Note: Brian Ernst, 19, a former West Hall High School athlete and student, died March 16 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
I had the great fortune of teaching Brian Ernst in elementary school. He was a great kid who loved P.E. and sports, and the Yellow Jackets!
After I left Oakwood, and he went on to middle and high school, I didn't get to see him very much. I would hear his name a lot in the newspapers when he would do something great on the baseball diamond, but that was about it. We weren't able to reconnect until after his diagnosis. What a tremendous blessing it has been for me to get to renew that relationship.
I have already heard, and will hear again, the statement that "Brian Ernst lost his battle with cancer." Let me be very quick to say that nothing could be further from the truth. You see, the competition God called Brian into was not about winning or losing. No competition is, for that matter.
To say that "This person beat cancer" and "That person did not" is just not fair, nor is it true. I believe we get this tainted, skewed view of competition through the culture of sports in today's world. The world is screaming more and more that unless you WIN, you're a failure.
Well, in this game called "life," there's not a scoreboard to look at to see if you are ahead or behind or, in the end, to see if you have won or lost. A true competitor is not (and should never be) measured by whether they win or lose. Again, the world has put that demand or label on it, not God.
In God's eyes, true competition is about how you play the game. It's about how you fight. It's about never giving up, no matter the situation. It's about good sportsmanship and humility in victory or defeat. It's about allowing the focus to be placed on something bigger than yourself so larger goals can be accomplished.
And when the last out is recorded, it's knowing in your heart that you did all you could. You left it all on the field. No regrets. The score is just an afterthought to a much larger, more important aspiration; HOW you competed.
I believe this describes Brian Ernst to a "T." You see, he played this game with all he had. Brian fought. Brian never gave up. Brian showed great amounts of humility and concern for other teammates (family, friends, doctors, nurses, other patients, too) all along this journey.
Brian turned the focus away from himself and allowed God to use his adversity to bring honor and glory to Him and to point hundreds of others in that Godly direction. Brian Ernst competed! And it is because of this that we all can say: Brian Ernst WON and is experiencing the greatest victory of all through Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55 says, "O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?" You see, not even death can steal the victory from one who competes for Christ. What a tremendous example Brian's life has been of what a true Christian competitor is all about.
I'll close with the final lines of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes "Competitor's Creed" which I feel speaks of Brian perfectly:
I give my all — all of the time.
I do not give up. I do not give in. I do not give out.
I am the Lord's warrior - a competitor by conviction
and a disciple of determination.
I am confident beyond reason because my confidence lies in Christ.
The results of my efforts must result in His glory.
Let the competition begin.
Let the glory be God's.
May we all compete as well as Brian in whatever competition comes our way!
"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation!" Romans 10:1
Jason Lester is area director of the Gainesville/Hall County Fellowship of Christian Athletes.