Summary: We are all running towards a goal and our reward is the crown of righteousness that the Lord has promised to all those who run and finish well. However, in order to attain this imperishable crown, we need to exercise self-control in every area of our life.
A race run well
The Apostle Paul writing to the Church in Corinth admonishes them this way. He says to them in 1 Corinthians 9:24 -25,“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (ESV)
As we take a closer look at the above mentioned verses, there are four important aspects that stand out. Probably as Paul observed groups of athletes preparing for a race the following features captured his mind. The first aspect Paul is talking about is that this is a running race, the second, that there are the participants in the race, the third, is the fact that every participant needs to exercise self-control and the fourth, that there is a crown waiting at the end of this race for those who run well.
Nothing distracts an athlete who is preparing for a race. He is completely focused and his only aim is to win the race and receive the crown. In ancient times, when an athlete won a race, they were given a beautiful wreath made of leaves to celebrate their victory. However, the wreath they received would probably last only for a few days and then fade away.
If we were to observe the athletes who participate in a race we may have noticed that they wear light clothes, they often keep their hair short and the reasons for this kind of discipline is that they do not want anything to hinder them or their speed when they are in a race. They are also very selective and controlled with the kind of food they eat, so they can keep their bodies healthy and fit. They will exercise self-control in every area of their life so that they can run the race really well.
If we were to compare ourselves with this indirect representation, we will understand that each one of us are participants in this race of life. We are all running towards a goal and our reward is the crown of righteousness that the Lord has promised to all those who run and finish well. However, in order to attain this imperishable crown, we need to exercise self-control in every area of our life. This is not a compulsion, but a daily discipline and choice. We also constantly remind ourselves that whatever the world offers us will eventually fade away. Every trophy we receive in this world is only temporary, and will vanish someday but the crown the Lord assures us will last into eternity.
The question is how we can run this race well, so as to be victorious and receive the crown. We have looked in detail at various areas in which people are being enslaved. One is not in bondage only to habits like drinking, smoking etc., but is enslaved even if they are struggling in areas like controlling anger, hatred, and jealousy too. To run this race well we need to break free from all these yokes that bind us, pull us down and prevent us from fulfilling our full potential and purposes of God in our life.
How should we run this Race of Life?
Run with a Vision
Habakkuk 2:2, “And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” (ESV)
The Lord commanded the prophet Habakkuk to clearly write the vision He gave him on tablets, so that the people could read and understand it and run with the same. The vision that was planted in his mind, was to be written out so the people could comprehend the vision clearly and run with it.
Many companies have what they call a ‘vision statement’ that portrays what they would like to see happen in the future. For instance way back in 1975, when Microsoft was just launching, they had a vision statement that read like this ‘A computer on every Desk’. When they first floated the company this was not even a possibility as computers in those days were huge and usually confined to a room, the computers were also very expensive and not affordable for common man. However, we see that 44 years later, it is indeed a reality and almost every home and office have a computer or a laptop.
The vision that the Lord has given to us is that we will have eternal life and receive the unfading crown that He has in store for us and we are all running towards it. We cannot perceive this with our temporal eyes, but we run by faith because we received this vision from the Lord. We need to run with this vision.