Summary: Part 3 of this series focuses on the race we are to run individually as taken from 1 Corinthians 9:26.
Choices – Part 3
Choose The Right Race
This is part three of my series “Choices.” I’ve titled this message “Choose the Right Race.” Our foundational Scripture from 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus; not with uncertainty. Thus I fight; not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” In this Scripture Paul compare the Christian’s race to a sporting event. In part one I shared with you that “Our abilities to do something often do not start with our being able to do it; it starts with our choice to do it. Once the choice is made, the ability can come through training, discipline and preparation!” This is the essence of what Paul captured in these few verses. In part two, I shared with you that we must choose victory versus simple success. The difference between victory and success is the repeatability. If you are in a war, you will have success in battle until you reach the total victory and the battle is over. We often settle for successes, never expecting or experiencing total victory. It is a mindset. When we begin to choose victory, how we see the world around us and our specific situations will change. My example was the marathon runner who competes in a marathon but their goal is not to win, but a personal goal that they have assigned for themselves. In that situation when they have met their personal goal, they experienced success, but not the victory of winning the race and the prize attached to the race. As a Christian, we must run the race that God has given to each of us to run and we must focus on His prize, not a personal goal that we may set which may be far different from what God desires of us.
This morning I will focus on verse twenty-six and I ask you again to think about the race you’re running and if you’re running “your race” – the one that God has assigned you.
I. Competing With Certainty
In 1 Corinthians 9:26 Paul writes the following: “Therefore I run thus; not with uncertainty. Thus I fight; not as one who beats the air.” In verses 24 and 25 that we have discussed previously, Paul explains that everyone who competes does so for the prize yet only one can be the winner – the victor. He states that each participate is temperate in all things. What he is saying is that those who compete practice a lot of self-control and discipline even during the times when they are not actually in training for an event. Their lifestyle is one of always preparing and keeping their bodies ready. After he explains this, he transitions to his race. I want you to focus on the last part of the verse. After he states that this is how he was running his individual race, with discipline, self-control and focused on the prize assigned to his race, he said “not with uncertainty.” To be uncertain means that you’re know sure and you have doubts. Paul stated that he was running his race with surety – there was no doubt as to the race he was running the race assigned to him. Why is this important?
Let me give you the definition of the word perception. Perception is defined as “the mental grasp of objects; intuition or insight; the knowledge gotten through perceiving.” In short, a person’s perception becomes their reality. I think we all understand this. When we have a perception of something, we act and make decisions based on our own perception. Our perception becomes our reality. That sounds okay so far – it’s my perception and it’s my reality. Now, when I share my perception with someone else, and they believe and accept it, what happens? My perception/reality is now transferred to them. Their perception and thus their reality have now been influenced by me. The problem here is that my perceptions might be true for me, but it might not necessarily apply to the person I am talking to. Many Christians are trying to compete in a race that is not theirs because someone has told them that this is what they should do based on the other person’s perception of them.
Consider the stock crash of 1929. Overnight hundreds of thousands of people immediately began to withdraw all of their money from banks because of what they were being told by friends and family. The perception was that their money was no longer safe in the bank and they needed to have it in their hands. It started with one person telling another person and so on until masses of people were panicking. The banks of course did not keep every depositor’s deposit in cash at their bank location so they did not have enough cash on hand when people came in requesting to withdraw all of their money that they had in the banks. When people withdrew their money from the banks and business started defaulting on their loans (some figures show that almost 50% of the banks in the U.S. closed their doors during this time) many customers were left with no money at all because their deposits were not insured. The “run on the banks” happened because people perceived that their money was not safe in the banks. Their perception became their reality and they acted on that new reality. So what happened? Those who withdrew their money early were able to get all of their money back; those who came in late, some of them got nothing because when the banks exhausted their cash, they had to close their doors. Do you see this – how our perception impacts our beliefs and actions? After this initial run on banks happened, within four years there had been two more. President Franklin Roosevelt stopped a third run on banks in 1933 and in 1934 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was established. It guaranteed individual deposits up to $100,000. In 2008, President Bush increased the limit to $250,000. So if you have $250,000 in a bank that is backed by the FDIC, your money is safe, even if the bank closes its doors.