Summary: A lesson on staying the course with Jesus and not giving up.
Finish the Race
Scripture Ref.: 1 Cor. 9:24–27
2 Tim. 4:7–8
References: The Bible Knowledge Commentary
1. Introduction—Read the following story of Derek Redmond and his Dad.
The Barcelona Olympics of 1992 provided one of track and field’s most incredible moments.
Britain’s Derek Redmond had dreamed all his life of winning a gold medal in the 400-meter race, and his dream was in sight as the gun sounded in the semi-finals at Barcelona. He was running the race of his life and could see the finish line as he rounded the turn into the backstretch. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain go up the back of his leg. He fell face first onto the track with a torn right hamstring.
Sports Illustrated recorded the dramatic events: As the medical attendants were approaching, Redmond fought to his feet. "It was animal instinct," he would say later. He set out hopping, in a crazed attempt to finish the race. When he reached the stretch, a large man in a T-shirt came out of the stands, hurled aside a security guard and ran to Redmond, embracing him. It was Jim Redmond, Derek’s father. "You don’t have to do this," he told his weeping son. "Yes, I do," said Derek. "Well, then," said Jim, "we’re going to finish this together."
And they did. Fighting off security men, the son’s head sometimes buried in his father’s shoulder, they stayed in Derek’s lane all the way to the end, as the crowd gaped, then rose and howled and wept.
Derek didn’t walk away with the gold medal, but he walked away with an incredible memory of a father who, when he saw his son in pain, left his seat in the stands to help him finish the race.
That’s what God does for us when we place our trust in Him. When we are experiencing pain and we’re struggling to finish the race, we can be confident that we have a loving Father who won’t let us do it alone. He left His place in heaven to come alongside us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. "I am with you always," says Jesus to His followers, "to the very end of the age."
2. Read 1 Cor. 9:24-27
· Verses 24–25
Ø Paul’s commitment to this course of ministry did not come easily. It required personal discipline (strict training) like that of an athlete who strove for supremacy in his field.
¨ He willingly gave up privileges he might otherwise enjoy so he would win the prize—not the temporary crown given by men (in the biennial games near Corinth the “crown” was a pine wreath), but the eternal crown bestowed by Christ.
¨ His crown would be the consummation of the reward he partially enjoyed— the opportunity to glory before Christ in those he had been able to win
· Verses 26–27
Ø Every move made in the course of his race was calculated to further his pursuit of the prize.
Phil. 3:12–14— 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Ø Every blow struck was meant to land squarely on his opponent and send him reeling from the contest.
Eph. 6:12— 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
James 4:7—Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Ø To achieve this, Paul would not let his body master him.
1 Cor. 6:12—“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
Ø Sometimes he denied even its demand for rightful privileges and pleasures for a greater good.
1 Cor. 8:9— Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.
1 Cor. 10:32–33—Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
Ø Paul was competing well himself and had called many to join him, but that did not guarantee him a victorious finish.
¨ He held out the possibility that even he could be disqualified for the prize (Gr. adokimos)—literally means “unapproved.”