A Noble Prize

Devotional 7 of 10

by Davina McDonald

Pray

Heavenly Father, thank you for peace that comes only from you. Help us to draw strength from you when we feel weary, when our troubles seem insurmountable. Teach us to wait patiently on you with full assurance that if we serve you faithfully, we will receive a just reward.

Read

Philippians 3:12-14

I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself. Of course, my friends, I really do not think that I have already won it; the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above.

Reflect

The prestigious Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year to exceptional people who have stood for peace. It has gone to U.S. Presidents and other heads of state, to leaders of the United Nations, to great scientists, lawyers, and negotiators, and to international agencies like the Red Cross. In 1964, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent protests against racial prejudice in the United States earned him the award. Though his efforts sometimes met with a violent response, King moved forward with a message of peace.

Most of us will never meet the criteria to win the Nobel Peace Prize. But there is an even greater prize we should strive to attain—the prize mentioned by the apostle Paul in today’s reading, “God’s call … to the life above.” This prize comes “through Christ Jesus,” and so it is really two-fold. We “win” Christ and in winning Christ we are guaranteed a great reward.

Among the Jews, Paul held impressive credentials. “I was circumcised when I was a week old,” he wrote. “I am an Israelite by birth, of the tribe of Benjamin, a pure-blooded Hebrew.” Further, “As far as keeping the Jewish Law is concerned, I was a Pharisee, and I was so zealous that I persecuted the church. As far as a person can be righteous by obeying the commands of the Law, I was without fault” (Philippians 3:5–6). Paul had attained great success, but as he compared these personal qualifications with the gift of a relationship with Jesus Christ, Paul found them useless.

The apostle’s goal was to know Christ intimately, attaining a greater level of Christ-likeness. We can strive for that too. We can move beyond past failures (and even our seeming successes) and reach forward to fulfill God’s call.

Striving for spiritual growth does not only make us citizens of heaven, but also points us toward how to live life on purpose, now. Dr. King planned and executed peaceful marches in dangerous territories and gave impassioned speeches to those who loved him and also to those who despised his cause. King’s determination to see racial injustices expunged from American society birthed the Civil Rights Act. Today, our world needs men and women who are just as determined to seek justice for the downtrodden, the social outcast, the least among us. There is a demand for God’s people to act like Christ—gentle, prayerful, thankful, peaceful, ready, and willing to share God’s peace, “which is far beyond human understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Respond

Questions for personal thought or group discussion:

1.     Considering the divisive tone that dominates social and political dialogues today, what is one way that you can steer conversations in a positive, more peaceful, direction?

2.     How can Christians put forth a message of peace and justice for everyone in a manner that resonates with those of different cultures and generations?

3.     What can you (your group, your family, your church) do to shine a light on racial or social injustices in and around your neighborhood? Devise a plan to follow through on at least one of those ideas. 

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