(1 Cor 9:24-27) Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
In Paul’s day sports were very popular. There were the Olympic games and there were various other competitions that people were just wild about. From this background, Paul referred to the Christian life as a race to be won. He said you have to give it your all, so you can receive the prize. You have to be focused and disciplined to avoid being disqualified from the race. Later on he reiterated this to Timothy: (2 Tim 2:5) And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
Currently we are experiencing doping scandals in just about every sport. People win and then tests say they took some kind of performance enhancing drug. It hits the news. It goes to some kind of hearing. The record is taken away or if it can’t be proven then a question mark hangs over the individual. In the record books an asterisk is placed by their name indicating in fine print that this person was involved in some kind of doping scandal. Our heroes are reduced to zeros. There’s nobody to believe in anymore. The ideal has lost its appeal. The person didn’t compete according to the rules. Character was sacrificed for convenience. The risk produced an asterisk.
Who can we look to for an example of how to run that race? Is there any standard by which we can aspire to? (Heb 12:2) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
With Jesus as our example let’s lay aside what drags us down and run the race that is before us. (Heb 12:1) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Others have run that race and competed according to the rules. They went down into the Faith Hall of Fame asterisk free. (read Heb 11) By God’s grace you and I can too. (Phil 3:13-14) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Press on Christian! And rejoice . . . we’re almost home!! (Psa 19:5) . . . And rejoices like a strong man to run its race.