Michael Phelps and the Runt -- How we steal God's glory every day

Michael Phelps made athletic history during the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing by becoming the most successful athlete in the history of the games. 

In addition to other distinctions, he holds the record for the most number of gold medals ever, eight, surpassing American swimmer Mark Spitz's seven medal sweep in 1972. Furthermore, he holds the all-time record for most gold Olympic medals, 14.

After the medal ceremony where officials presented him with enough gold to require Lloyds of London to want to insure this cache, he celebrated with his loyal fans. Time after time he posed for pictures with family, friends, and supporters. Despite the heavy weight of honor and well-deserved achievement hanging impressively around his neck, he stood erect and  proud as he smiled into the cameras.

In one photo I noticed something I had never seen before. In the foreground of the picture I saw Michael, heavy laden with his well-deserved medals.

He was flanked on either side by his teammates and coaches. In the background, however, I noticed a scrawny teenager in a baseball hat and sweat pants, face twisted into a goofy grin. He was leaning into the picture, making bunny ears over Phelps' damp head.

Everyone in the photo understood this was a grand and glorious moment for Phelps and that all eyes were, deservedly on him. It was Michael's moment. Everyone except the kid making the bunny ears. He was trying to steal Phelps' glory.

Each of us has encountered a kid like this. He's usually the one who ruins the group picture at the family reunion, awards day, or class picnic by doing something to attract attention to himself and away from the group. Afterwards we mutter, sputter, and try to photoshop him out, but the damage is not always repairable.

Today I realized that sometimes I am that kid. Oh, I'm not usually that obvious. I don't make bunny ears or a goofy face in a photo, but sometimes I steal the glory for myself.

And I steal it from God.

Ephesians 1:12 says this: ". . . we who were the first to hope in Christ might be for the praise of His glory."

Our entire existence is for one purpose -- to bring glory and honor to God.

We bring nothing to the table that he hasn't given us. Any talent, ability, intelligence, or success comes from our Maker who endowed us with these gifts. He has given them to us to use for his good purpose, not our own.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31 "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

Whenever we enjoy success and keep the accolades and honors to ourselves, we are like that teenager making bunny ears over Michael Phelps' head -- we steal God's glory and make it our own.

I visited a lighthouse in Key West, Florida. At the center of the huge structure was the powerful light that could pierce the darkest night or thickest fog to guide ships past the rocky shoreline and into the safe harbor. Centered around the light was a series of prisms -- carefully constructed pieces of glass designed to reflect and magnify light.

Jesus Christ said of himself, "I am the light of the world." It is he who, like the light of the Key West lighthouse, directs people past the rocky shores of sin and selfishness into the safe harbor of a relationship with him.

As believers, we can surround the light and act as prisms to magnify and direct the light into the dark corners of our co-workers', families', and friends' lives. As we reflect God's glory by living lives that are holy, obedient, consecrated, and sold out, we help God's light shine even brighter.

But we must never forget that we are not the light; we are just the simple glass prisms.

Oh, may we be ever mindful of this truth.

My favorite pastor, Dick Lincoln of Shandon Baptist Church, was asked to comment on the success of his church and his ministry. He said this:

"I did not earn it. I do not deserve it. But I am profoundly grateful."

Whenever praise, honor, or recognition comes our way, instead of being the bunny-eared kid who tried to steal Michael Phelps' glory, may we be the simple glass prism of the lighthouse and reflect the glory of God back out into our dark and dying world.

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