Anybody need a box of trophies? While I was pastoring at Three Lakes Bible Church, we acquired numerous trophies from our Three Lakes Christian School drill team and our softball and volleyball teams. We even had a trophy case to display them. After I retired 4 1/2 years ago, the church decided to eliminate the trophy case and gave us the box of trophies. So, what do we do with them? I also have a box full of medals from my time in high school band playing my French horn in numerous district and state music festivals. I have a few ribbons and trophies from running and tennis as well stashed away somewhere.
I’m sure you have some trophies, ribbons, awards, etc. too that you have collected from your achievements in sports, speech and drama, 4 H projects, music, hunting, etc. What do you plan to do with them? Who will get them when you leave this earth? What would they want with them?
The “King of Rock and Roll,” Elvis Aaron Presley, sold an estimated one billion records in his short lifetime (he died at age 42 on August 16, 1977). He had 18 number-one hits in his career. He denied himself nothing that money could buy during the glory years. But the entertainment world which had offered Elvis every material and worldly prize, with a mansion full of gold and platinum records hanging side by side to prove it, couldn’t provide the meaning and significance for which his heart ached. So what if RCA gave Elvis a trophy 9 feet tall and designated him as the greatest entertainer of all time? So what if he received gushy letters from the world’s celebrities and had his photo taken with President Nixon and Queen Elizabeth? His life was empty. He sought meaning in star gazing, astrology, numerology, healing and other occult subjects. He joined a world-wide Yoga organization called the “Self-Realization Fellowship.” He experimented with prescription drugs, marijuana and LSD. In spite of all his fame and accolades and trophies, he was miserable and desperately searching for a spiritual awakening that never came. So, on August 16, 1977, Elvis Aaron Presley slipped pathetically into eternity having succumbed to “the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life” of which the Apostle John warns us in I Jn. 2:15,16.
Think of the utter insignificance of all the “stuff” Elvis left behind, all the trophies of his accomplishments in music. Oh, it is true that 1//2 million people pay to tour his mansion each year at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee to look at all his “toys” and “trophies” which really only represent how his love for the world and all it offered never brought any peace or purpose to his life. The same is equally true of our lives. So what if we leave a similar legacy to those who come after us? So what if trophies hang on the walls of our last earthly home? Or if powerful and influential people know us? Who cares? It is of no consequence worth mentioning.
Consider another “king” who also discovered the emptiness of fame and fortune. He lived nearly 3,000 years before “The King of Rock and Roll.” His name was Solomon, the son of King David. He was perhaps the most famous, most glamorous, most powerful and respected king in the history of the world (see II Chr. 9:13,22-28). He became perhaps the wealthiest, wisest king who ever lived, and, like Elvis Presley, Solomon discovered the emptiness of all his acquisitions and fame. We have a book in the Bible which records how Solomon felt about the abundance and prestige he enjoyed. It is the book of Ecclesiastes. As an old man, he had become disillusioned with life. No matter what he acquired or what pleasures he tried, it was all “vanity” (emptiness) and “striving after the wind” (see Eccl. 2:1-20). Solomon, like Elvis, had wealth to buy anything he wanted and could do anything he wanted to do. But he observed: “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity” (Eccl. 5:10). In contrast to Elvis, however, Solomon came back to realize where he had gone astray, as he wrote at the end Ecclesiastes: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is fear God and keep His commandments. because this applies to every person” (Eccl. 12:13). Solomon’s advice was: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth” (12:1).
Jesus had some good advice too, given in the greatest sermon ever preached, the “Sermon on the Mount,” recorded for us in Matthew 5-7. He said: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal, for where your treasure is there will your heart be also…Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” (Mt. 6:19-21,33). As Job in the Old Testament observed, we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out with us when we go. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there” (Job. 1:21). But, as Jesus taught, you can send it on ahead! You can lay up treasures in heaven by seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. As the Apostle Paul said, as he neared the end of his life—and what a contrast to what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes—“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Tim. 4:7,8).
There is nothing wrong with trophies, and medals, and awards. They are indications of our striving for excellence, which, as believers we should always do (Col. 3:23,24), but just remember, they are just “stuff.” They are temporal and will one day all be left behind for someone else to worry about! How much more important, and lasting it is to faithfully serve our Lord, no matter what earthly accolades come our way, and to strive to hear from Him one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master” (Mt. 25:21).