Summary: Each person must run the race themselves, no one can carry us to the finish line.

Preparation for Perfection"

Oct. 14, 2001

1 Cor. 9:24-27

One of our Elders at the retreat shared with me what an Elder had shared with him, he said "do not give the donkey all the hay at one feeding."

Being called a donkey by Stan and afterwards having spent much time analyzing what a donkey does, I can understand that illustration and I want you to know I really tried to apply it by writing a sermon with just 3 points, but I just couldn’t do it. The good news is that I quit with 4 points and they deal with our preparation for perfection.

As you know Stan referred to me as a donkey in one of his sermons and because my talents do not include being a visionary, I have tried to rely upon him to cast the vision.

You remember don’t you, about me carrying him up the stairs to paradise on my back. We got there and St Peter said " Stan get off your donkey and come on in".

I said "OK" that is it, I will be the best Donkey in the world and carry people to heaven one by one.

But one of my gifts is that I am an implementer, an evaluator. In other words if you are creative like my wife Cathi and you bring to me an idea or a vision, I will tell you in a little while, after a time of analysis whether or not your idea has merit or if it will fail miserably.

Well, I have to tell you, as we say in the South, this Donkey vision of Stan’s "won’t hunt." In other words it just won’t work (Nobody can carry you across the finish line). None of us can ride on the Donkey’s back, or hang on somebody’s shirttail and get the prize of heaven. Each one of us must fight the good fight and run the good race ourselves.

Now I know Stan’s talent list doesn’t include visionary either.

I can safely tell you today, that a visionary Stan is NOT! Do not go to Stan for a vision.

So I no longer see myself as the donkey carrying men, women and children up those steps to heaven where you can be presented pure, holy and mature in Christ.

The Lord doesn’t want you to ride into heaven on the back of a donkey, especially this old donkey.

He wants you to train for the race and finish the race so you get the prize and not the donkey.

As your family minister I have a mission statement that is simply "raising up an army for God"

My life verse has become Col 1:28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

I can oversee and provide Sunday school classes and Sunday night classes. I can develop Home Bible Fellowships, preach on Wednesday night and teach on Sunday morning and Sunday night. We can provide other events for spiritual growth like the class on Personal Holiness in Times of Temptation. I can schedule picnics and potlucks, camp outs and family game nights, dinners for 8, Stump the ministers, and many other programs, activities and classes, but if you will not come to the trough and eat. It is all in vein. If you will not suit up and be determined to enter and run the race all my efforts for you are futile.

This is exactly what the apostle Paul is telling the church in Corinth.

He is saying you must:

1. Run the Race to win

2. Discipline yourself

3. Stay on the Track

And the fourth one I really liked, b/c I love Buffets, don’t you?

4. Buffet your body daily

Paul knew, just like I know that, he had to run the race and you have to run the race. Only an undisciplined lazy man would climb on the back of a donkey for a free ride. If you are one of those who are trying to ride across the finish line on the back of somebody else, you need to know the donkey will win the prize and you will be disqualified from the race.

Listen to Paul’s words:

1 Cor 9:24 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.

1 Cor 9:25 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.

1 Cor 9:26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.

1 Cor 9:27 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.

Paul is speaking here about a very long race that pays tribute to a Greek soldier who almost 2500 years ago after the battle of Marathon was dispatched to run to Athens to announce the victory. He delivered the news and collapsed dead from over exertion.

In honor of his death the marathon race, an event well known to 1st century Christians became part of the Isthmian games held only 10 miles away from the Corinthians to whom Paul was writing. As a matter of fact The Corinthians alternated hosting those games every other year.

Run the Race to Win:

Paul is challenging these Christians as I hope I am challenging you to go out and run the race in such a way that you and many others may win. God wants us to be winners not losers, but He wants each one of us to run the race.

No one who just shows up for the marathon race wins, oh you might win the short race, but you will not win the long race without a strong resolve to win.

