Read Philippians 3:10-16.
"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (v. 14).
Chris Relf was honored to be named the MVP of the 2011 Gator Bowl, but he was pleased with another honor that had nothing to do with trophies or prizes.
In Mississippi State's 52-14 embarrassment of the Michigan Wolverines on Jan. 1, the junior quarterback threw for 281 yards, matched his career high by throwing three touchdown passes, and rushed for 49 yards and another touchdown. He joined Greg Plump as the only Bulldog quarterback at the time to throw for more than 200 yards in a bowl game. (Plump had 287 yards in the 1993 Peach Bowl. Dak Prescott has since joined the club.) He was 18-of-23 passing and had only one interception, a throwaway heave toward the end zone on the last play of the first half.
Relf's MVP performance came as no surprise to Bulldog head coach Dan Mullen. "I told Chris during warmups today, I said 'I got a feeling you're going to play your best game of the season,'" Mullen said after the game.
Hoisting the big MVP trophy after the game was certainly a special moment for Relf, but he had already been honored before the game even began. He had been chosen by the team as the fourth player of the season to wear jersey no. 36 in honor of Nick Bell. Bell, a 20-year-old sophomore and starting defensive end, died on Nov. 2, less than a month after being diagnosed with a form of skin cancer.
"When the team got together, we thought it would be a special thing to have Chris wear [no. 36] today," Mullen said. "I'm sure he had an angel on his shoulder right there today, winning the MVP.: Relf felt the same way. "Tonight I just felt like [Nick] was with me when I was out there making those big plays," he said.
Even the most modest and self-effacing among us can't help but be pleased by prizes and honors. They symbolize the approval and appreciation of others, whether it's an MVP trophy, an Employee of the Month award, a plaque for sales achievement, or the sign declaring yours as the neighborhood's prettiest yard.
Such prizes and awards are often the culmination of the pursuit of personal achievement and accomplishment. They represent accolades and recognition from the world. Nothing is inherently wrong with any of that as long as we keep them in perspective.
That is, we must never let awards become such idols that we worship or lower our sight from the greatest prize of all and the only one truly worth winning. It's one that won’t rust, collect dust, or leave us wondering why we worked so hard to win it in the first place. The ultimate prize is eternal life, and it's ours through Jesus Christ.
I know for [Chris Relf] it was a special thing, a special honor to wear number 36. -- Dan Mullen
The greatest prize of all doesn't require competition to claim it; God has it ready to hand to you through Jesus Christ.