When I was first given the responsibility of assigning the Presidential Academic Fitness Award at the school where I was the Guidance Counselor, the qualifications were rigorous. Students needed to keep a high GPA through Middle School as well as score consistently high on standardized tests. There were no subjective qualifiers. And, as hard as it sometimes was, a 3.2 GPA didn’t qualify if 3.3 was the standard.
But receiving that award was a great accomplishment for those who earned it. Soon, someone decided that the feelings of kids who didn’t meet the mark outweighed the feeling of pride and success of those who did. More subjective benchmarks were included. It changed the whole picture of what that award had been.
Many schools have eliminated Valedictorian and Salutatorian honors for the same reason. And how many of you have “participation” trophies sitting on your shelves? We’ve taken away competition at the same time we are trying to compete with other countries around the world. That’s a soap box I could stand on. But God wasn’t really speaking to me about competition this morning. He was, however, speaking to me about participation.
God told the Jews to free their Hebrew slaves. “And all the officials and all the people obeyed…” (34:10) They all participated.
But then they enslaved their brothers once again. Did they obey or disobey? Shouldn’t they get credit for participating? Here’s what God says about that:
Therefore thus says the Lord, You have not obeyed Me in proclaiming release each man to his brother and each man to his neighbor. Behold, I am proclaiming a release to you, declares the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence and to the famine; and I will make you a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth. (34:17)
God goes on to say they will be given into the hand of their enemies. Their dead bodies will be food for the birds and the beasts.
Friends, there are no Participation Trophy Rooms in heaven. There is no less heat in hell for those who kind of obey. God has set the standard, He’s spelled out His demands. He’s set the bar pretty high – ALL!
It’s not good enough to go to church and read your Bible occasionally. It’s not enough to refrain from alcohol or to be faithful to your wife. It’s not enough to be a good neighbor, an honest person, thoughtful and kind.
God’s standards are these: Give Him 100%. Confess your sins AND repent. Accept Jesus as your Savior. Lay at His feet your life, your dreams, your health, your family. Trust Him. Seek Him with all your heart. Love Him above all. Obey Him.
No one said it’s easy. Nothing worth having is. But understand this: God is not going to change His standards for fear you’ll get your feelings hurt. If you’re hoping for a participation trophy, look at the cross. Does anything you’ve done compare to what Jesus did for you?