Summary: A sermon that picks up Pauls theme of running the race and uses the modern context of competition to discus running the Christian race.

Gold medal Christianity. Let the games begin!

This week I had to help someone move 2 cubic metres of firewood into a shed.

It took about twenty minutes and I think I could do it faster.

With training I might be able to get the time down to ten minutes or perhaps seven is not out of the question.

I guess since people were first created there has been a tendency to do things better – quicker. There has also been a tendency to pit people against people in competition.

This practice has become highly sophisticated.

Nowhere is this more evident than in that great event called the Olympic Games.

In 2004, the Olympic Games are returning to their ancient birthplace and the city of their revival. Athletes from all nations will unite in Greece to engage in noble competition.

The Athens Olympic Games will combine history, culture and peace with sports and Olympism.

The people of Greece shall host unique Games on a human scale, inspiring the world to celebrate Olympic values.

Interestingly enough in New Testament times the whole concept of games – was alive and well.

When the Romans conquered Greece in the 2nd century BC they kept the games going.

The festival at Olympia was patronised by emperors, though Nero only won the chariot races and various musical and dramatic events by bribing the judges.

The 290th Olympics in AD 390 was the last.

It was with this background that the Apostle Paul saw some real comparisons with the Chrisitan life.

In fact I found six passages that follow this theme.

This morning I want to explore one particular passage 1 Corinthians chapter 9 verse 24 and ask the question – What does it teach me about how to be more effective as a Christian?

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

The thing that motivates Paul is the thought of the prize.

Finishing the race well is his primary goal.

There is a famous bit of television footage of a New Zealand woman athlete finishing an Olympics 1500 metres race – she is only metres from the line when she trips.

As she stumbles forward all the major placings for the race – fly past her and she is left with nothing.

It is this stumbling before the line that Paul wants to avoid.

Paul says:-

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

Because the race is a kind of Parable in a way, we need to get a clear understaneding as to just what the prize is in the Christian race.

Clearly it is not a gold medal and peoples applause.

When an athlete wins an Olympic gold then they are praised by the crowd, a world wide television audience – the world media and of course their own nation.

What is it, what is the prize, that the Christian wins??

Well the bible is very clear.

In John chapter 3 and verse 16 we read about eternal life.

That in itself does not take on significant meaning unless we added a little bit of colour to the picture.

Do we understand what eternal life is like?

Lets splash a little colour on the page labelled eternal life!

If we read our bible carefully we can get a clear glimpse of something of what the Kingdom of heaven is like.

The following glimpses of heaven came from Christopher Hilling Sermon Central:-

IV. Heaven Will Be Restoration.

There will be a day, for those who live right and make it to Heaven, where the blinded eyes will see, the deaf ears will hear, the muted mouth will speak, the crippled feet will run, … it will be a place of restoration!

John Bradford (1510-1555), less than five months before his death, wrote of the glories of heaven he anticipated:

I am assured that though I want here, I have riches there; though I hunger here, I shall have fullness there; though I faint here, I shall be refreshed there; and though I be accounted here as a dead man, I shall there live in perpetual glory.

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