathon, thousands of people go into training, not so much to be first over the line, but simply to complete the race. That is the Christian life.

The trouble with all earthly goals is their transience. Whether we attain our goals or fall short of them, there will soon come a day when it is all history. Whether we win the wreath, or not, the wreath turns to dust. Some people hope to leave 'a legacy' or a 'name', by which they will be remembered in future generations. But, even if they succeed, they will not be around to know it. Of all the worldly goals that we can strive for, the noblest and most worthwhile is undoubtedly to have loved and helped others in one way or another, but other people's lives are as transient as ours. In the end all is dust.

Jesus taught us not to lay up treasures for ourselves on earth, where moth and rust consume, and thieves break in and steal, but to lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and thieves do not break in and steal. Treasure in heaven? Many people would say, "Pie in the sky." But Jesus himself rose from the dead. His friends saw him, touched him and talked to him again. It was the same man they had known intimately for several years; a man they had seen dead and buried. But here he was, changed, but alive. And some of them went on to die themselves for the truth of that story.

This was the man, Jesus, who had already raised another man from the dead, Lazarus, a man who had been in the tomb for four days, and Jesus had said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live though he die, and whoever lives and believes in me will not die eternally."

Jesus offers us the goal of eternal life. A life lived with him in his heavenly Kingdom, a life free of all the evil and suffering of this world, a life after death, life in a world to come. That is a goal worth living and striving for. "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever." (1 Corinthians 9.24-25) That is the Christian life.

And perhaps the greatest service that we can perform for others is to invite them to make this their goal too.


Next week: Why read this blog?

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