You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.
I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.
First Corinthians 9: 24-27 The Message
My daughter-in-law Kristin will run another marathon very soon. Both she and our son Jonathan have run marathons before, but this is one she is taking on by herself. It is a socially-distanced marathon. Part of the reason Jonathan is not running this race is so that he can be her support person, bringing her water and snacks at certain waypoints along her route. As you might imagine, common areas for all athletes are prohibited by COVID.
The self-discipline necessary to run a marathon is impressive. A detailed training schedule ought to be followed, starting months in advance. Even in the Apostle Paul’s day, athletes who did well were self-disciplined. They trained hard, and they were motivated by the prize.
Regardless of our physical shape, all of us are “running” a spiritual race, as we walk with the Lord. Here, Paul encourages us to run to win that race. We must exercise self-discipline, and not get sloppy with our training. More than anything, Paul encourages us to not be caught napping during the race itself! This doesn’t mean that we need to be awake continually. The metaphor of napping or sleeping is a common one in scripture, referring to those who drift away from the faith, similar to the way one drifts off to sleep.
There is always the temptation to slack off, and to get sloppy. Yet the Lord rewards self-discipline, and perseverance, in many different areas of our lives. We all need to remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. In the end, it was the tortoise who won the race. He emerged victorious not because he was faster, but because he was more consistent.
What matters is not how much talent you have in life, but what you do with that talent. Self-discipline is one of the keys to success. It is also important to understand that others observe whether our actions match our words. We may fall and stumble at times. It is alright to admit when things are challenging, like when the hills are steep. Everyone faces some steep hills now and then. How we meet those challenges, and climb those hills: that is also part of our testimony.
Pray to the Lord, and ask Him to help you run the race of life well, in such a way as to receive a heavenly reward at the end. The gates of heaven are the finish line. