“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. — 1 Corinthians 9: 24-25
In Paul’s day, the Olympics were sprints of 210 yards, the length of a stadium and a sprint of two lengths of the stadium. The athletes trained strenuously 10 months out of the year at a gymnasium. They trained inside and outside. They had oil massages and maintained a special diet of grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy and meat.
There were lecture halls and libraries inside. They believed in perfecting the body and the mind. The motivation behind all this work was the reward. First place won a crown made of olive leaves. The prize only went to the one who won the race. No other prizes were given.
Paul compared the walk of a Christian to running an Olympic race.
How does a person win the race? They always keep the end goal in mind. They know what is valuable to them and they stay true to it. Once they determine their goal, their path becomes clear. Every decision is clear. They make a commitment to discipline and perseverance. They avoid anything that distracts them from their goal.
If an Olympic runner can make such a determined commitment to winning a race, we should be even more committed to winning our race. We have great rewards for winning. We will spend eternity with Jesus. We will have a world free of sin.
We will meet all those who went ahead of us. That includes the godly people we’ve read about in the Bible.
We will live in the New Jerusalem, a place so beautiful we can’t even comprehend it.
There are crowns to be won, the Victor’s Crown, the Crown of Rejoicing, the Crown of Righteousness, the Crown of Life and the Crown of Glory. Some say we shouldn’t be looking to win those crowns, but Jesus mentions rewards both in the gospels and in the Book of Revelation. He surely expected us to strive to win the rewards He brings with Him. We want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So let’s set our goal; not just to finish the race, but to win the prize. Let’s stay faithful to our goal. Let our path and all our decisions be made because we are determined to win. Let’s be disciplined and bring our mind, body and spirit in line with God’s rule book. Let’s persevere. Get up when we fall and keep running.
Let’s not be distracted by things that may hinder us but keep looking ahead to the finish line.
Run to win!
Sylvia Hughes is a longtime Sunday School and women’s Bible study teacher, and a retired newspaper editor. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.