Running to Win
On your mark, get set, go! We all know what this expression means. It means the race has begun. Our race began at the moment of our conception and it will end at the instance of our death. Like it or not, we are all running a race. Some of us are mere participants, while others are determined to win. Some are running the wrong race on the wrong track, winning the wrong trophies. Others are still confused and indecisive about the event they want to participate, whereas there are those who are on the right track, but they don’t get started. Some give up on the way and never get to the finish line, then there those that are disqualified because they breach the rules.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV). In a race there are many participants and only one gets the prize. However, our spiritual race is similar to a sprint medley relay, where we run as a team. Although, we run our own races, we are not in competition with each other, but instead complement each other. Unlike the sprint relay, our rewards are not based on team efforts, but solely based on faithfully winning our own individual races.
Every good athlete undergoes rigorous training to excel and win the race. They have to live a self-disciplined life, exercising moderation and self-control in every aspect of their lives. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:25 NIV). Our reward is far greater than the reward received by athletes and our lives need to be of far more excellence than that of athletes.
Our race encompasses our entire life, it’s not a short event like a sprint race, but it’s rather a marathon which we run all our lives, and it includes great suffering and hurdles along the way. If we are not well trained and disciplined, we cannot endure and finish the race with excellence. We need to be focused on our eternal destiny, which is our finish line, and not get deviated off track by losing our focus from eternal to something that is temporal. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadow boxing (1 Corinthians 9:26 NLT).
It’s easy to teach others the right thing, anyone can do that, but a good Christian always practices what he preaches. If we don’t, we are disqualified from the race and will lose our eternal reward. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27 NLT).
A good athlete has to be physically fit, and also mentally focused. If you have a loser mentality, you will lose the race. Many Christians lose their races in their minds, they feel they are not good enough and so they never get started. Others give up on the way, some never make it to the finish line, just because they have a wrong mindset.
Many never progress on the track because they are dragging the baggage of the past with them. Some even have a freight trailer attached to them. If a person is unable to unload the past, he will not be able to carry on with his future. A Christian cannot run the race with the past attached to him. We have to let go of everything that is a hindrance to our spiritual race. I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us (Philippians 3:12-14 NLT).
Sin is a hindrance for many believers. It is a hurdle that will slow you down. It is a weight you will be drag along and it will never let you finish the race. Some people don’t progress in the race, because they are holding on to the bitterness and the hurts of the past. The only way to finish the race is to get rid of every sin and forgive every offense. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrew 12:1 NIV).
Every race has certain rules, and to qualify for the prize, one must follow these rules. As Christians we have God’s word as our guideline. If we disobey the guidelines, we will miss out on our reward. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:5 ESV).
Are you running the right race or are you running after wealth and the glory of this world? Is your race focused on eternity or just the day-to-day ordeal? Would you, like St Paul, at the end of your life, be satisfied that you finished your race? Would you be ready to win a crown that lasts forever and hence receive your eternal reward? I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV).