Summary: Winning a race requires purpose and discipline. As Christians, we are running toward our heavenly reward. Don’t merely observe from the grandstand; don’t just turn out to jog a couple of laps each morning. Train diligently – your spiritual progress depend
Opening illustration: We can become distracted and look away from the goal of becoming like Christ. If you saw the movie Chariots of Fire, then maybe you remember the great runner Abraham. He had won so many races. His coach held up such discipline. But he finally lost one of the races because he looked to the side. Just as he was about to finish the race he looked to see where the competitor was. His coach said to him, that look cost you the race. He was not single minded on the finish and the prize that lay ahead.
That is similar to what Paul is calling our attention to here. He is calling us to be single minded toward the goal of becoming like Christ. Yes there are many things that are good. But there is only one thing that is really best. Those are the things that count for eternity. We make our lives more like Jesus.
Introduction: The apostle compares himself to the racers and combatants in the Isthmian games, well known by the Corinthians. But in the Christian race all may run so as to obtain. There is the greatest encouragement, therefore, to persevere with all our strength, in this course. Those who ran in these games were kept to a spare diet. They used themselves to hardships. They practiced the exercises. And those who pursue the interests of their souls must combat hard with fleshly lusts. The body must not be suffered to rule. The apostle presses this advice on the Corinthians. He sets before himself and them the danger of yielding to fleshly desires, pampering the body, and its lusts and appetites. Holy fear of himself was needed to keep an apostle faithful: how much more is it needful for our preservation! Let us learn from hence humility and caution, and to watch against dangers which surround us while in the body.
How to run in order to achieve the imperishable crown?
1. Run to Obtain (v. 24)
So run in the Christian race, that you may obtain the prize of glory, the crown incorruptible. So live; so deny yourselves; so make constant exertion that you may not fail of that prize, the crown of glory, which awaits the righteous in heaven; compare Heb_12:1. Christians may do this when:
They give themselves wholly to God, and make this the grand business of life;
“When they lay aside every weight” Heb_12:1; and renounce all sin and all improper attachments;
When they do not allow themselves to be “diverted” from the object, but keep the goal constantly in view;
When they do not flag, or grow weary in their course;
When they deny themselves; and,
When they keep their eye fully fixed on Christ Heb_12:2 as their example and their strength, and on heaven as the end of their race, and on the crown of glory as their reward.
Result: To win
2. Run with Temperance (v. 25)
The word which is rendered “is temperate” denotes “abstinence” from all that would excite, stimulate, and ultimately enfeeble; from wine, from exciting and luxurious living, and from licentious indulgences. It means that they did all they could to make the body vigorous, active, and supple. They pursued a course of entire temperate living; compare Act_24:25; 1Co_7:9; Gal_5:23; 2Pe_1:6. It relates not only to indulgences unlawful in themselves, but to abstinence from many things that were regarded as “lawful,” but which were believed to render the body weak and effeminate. The phrase “in all things” means that this course of temperance or abstinence was not confined to one thing, or to one class of things, but to every kind of food and drink, and every indulgence that had a tendency to render the body weak and effeminate. The preparations which those who propose to contend in these games made is well known; and is often referred to by the Classic writers. Epictetus, as quoted by Grotius (in loco), thus speaks of these preparations. “Do you wish to gain the prize at the Olympic games? consider the requisite preparations and the consequence You must observe a strict regimen; must live on food which is unpleasant; must abstain from all delicacies; must exercise yourself at the prescribed times in heat and in cold; you must drink nothing cool; must take no wine as usual; you must put yourself under a “pugilist,” as you would under a physician, and afterward enter the lists.”
Result: To receive the imperishable crown
3. Run with Certainty (v. 26)
In the foot-course in those games, how many so ever ran, only one could have the prize, however strenuously they might exert themselves; therefore, all ran uncertainly; but it was widely different in the Christian course, if everyone ran as he ought, each would receive the prize.