Summary: Christian Life is like a Spiritual Marathon. What do we have to do to prepare for it, stay on the course, and eventually win the race?
Around here in Boston Patriots Day is famously known for “The Boston Marathon” in which runners from all over the world participate. I watched with keen interest as the gun shot went off for the 116th Boston Marathon. Upmost in every ones mind was the question “Who will get the grand prize worth of $150,000 this year”? In the midst of soaring temperatures, a total of 27,000 were registered, out of which 22,426 runners started the race of 26.2 miles. A record number of 4,574 opted out of the race even before it began.
More than 21,000 people completed the race. However out of these crowds two Kenyans, Wesley Korir and Sharon Cherop emerged as the winners. The most spectacular win to watch was the win of Joshua Cassidy of Canada who broke the world record in a wheel chair. He was born with neuroblastoma a rare cancer commonly found in the spine and abdomen.
As I pondered on this heated contest, I asked myself certain questions. What were the reasons for those who quit the race before it even started? What helped Joshua become a victor against all odds? What motivated many who complete the race even though they knew that they were not going to win? What made Kenyans the winners?
I see a lot of similarities between the regular Marathon and the race that Christians are called to run. The Marathon is not a team sport. Each individual has to run the race for themselves, no one else can do it for them. Winning and loosing totally depends on the individual runner. Similarly, each Christian has to run his own race. What can we learn from a veteran runner the apostle Paul about the race in I Cor 9:24-27? Three things: The preparation for the race, the road blocks and how to run the race to win.
I. PREPARATION FOR THE RACE:
At the time of Paul’s writing, sports were an integral part of religious ceremonies. Paul was alluding to the Isthmian Games in his letter to the Corinthians. They were held during a festival in honor of Poseidon, the Greek god of the earthquakes and water, also known as the god of the sea. The festival consisted of foot races, horse and chariot races, jumping, wrestling, boxing and throwing the discus and javelin. The prizes in these games were perishable wreathes. To the Greeks these were events of patriotic pride, a passion rather than a pass time.
Paul uses the analogy of a race to explain to the Corinthians that Christian life is some what like running a race. He reminds them by saying, “Don’t you know that in a race all the runners run but only one gets the prize? Paul challenged the believers not to run for the sake of running but in such a way that they will get the prize.
Many could run a Marathon but what does it take to win the prize? Do you think those who ran the Boston Marathon got up that day and said ‘Oh I am going to run the Marathon today’? No! They must have been thinking about it and preparing for it way before the race began.
Health experts say, “Training for a marathon takes intense preparation, dedication, and skill. It is imperative not to allow race-time decisions to counteract the hard work and planning of the last several months to a year.” If that’s what goes into preparing for a Marathon what kind of preparation goes on as Christians get ready to run the Christian race? In the passage Paul shares how he prepared himself for his race.
In vs 26, we read, “Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.” What does this say about Paul? This shows that Paul was not simply running aimlessly, he had an aim; he had a goal, a focus and a purpose.
What was his aim? Well for one it was to win the prize, but what kind of prize? Was it gold, or millions of dollars? In Phil 3:8, Paul states what his real goal in life was, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ...”
Knowing Christ Jesus was the chief goal of Paul. He never let that go out of his sight. In order to reach that goal just like the athletes he disciplined himself. He says, “I beat my body and make it my slave.” It is expressed clearly in the Amplified version of NIV, “But (like a boxer) I buffet my body (handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships) and subdue it.” (I Cor 9:27)