Heaven’s Hall of Fame is loser-friendly. Here are two good reasons that victory, for God, can be quite different from victory for us. Please share others with me.
Reason 1: God is not like any of us (Ps. 50:16-21). His value system is not in rebellion against universal order. Ours is, and has been since Adam’s generation. And Adam’s Facebooking, tweeting, Pinteresting, multitasking, teenage millionaire“lemonade stand sellers on steroids”1 are no closer to God’s ideals in 2013 because millennia have elapsed since our first father and his first murderous, agriculturally expert son soon after the Fall. Back then we chose the snake oil mind-set that prefers self and recognition to the self-sacrificing medicine and method of the divine apothecary. Our way has produced awesome heroes who have plumbed the Mariana Trench, run 100 meters in 9.58 seconds, and become Martian pathfinders (in a sense). And we believe that feats of victory deserve recognition: Singapore has promised 1 million Singaporean dollars (US$800,000) to any of its citizens who wins Olympic gold (no one ever has).2 And despite the claim that God is not like us, we find similarity between Him and our feats. Achieving them usually involves intelligence, self-control, self-denial, and other such virtues known to be godly.
But the resemblance is mischievously deceptive. For to the extent that our feats aim for my (team’s) championship, self-sacrifice is not their object. I do not die. I (or we) reign. The fact is that removing obstacles to spiritual or material success is not the same as sacrifice. People surrender candy, recreational marijuana, and late-night TV entertainment just to win a corruptible crown (1 Cor. 9:25). A high school colleague of mine informed us that he had given up smoking and late-night carousing to become an athletic star. He succeeded. We may indeed do things that look to us like God, but resemblances should not confuse us. God is not like any of us.
Reason 2: Every member of God’s gallery is dead. Crucifixion with Christ, not a medal stand, is the qualification for God’s Hall of Fame. This dying is as varied and constant as our individual lives and fantasies, a metaphor we may better comprehend than ambition will allow us to implement. Preachers and Olympians both need it. It happened every day for Paul (1 Cor. 15:31). It happened on July 22, 2012, for Alicia Trott. She had just won her place and paid her $800 fee for the privilege of participation in the Ironman World Championship—the reward of discipline, self-denial, self-control, and total effort. Then she learned that the race would be on Sabbath. For Alicia, it was the difference between corruptible and incorruptible rewards. She would forfeit her money and her years of preparation. But she would not ride, she would not swim, she would not run on Sabbath. She could not. That day she died again for Jesus.3
Victory with God may not earn national headlines or million-dollar purses. God’s champions may pass, uncelebrated and unnoticed, to a million quiet resting places. But they have qualified for the ranking that matters. And God will miss none of their names on the day of His victory celebration. They, of whom this world is not worthy, will line the corridors of His Hall of Fame. God’s Hall of Fame is loser-friendly.