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Summary: A message based on the 1996 Olympic Games. The message deals with life’s challenges.

THE TRAINING TO WIN

1 Corinthians 9:19-27

INTRO: I wonder if anyone here has ever run a marathon? The closest I ever came to doing that was trying to get away from my mother when she was chasing me with a switch. Maybe your experience was different.

Anyone who has studied Olympic history knows the Olympic marathon is 26 miles long. Can you imagine how long it takes to train before you can run that race?

In the ancient Greek Olympic games, an athlete would begin training at least 10 months before the race. This training involved rigorous discipline. It included the athlete’s diet, his sleep habits, his exercise routine, and his daily running.

His goal was literally to punish his body until he was in the best possible shape to win. Then, one month before the games, the athlete would move to Corinth, 10 miles from where the games were held. He was assigned a personal coach who put him through additional rigors in preparation for the race. This meant early rising and long days spent lifting weights, exercising, pushing himself to the edge of his strength. All this was done in order to prepare to run the race of his life.

Whatever his success, it was due, to a great extent, to his preparation. No training is more important than that done for the marathon.

So it is in the Christian life. If we are to run the race in life that God has set for us, we must develop a lifestyle of discipline in order to win that race. As one noted basketball coach once stated, “The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win.”

We Christians must prepare to win through training, discipline, and hard work. You enter God’s race when you receive by faith the free gift of eternal life through Jesus. You will run that race until you die and inherit what God has prepared for you.

Four things are needed to get your spiritual heart in shape, develop your spiritual muscles, strengthen your faith, and stretch your mind for Christ.

I. A STRONG COMMITMENT.

A runner must be strongly committed to a training program. It is not easy. It takes hard work and discipline. Otherwise, he will fall by the wayside.

Think of all the would-be joggers. First they get the best shoes and the sharpest jogging outfit. Then they map out the course. They are all set and have the best intentions in the world. But when that alarm goes off, they reach over and hit the snooze button. Then the next day, bad weather hits. They put it off once again. Their jogging ends up being limited to the errands they run at the office or to the post office. Why? Because their grand illusions had no commitment.

Training to win happens only with a strong commitment! Commitment is a lost word today. Too many of us are committed absolutely, positively, unequivocally, that is, until something easier or better comes along. But real commitment is making a solid agreement to do something in the future—no matter what. It is being obligated to a task or a person, whether it is athletics, marriage, or yes, Christianity.

Commitment is costly. It costs time, hard work, and self-denial. You will need discipline regarding the Word of God — studying it, medi-tating on it. A time of regular prayer is nonnegotiable. Commitment to serving in the Lord’s church is a must. God seeks a commitment that requires self-denial, saying no to the world and yes to Christ.

II. A SPECIAL DIET.

Paul says we are to be “nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:6). A proper balanced diet is critical to the marathon runner. The same is true for the Christian. You probably won’t do well as a runner if your three basic food groups are TV dinners, junk food, and fast food. Strenuous workouts can burn an extra 1500 calories a day. The fatigue factor will set in if a person doesn’t consume a high-energy diet.

Just as carbohydrates provide fuel for the body, so God’s Word provides high-energy spiritual food for the soul. I’m afraid a lot of folks are suffering from spiritual fatigue, because they are spiritually malnourished. Nourished is the key here. We must be nourished by feeding on the right food, God’s Word, and digesting it in our spiritual system.

III. A STRENUOUS WORKOUT.

Rigorous exercise is the third step in training to win. Successful athletes know they must train and work out. Physical discipline produces endurance. Spiritual discipline produces godliness. This godliness includes a heartfelt respect and awestruck reverence for God. Physical training may be good for now, but spiritual training will be good for eternity!

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