Summary: encouragement to press on

Running To Win?

By Kenny McKinley

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

(Read 1st Corinthians 9:24-27)

The other day I got my Sports Illustrated magazine in the mail, and they told me that my subscription was about to run out. Which kind of got me a little anxious because the only reason that I get Sports Illustrated is for the football articles that they have, during football season. And football season is just around the corner, so I couldn’t have my subscription running out. So I renewed my subscription, and my wife just shook her head. Now early Christians didn’t have had a Superbowl Sunday, but they did know a thing or two about athletic contests. After all, that was the part of the world where the Olympics began. And I’m sure that even back then, they had wives who just shook their heads wondering why men got so excited over such things.

Athletic contests can be important though. It’s true. In fact, the apostle Paul even used athletic competition to illustrate spiritual truths. And the principles that apply to athletics can also apply to living the Christian life.

Now during football season on any given Sunday, two teams will square off on a field. Each man on the field will be playing to win. But there is more to winning than what we see on that day. The outcome of the game will be the result of a process begun a long time ago.

The same is true of the Christian life. If we desire to win at life as a Christian then we must apply the same principles that athletes apply. After all, our Christian life has been described as a race and to warfare. The goal in a race or in warfare is to win, not to come in third. This is especially true if you are in a war! So, if you are in this race to win, then maybe we should listen to what Paul tells us in our text.

Those who were in Corinth were familiar with the Greek games. They had seen the athletic contests and races. They knew the dedication of the runners and the prize the winner received. Paul takes this illustration and applies it to the race we run as Christians. He is giving us a blueprint for success. He is telling us how we can play to win.

First we have to be determined.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it”. (9:24)

Why does Paul compare the Christian life to a race? In other places, the Christian life is compared to a pilgrimage, and a walk. But here it is compared to a race. The same idea is probably behind this, as when the Christian life is compared to warfare, or a fight. It is the idea that we are engaged in a strenuous activity. While a traveler can stop off at any beautiful spot along the way to rest, those engaged in a race must give it all they’ve got if they are to win.

So Paul’s saying that we are involved in hard work. And we should be. After all, we are in a race that has an eternal reward for its prize. We are in a race where eternal issue are at stake. So, if any people ought to be hard at work, we ought to be, because we are working for the things that really count.

Have you ever noticed how hard some of us work at attaining some of those material things we think will make us happy or give us pleasure? People everywhere give themselves to what is important to them. And that is the point our text makes.

The Lord is asking us to evaluate what our priorities should be. Look at the things people are working so hard to attain. They may be working for financial security. Or they may be working for business success. Some may be giving themselves to live a life of pleasure. Still others may be working for material possessions. The runner in the worldly race receives a crown that perishes. The athletes’ back then would get a pine garland for a crown. It was basically a free pass to a night on the town, and a right of bragging, but before long it was gone, and so was all that it brought for it’s winner.

But what do we receive when we run the race of the Christian life successfully? We receive an eternal reward, and imperishable crown, which never fades away. The reward for the Christian is not temporal but eternal. Our labor, our faithfulness, wins for us an enduring crown in glory. Our treasure is being laid up in heaven where no one can take it from us.

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