Summary: EPIPHANY 3(B) - Believers run God’s race while God provides purpose / prize and God supplies strength / success.
BELIEVERS RUN GOD’S RACE (Outline)
1 CORINTHIANS 9:24-27 - January 23, 2005 - EPIPHANY 3
INTRO: We are all involved in racing. We race to work, school, and many other appointments. We may have even raced this morning to get ready for worship in God’s house. Mankind is often called the human race. The busy-ness of this life is sometimes even called the rat race. How often do we not feel just like that? We run around in circles without accomplishing the many things that we have planned for the day or week. Today our gracious God would have us concentrate on our spiritual life, described as God’s race. Paul explains this attitude in his letter to the Philippians: "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus"(PHILIPPIANS 3:13b,14). As believers who run God’s race we are to forget what is behind and press on toward the heavenly goal. May the Holy Spirit guide us as we consider: BELIEVERS RUN GOD’S RACE. I. God provides purpose / prize. II. God supplies strength / success.
I. GOD PROVIDES PURPOSE / PRIZE
A. The apostle Paul uses the example of a race and training for these final verses of chapter 9.
1. There is a reason for this. Corinth was host to the Isthmian games.
2. These games were held every other year and were a very important part of Corinthian living.
B. These Isthmian games were second in importance to the Olympic games.
1. Paul asks in verse 24a about the runners. Only one gets the prize.
2. Because only one gets the prize training and preparation were very important. Verse 24b.
C. Many people trained for many hours. The athletes went into strict training.
1. Why did they train? Verse 25a. The winner of the games received a crown of olive leaves.
2. All that training for something so temporary. Verse 25b says the believer’s crown is eternal.
3. The natural conclusion is that the believer’s purpose / prize far better than any earthly prize.
D. Our world is not concerned with God’s race. Our modern society would have us remain as members of the very human rat race. The world holds out all sorts of prizes. Mankind offers money, fame, glory, and earthly praise as prizes and purpose in this human race. But all of these prizes are temporary. They are corruptible and do not last very long at all. In God’s race the prize is eternal. "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away"(1 PETER 5:4).
E. How are we to remain focused on training for running God’s race? We will need to look ahead in our planning and living. We look ahead into the future that is yet to be revealed. Believers running Gods’ race are to look beyond next year, the next decade and right into heaven (eternity). We can do this by tak-ing to heart the encouragement of Jesus. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well"(MATTHEW 6:33). Jesus reminds us, as he reminded the disciples, the pagans run after the many things the world offers. They do it with worry. Believers live in the human race of mankind by running God’s race. As believers we know the Lord provides.
F. What is most amazing about God’s race is the fact that God has called us to run the race. God’s pur-pose is to have mankind saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. God provides purpose in our Christian living. Believers are to shine like lights in this sin-darkened world. We are privileged to do this, run God’s race by God’s grace. "God has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of any-thing we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time"(2 TIMOTHY 1:9). By grace we are saved to serve God in his kingdom.
TRANS: BELIEVERS RUN GOD’S RACE God provides purpose / prize. Also --
II. GOD SUPPLIES STRENGTH / SUCCESS
A. Paul understood that all of his strength and success had come from the Lord God Almighty.
1. The Lord called Paul when Paul sought him not.
2. The Lord gave strength to Paul to serve when he was beaten, stoned, and even left for dead.
B. Paul knew he could not rely on his own strength for any success.
1. Verse 26. Previously Paul ran aimlessly from town to town looking for believers to persecute.
2. Previously Paul shook his fist in the air at God. No more, now Paul was running God’s race.