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I Cor. 9:24-27
It’s that time that rolls around every four years, when Olympians remind us all of just how out of shape we all are!
Eight badminton players were swatted from the Olympics this week for not trying to win. They were trying to fix the bracket where they would not face tough opponents until the finals. The crowds booed at the embarrassment and finally the officials put an end to it.
Our text says:
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:  But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection...
If I were to ask you “what is the mission of…
“the summer Olympians?...the Fighting Illini?...our Cub-pounding Cardinals?” What would you say?
(Answer) To Win.
How do you know if they are accomplishing their mission?
(Answer) Whether or not they are winning their games.
How do you know if they are winning their games?
(Answer) They keep the score.
I mean can you imagine what a game would be like if the teams just lined up and played each other going up and down the field but didn’t bother to keep the score? What would be the point? This isn’t tee ball!
How about our Christian life? What’s our mission? To win! How do we know if we’re winning? We have to keep score!
I grew up in a church with an old oak board that hung on the wall just to the left of the platform. There were three ways that our church kept score and those three items were faithfully displayed every Sunday morning on the oak board. And they were:
• Worship Attendance
Many churches are still keeping score this way. And while I don’t totally dismiss it, I am totally convinced that there are other ways to measure the church’s effectiveness.
Ill.—special Olympics: it’s not all about winning, but participating. Not about being the best, but the best YOU can be. Not about getting the gold, but crossing the finish line!
If anyone was ever considered a winner in the Christian Life and in the Church, Paul would undoubtedly qualify. And so in these short four verses Paul Personally Models Three Characteristics of a Genuine Winner.
Three Characteristics of Genuine Winners
The First Characteristic of a Winner is…
#1. Winners Are Contenders
Run in such a way as to get the prize. v.24
If ever a word described the Apostle Paul, it would be Contender. He didn’t just live life, he attacked it. In Acts 14, Paul was preaching to a crowd in Lystra. Some of his enemies were able to turn to crowd against him, and they stoned him, dragged him outside the city and left him for dead. As soon as Paul came to, the Bible says "...he got up and went back into the city." He had such a burning desire to preach the gospel that even the threat of physical violence couldn’t keep him away. Talk about a Conteder! No wonder Paul could say at the end of his life...
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
There is a huge difference between contenders and pretenders.
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