May 26, 2022
“Do you not know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control...”
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1 Corinthians 9
“Do you not know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly, or box like one who beats the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Believe it or not, I was a college athlete. I ran NCAA Division 1 cross country and indoor and outdoor track, and I was insanely competitive. In my Junior year of college, I didn’t lose a single cross country race until our conference meet. Did you know most athletes compete their whole college careers and never win a single event? By the way, if I tried to run a mile today, I would get very sick and die! Ha!
All that is to say, I know what the Apostle Paul is talking about in terms of competing to win a temporary prize. Even to this day, I have no idea where all my ribbons and trophies are.
Here’s a secret: running was never a pleasure for me, especially at the college level. It was grueling! My joy was not found in running; it was in winning. To me, there was no other reason to run except to win.
Paul is comparing these competitive analogies to the passion and focus that followers of Jesus need to have. Paul would say the prize that believers should strive after will not be obtained in this life. Instead, it is a hearty “Well done!” from the Father once our race is finished.
Why do you believe Jesus suffered for our salvation? Why was it so important to Him that we become saved, and what does that life He calls us to look like?
While others may be content living out their Christianity for a couple of hours on Sunday mornings, Paul exhorts us to a selfless, sold-out 24/7 faith. We are not simply called to wander in and out of church services. We are called to go into the world, wherever He leads us, and give reason for the hope that is in us.
We are called to love people to the point that it would be utter foolishness were there no resurrection from the dead. And after giving all that we have for all that He is, we are to remain faithful to the end. Many races are won and lost at the tape. It is not enough to run well; we must also prepare and be resolved to finish strong!