I Corinthians 9:24-27 – “Do you not know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the Games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
These verses recently recaptured my attention in Priscilla Shirer’s devotional entitled “Awaken”. The words that resonated with me in particular are “run in such a way”.
The apostle Paul often describes a Christian’s training and pilgrimage in terms used for athletic preparation and readiness. “The Games” referred to here are the Isthmian Games – one of the great national and athletic events in Corinth. Each participant had to endure rigorous training to even be considered to compete in the Games. The transition from the athletic arena to our lives as disciples of Jesus comes in the words “they do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever”. James 1:12 states: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him”.
I trust you see where I am going with this analogy. In order to compete at a highly competitive level, an athlete must endure exhausting and relentless training – pushing through pain, fear, fatigue and doubt. He must have an unflinching goal to stay the course.
We, as Christians, must also endure and overcome in order to withstand the attacks of the world, the flesh and the devil. We must press on – sometimes 10 feet, sometimes 1 inch, but never giving up or giving in. “To run in such a way” is a far cry from merely accepting Christ as our Savior and punching a ticket to heaven. Many never get beyond this step and miss out on so much. 2 Peter 1:3 says: “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence”. “To run in such a way would include:
John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Mark 8:34: – “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up His cross and follow Me.”
John 14:15 – “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
Psalm 119:05 – My Word is a lamp unto your feet and a light onto your path.”
Psalm 95:6 – “O come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”
Hebrews 10:24&24 – “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
I John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Hebrews 12:1&2a – “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith”,
This list is not exhaustive but certainly is a good start.
Like the athlete striving to qualify for the Isthmian games, we too will need to keep pushing ourselves forward. Knowing what Jesus has done for us, how could we do any less? Let us follow the example of our Savior – to be determined to do whatever it takes to honor and to please Him – as He did His father.
Isaiah 50:7 – “But the Lord helps Me; therefore, I have not been disgraced; therefore, I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.”