The resolve one needs to win this race is to agree to be:

1. Taught by the bible

2. Led by the Spirit

1 Cor 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

It is not enough simply to be in the race, Paul is saying once entered:

1. We must take our spiritual life seriously

2. We must push ourselves to the limit

3. We must be deeply committed to winning the prize, just as if we were running for only 1 prize.

4. You see in a Marathon there is only one first place wreath, so if you want the endorsements and all the contracts, if you want your picture on the box of Wheatie’s you better run to win.

5. These Isthmian runners ran for a crown made of leafy greenery from the Laurel called a stephanos. Upon winning they had instant fame, tax exemptions and a free education, many statues would be carved in their image and those statues would actually line the road that led to the site where the games were held.

1. Our verse says 1 Cor 9:25 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.

2. If a Marathon runner 2500 years ago would be so dedicated to win a withering pine wreath and some short lived fame and a few bucks, how much more should the Christian be resolved and determined to gain what is eternal?

3. The reality of the prize God has for us at the end of this life should ignite us in our faith and inspire us every step of the way.

4. Paul says to Timothy (2 Tim 4:8) in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

5. Are we intent on winning the crown, just as if there were only one to get? (Now, you need to know Christian’s there is more than one crown, there will be one for each of us when we finish the race, but God is asking us to run as if there were only one.)

6. He is asking us to live this Christian life, according to His rules, so we might not be disqualified.

7. My heart absolutely burns for lost people and when I hear someone say about the death of a non-believer. "Oh, they are in a better place, "it hurts real deep.

8. Because I know they have been deceived and I hold in my heart and my hands the rules for the race and so do you.

9. You must know and we must teach that the race must be run according to the rules God gives.

10. We must not conform God to our image, nor can we make up the rules of the race to win the prize at the end.

11. God has given us His rules, we must know the rules and we must run the race according to His rules, not ours and we must finish the race.

12. I ask you today and you answer it: are you lax in your spiritual pursuit of holiness? Do you know the rules of the road or have you created rules that seem right to you? Have you made God say something He has never said?

13. Many people today practice a form of godliness that seems right to them, but in the end it will lead to their death.

3. Discipline Yourself

1. I as your family minister cannot discipline you, I can provide the Gym and the activities that will make you spiritually fit, but you have to come and work out.

2. I can provide the food, but you have to come to the trough and eat.

3. I may be guilty of giving you too much food, but I do not want to be guilty of offering you none or too little food.

4. Self- discipline is what Paul is talking about- it is the best form of discipline-

5. Ask your kids? Would they rather have you bring them into line and get the spanking- or discipline themselves and behave?

1. Every one of these Olympic runners entered into 10 months of rigorous training under the watchful eye of an official.

2. They lifted weights, they carried out various exercise drills, they ran laps, they regulated their diet, and they abstained from alcohol-all to win the prize.

Our text says: in v 25 And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

An undisciplined lifestyle is one sure way to lose the race.

We need to train for the race by:

i. Reading the word - and understand clearly how we are to live.

Avoid making up ideas on what you think God will accept- Know what He accepts and what He rejects.

ii. Pray for God’s enabling for you and for others.

Who are in the race. Pray for more people to enter the race.

iii. Submit - give over all of your life to God and follow the Lord.

iv. Serve the Lord and the Lord alone. You cannot serve two Masters you will love one and hate the other.

v. Confess sins.

vi. Worship regularly.

vii. Stay away from temptation.

Paul says in: 1 Tim 4:7-8 discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

I am asking you to look at your life today, are you willing to forego some secondary things in order to pursue the primary things of the Christian life?

What is keeping you from attending a Home Bible Fellowship, being on the Prayer wall, Attending Sunday school or a Sunday Night class?

What is stopping you from doing what you love for the church?

Your victory if you get the prize will depend on you, not on the donkey-it will depend on your self-discipline!

