Is memorizing God’s Word worth more than $100,000?
I could hardly believe my eyes when I read that this amount of money was the prize for the first-place winner of the 2009 National Bible Bee. What would you do with $100,000? That’s an entire year’s salary if you earn $50 per hour!
Before long, I was consumed with a craving to attain the prize. I was willing to sacrifice my time, effort, and plans to win that $100,000. Then I sensed the Lord’s conviction: “Is money more valuable to you than my Word? Why is it that you didn’t have this excitement about memorizing before you heard of the prize?”
I began to see how misplaced my priorities were. Proverbs 8:11 says, “Wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.” If I truly value the wisdom of Scripture more than rubies, I should have a greater excitement for hiding God’s Word in my heart than for winning any monetary prize.
In the end I signed up for the competition with a new appreciation for the value of God’s Word and an entirely different goal than merely winning the prize money. I was in it to deepen my walk with the Lord—and if I won anything, it would just be icing on the cake!
Adjusting My Priorities
To prepare, we were to study six books of the Bible and memorize nearly 1,500 Bible verses. I like figuring things out, and so I carefully calculated how much I needed to study every day in order to be ready in time. However, it wasn’t long before I began falling further and further behind schedule.
In desperation, I began thinking: “Would it be all right if I stopped spending as much time with the family? My younger brothers can do things without me for a while. Also, my morning prayer time isn’t that important, is it? After all, I am studying and memorizing the Bible, right?”
Again I sensed the Lord’s conviction about my priorities. He seemed to be asking me, “Are you going to put that prize above your relationships with me and others?” I remember closing my eyes and telling the Lord: “You know I am not going to be able to prepare like I hoped to, but I purpose to honor my relationships as a higher priority than winning the prize. This means I will not be perfectly ready, so Lord, if I do win, it is going to have to be a miracle of your doing.”
It was thrilling to see how my excitement in preparing came flooding back. Now I was not faced with the drudgery of all that I had to do every day, but rather I had the sense of racing to fit in as much as I possibly could. I was simply doing my best and entrusting the results to the Lord.
Enduring the Tests
The day came when we heard that I had qualified for the national competition in Washington, D.C., and we started planning a family trip to attend the event.
After we arrived, I walked into the grand ballroom of the elaborate Marriott Hotel. Beautiful crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Bright lights illuminated the front stage. I thought: “I can never stand up there in front of all these people! I will die of stage fright!”
The following morning we launched into an intense day of oral and written tests, each one timed and proctored by judges. Because of the time limit, we had to say our verses quickly, but every word we missed meant that points were deducted from our total scores. The following afternoon only twenty-one contestants passed the semi-finals and advanced to the final competition, which lasted over five hours.
The competition intensified even more when we learned that there had been a tie in our age group (the seniors). I cannot explain what I felt as I stood on the main stage, knowing that one word could mean the difference between a $25,000 second-place prize and the $100,000 grand prize—one $75,000 word! I didn’t want it to end, yet I couldn’t stand another second of suspense. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in this for the Lord, not the money. That alone gave me inward peace.
After two grueling tie-breakers, they finally declared that three winners had been clearly identified. However, they wouldn’t announce the winners until after the banquet! That was the hardest meal I ever ate.
Recognizing Life’s True “Competition”
Finally, the moment came. They called the three winners onto the stage. First they announced the third-place winner. Cheers. Applause. Then second-place. More cheers. More applause. It began to dawn on me that I was the only one left!
As they handed me the gold trophy amid the roaring applause and flashing cameras, I remembered that these earthly rewards were nothing compared to the true treasures I had hidden within my heart. Those treasures will never fade or disappear with time. They will be with me for all eternity.
As my Dad likes to say, this was all just practice for the “real thing.” Will I continue to value God’s Word as I should? Will I continue seeking out the rich truths contained in each passage? Will I find the answers in Scripture that apply to the questions, situations, and difficulties I face every day? Will I keep the priority of my relationships with God and others far above personal goals? This “competition” began the day after the Bible Bee ended, and it will continue for the rest of my life.
—Daniel Staddon, age 19
Related Command of Christ
This testimony illustrates the command of Christ to Lay Up Treasures. (See Matthew 6:19–21.) Instead of focusing primarily on winning the prize, Daniel learned to keep his priorities in line with an eternal perspective and to value God’s Word and his relationships with others more than money.