I've been playing sports since I was old enough to hold a Nerf ball. Whether it was baseball, basketball or football, I was pretty much involved in competition year round until I graduated from college. I learned early on that one of the first questions you ask when you are about to play is, "Are we playing just for fun?" More often than not, the answer was "no." This meant we were playing for a trophy, a reward or some title at the end of the game or season. And this inevitably meant that the competition was turned up a notch (or two or three). It moved beyond just good-spirited fun to giving it your best effort and a leave-it-all-on-the-field mentality.
On the other hand, "just for fun" signaled a bending of the rules, a focus on fun more than the outcome and, sometimes, the swapping of teams to keep it from getting to serious.
The difference was all determined by what you hoped to gain at the end of the game.
This morning, I was reading and listening to some worship music as part of my time with God. My thoughts were directed to this passage in Colossians:
...since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:24 NIV
The reward for this life is significant. Far from any trophy or plaque, Scripture teaches us that we live for an inheritance that "will not rust or fade"--an eternal one. This is a competition to pale all others, a race that must be run with all diligence. So, why do so many Christ followers live as if they are in this "just for fun?" For many of us, it seems as if we do not understand the seriousness of this journey. We are more worried about how fun it will be than we are about the outcome--for us and for those God has placed within our influence.
Make no mistake, this contest is real. It's a battle. Sadly, for those who are in this "just for fun," they will find that this was never really an option. There is an award for those who run this race well but each of us must choose to give it our all. We'll find that it was worth every ounce of our lives that we put into living a life of purity and holiness. Game on!