Paul’s third point: Stay on Track

Paul said in the scripture Stan read "Forget what is Behind" Strain toward what is ahead" "Press on" to "win the prize"

Every runner must know where the track is, our course is clearly marked, we must not get off track and be deceived by the world, but keep your eyes fixed to the prize-our goal is heaven.

1 Cor 9:26 v26, Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.

Our track Christians is God’s word. The track is narrow and few people find it. The gate is narrow and few people go through it. Most take the Broadway where the lights are bright and the action is hot and fast, but I tell you all that glitters is not gold.

The narrow path includes every aspect of our lives-

1. Our private/personal life

2. Our home life, business life and church life.

3. An aimless runner, oh he will be running all right, but he will lack any clear direction and his chasing will be a chasing after the wind. At the end he will die exhausted, empty and without any reward for all his aimless effort.

4. The race we run Christians is for our life, we cannot be donkeys who carry people to the path, but we can advance the Gospel so we can win as many people to Christ as possible.

5. Paul’s motto was not "climb on" and let me carry you across the finish line- it was follow me, as I follow Christ.

6. That is what a leader does, he takes people where they need to go and a good leader always has people behind him, but a good leader makes sure that he knows where he is going, he goes first and. He follows the rules.

7. Our aim at Central Christian Church’s is to run this race and take as many people with us as we can.

8. Are you in the race? Are you running with Divine direction and eternal purpose? Or are you just coming along for the ride?

9. I really do not mind going on ahead of you, but get there so I can present you perfect in Christ.

Now I really love the fourth point- it is my favorite Buffet your Body

1 Cor 9:27 (NasB) but I buffet my body and make it my slave,

1. Every athlete gives up certain comforts in order to win the prize.

2. What is it they say "NO Pain No Gain"

3. The athlete pushes himself in rigorous repetition in order to get in shape.

4. And then during the race he pushed himself to the limit to gain the victory.

5. Paul is talking about boxing here another event and not racing, but he is saying we must toughen up against temptation and deliver a knock-out punch to our fleshly desires.

6. Runners we must resist all temptation and crucify the sensual lust that seek to destroy us, in this race we must remain pure and blameless.

7. For me it takes my strength and the grace of God to pursue personal holiness with total abandonment. I have to be in an accountability group of Godly men who hold me responsible to practice what I preach.

Paul knows he has to train too, he knows he has to press on and he has to finish. He understands that just because he is an official who gives us the rules, that he is not exempt from running by the rules (lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.)

8. There always seems to be something on the sidelines of the track that looks a whole lot better than the battle I am in.

9. Our sons ran cross-country and never once did they cross that finish line with a smile on their face, especially when their time was just over 16 minutes.

10. But when we finish this race as hard as it is we will have a smile on our face.

11. Paul knew winning the prize required genuine obedience.

Are you buffeting your body daily? Are you resisting all fleshly lusts? In what area of your life do you need to be fully obedient?

One thing I can tell you for sure- The race will soon be over-every runner aimless or not will appear before the judgment seat of Christ so we may receive our reward for what we have done while in the race- either good or bad.

Brothers and Sisters Right now counts for all eternity, let us run the race as if in the next moment we will stand before Christ.

6. One day we will stand on the podium - not for a gold medal, but we will receive the prize. May we then with Paul say "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." 2Tim 4:7

7. If time tell the Robib and Dianne Sigers story.

8. Only one way to get there, enter, run and finish the race.

We are going to sing a song of invitation- Stan is going to come up and greet you- if you have not been baptized into Christ and joined a church, well your are not even in the race yet and you are running aimlessly.

Maybe you got on the track but the bright lights of the side streets has called you away.

The race starts and ends at the cross- won’t you come!


Barclay,William Letters to Corinthians. Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press 1973.

Gaebelein, Frank The Expositor’es Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids Zondervan: 1978.

Lawson, Stephen J. "Press on to The Prize" ,RTS Reformed Quarterly

Staton, Knofel First Corinthians,Cincinnati Standard: 1984.