RESTORED RACERS (Olympic Lessons 2) 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
My wife and I exercise together almost every day. We do it to be able to live a healthier life. We practice spiritual disciplines like Bible study and prayer to enable us to live a faithful Christian life as well. Both take discipline, time and focused attention. Lessons learned in physical training can be applied to spiritual training as well. In our previous blog we looked at Paul’s analogy of comparing the Olympics with living the Christian life. “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” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
God will reward us in heaven for living in faithfulness to Him on this earth (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10). “They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
This should motivate us to put all our energy and focus into living for Him. That was Paul’s goal and it should be ours as well. “Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly” (1 Corinthians 9:26). I’ve run some half-marathons and taken part on many athletic competitions, so I know a participant can only be successful if they give their best effort. Paul gave his all to Jesus.
During a race each runner must follow the path chosen for them. They cannot run in any direction but must stay on the assigned course. We must follow God’s path for us in life in full obedience to Him. Paul did, and he wants his readers to follow his example. He sets different courses for each of His children and we must run the race He has set before each of us.
Paul also says “I do not fight like a man beating the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26). The analogy here switches from running to boxing. Some boxers would go into the ring swinging aimlessly in any direction hoping a wild punch would land on an opponent. That’s not the way a successful contender would fight. Paul wants to make sure every punch lands just where he aims it. Every word, every action and every thought of ours should hit our target of Christlike living and thinking. That’s quite a goal, but it’s necessary to win.
“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” (1 Corinthians 9:27). “Beating my body” refers to disciplining himself to do what is necessary to live for Jesus, not fulfilling the lazy, self-satisfying lusts of our flesh. His chief opponent is his sin nature. Athletic training demands healthy diet, adequate rest and regular exercise and practice. It doesn’t come easily. It takes lots of long, hard work.
Living faithfully for Jesus requires us to spend time studying, memorizing and applying His Word – that’s our healthy diet. We need consistent, direct communication with God through prayer and listening to Him speak to us – that’s connection with our Coach. Authentic Christ-like actions and thoughts must be practiced continually – that’s our version of daily workouts. Knowing where we are weak and what to do about it is essential to moving toward victory.
An athlete can’t train for one hour a week and expect to be in top shape. Church attendance once a week is great, but it can’t be our only training. Not if we want to get the prize for faithful living for Jesus. Like Paul, we need focused, disciplined purpose in life. That come from knowing and following Jesus.
Is God’s reward for a life lived faithfully for Him the goal of your life? How are you doing with that? Are you taking adequate time to prepare by studying your Bible? Do you spend enough time with Him in prayer? Are you focusing on faithfully doing what Jesus would do in all your thoughts and actions? If so, God will have your crown waiting for you when you get to heaven. (More about these crowns in the next blog.)
cto Rev. Dr. JERRY SCHMOYER
Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View)
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