My grandmother was a sweepstakes fanatic. She registered for almost every contest she found and she often won. But I remember two contests she lost. The first was for a new car. She got the phone call one morning telling her that she had won and that she needed to provide some additional information to verify her eligibility. When they asked if she had a driver’s license she said “no.” Grandma never learned to drive. In her day many women depended on their husband to drive them around. Unfortunately the contest required that the winner be a licensed driver. She lost.
Many years later as Grandma was cleaning house, she found a small, unopened, game piece from a local grocery store sweepstakes. Out of curiosity she opened it and discovered that she was an instant winner of $1,000! She called the grocery store. The manager said that the company knew one of the prizes had not been collected. But sadly, the contest had ended and they would not honor the newly discovered piece. Disappointed to be sure but Grandma did not give up. Over the years she won many prizes including a riding lawn mower and a mink stole.
We can learn about opportunities from Grandma’s adventures.
You cannot win if you do not try. Although disappointed over her two big losses she realized that the only way to win was to enter the competition. Paul calls it a race (1 Corinthians 9:24) while the writer of Hebrews encourages us to run without giving up (Hebrews 12:1). We can be assured that without running we will never win.
Victory requires preparation. Grandma was prepared to win that car. She wasn’t qualified. Some will run in our spiritual race and still lose the prize because they were not prepared. Jesus says some will say the right words and even do good things but still be lost because they did not prepare for eternity (Matthew 7:21-23).
Victory requires vigilance. If only my grandmother had been just a little more careful about those game pieces she might not have lost the $1000 winner. Sometimes opportunities slip between our fingers because we do not pay careful attention. Guests come into the assembly once or twice and never return because we fail to follow up. Paul says of his life that he had “finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7). He did not stop but he kept moving. Jesus said that we must take up our cross “daily” if we would be pleasing (Luke 9:23).
Victory builds upon failure. All victors have losses. Great baseball power hitters all strikeout. All Christians stumble. Grandmother did not give up even through two very big losses. She kept filling out the forms, listening to the radio, calling the toll-free numbers and ordering the magazines she never read. She wouldn’t quit! We must not quit either. Remember that not even Jesus converted everyone he spoke to (John 6:66 ff). Also remember that you will sin (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). But there is victory ahead for the one who remains faithful (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 2:26).
We can all win this race. And there awaits a glory that is really beyond our wildest dreams. Don’t give up!