Summary: 6 points to remember as we run this race toward Heaven.

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Spiritual Athletics

By Pastor Jim May

Most of us have watched the Olympics on TV. We have watched as the athletes competed in all sorts of contests. Regardless of their area of competition, every athlete had to pay a high price to get to the Olympics. I know a young man who had such a dream. He was totally committed to making it to the Olympics so that he could compete to become the world champion in pole vaulting.

There would never be a day that he would miss going onto the practice field and running the course over and over, building his stamina and strength. He watched everything he put into his mouth and was careful to take in only that which was good for his body. He knew that he would have to have everything in place before he could truly be competitive.

If only we could have that same kind of determination in the realm of the Spirit.

Paul, on several occasions used sports as an example of the Christian life. He lived in a time when the Isthmian Games were very prominent. The Isthmian Games were first established in 581 BC in the city of Corinth. In the beginning, the champions were awarded a symbol of honor in the form of a crown of wild celery, but after Corinth was destroyed in 146 B.C. by the Romans and then rebuilt as a provincial capitol in 44 B.C. by Julius Caesar, the Isthmian games were reestablished. It was these games that would eventually lead to the establishment of the modern Olympics. The champion of the Isthmian Games under the Caesars was a crown of fir.

We are told that these crowns, made of leaves and branches, were given as a reminder to the champions that while receiving the glory of a victory crown was a great event in their lives, they should never forget that the victory is fleeting and, like the crowns themselves, their victory would soon be forgotten and their popularity would soon wilt away, never to be remembered again.

Even so, Paul knew that his readers would better grasp what he was trying to teach them if he could relate everything to something that they all knew about, and that was sports.

1)Paul wanted us all to remember that we must ever be “Striving for the Prize”.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."

Athletes, competing for a championship prize, don’t start their competition at the moment the gun sounds for the race to begin. They must begin preparation many weeks, even years in advance of that starting gun.

It all begins with a dream, a thought and a desire to excel or to succeed. But in order for success and victory to come, there must be a daily striving for the prize. They can’t forget, even for one day that they must pay the price if they are to be competitive.

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