Summary: Running to win only makes sense if you’re chasing the right prize
Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified. (NRSVA)
A few weeks ago the Arizona Cardinals came within a toenail of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl game. It was an exciting finish to a tense contest. The man who caught the winning touchdown for the Steelers was Santonio Holmes. When he caught that pass in the last moments of the game, had just one of his ten toenails been over that white line, he would have been disqualified on that play, and the game might just have been won by the other team. They gave him a trophy for being the Most Valuable Player; he was a winner among winners!
Without taking anything away from the team that scored the most, I would like to assert that the Arizona Cardinals were not losers that day. The winner closest to my heart was Arizona quarterback, Kurt Warner, a man who regularly annoys critics with his testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. He was on the winning side 10 years ago, winning both the Super Bowl game and the MVP award. At the game’s end interview he flatly told millions watching by TV that Kurt Warner is nothing – Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior is everything!
As he was preparing for this year’s Super Bowl game, Warner was interviewed by a newspaper reporter who wanted to know all about what makes Kurt Warner tick; this is what he got:
"If you ever really want to do a story about who I am, God’s got to be at the center of it. Every time I hear a piece or read a story that doesn’t have that, they’re missing the whole lesson of who I am." - Kurt Warner 
In the race of our lives winning means having one true purpose – God in the center of everything! Paul says the reason that’s so is because the prize is unfading and worth it all.
Paul said run to win as if winning is everything. It is, but not in the sense that you find in the sports arena. Running to win only makes sense if you’re chasing the right prize.
My daughter, Jen, has a fur-ball with whiskers named Fred. Fred will chase anything that moves. If you have one of those little laser lights that shines a red dot on the wall you can keep Fred occupied for months! He chases the red dot, jumping in any direction you choose. I have seen him go three quarters of the way up the living room wall with fire in his eyes over that little red dot.
Now Fred is jumping and running to win, but he’s chasing an empty prize; every time he gets his paws on it, he’s got nothing! A lot of people are like Fred, chasing after things, money and the next dazzling light that comes along…empty!
So the question becomes what’s your purpose? What prize are you chasing? The purpose, or prize Paul talked about was the God-centered life. He said the winner’s crown in the God-centered life of purpose was one which would not fade or lose its value throughout eternity. He said it was worth all the training and self-discipline it takes to serve Jesus.
A business executive tells how he sizes people up. He will invite a prospective employee into his office, sit down and begin to talk about sports or fishing or his family. Then, when the applicant is beginning to relax he’ll look him square in the eye and ask him, what’s your purpose in life? The question disarms most people, but one time he asked the question and Bob answered without blinking an eye – he firmly replied, MY PURPOSE IS TO GOT TO HEAVEN AND TAKE AS MANY PEOPLE WITH ME AS I CAN. 
Paul said he didn’t want to waste his life like a boxer who was always beating the air, but never landing a blow. A boxer sometimes practices by shadow boxing. He is training his muscles to hit at an opponent. The target is his shadow. Shadow boxing is like Fred chasing the laser light; there’s a lot of activity, but no prizes.
Now, it’s important to learn, but it is getting in the game that counts. I want my life to be like Paul’s – a life of purpose. That purpose is having Jesus Christ in the center of whatever I do, so that people see Jesus much more than Russell.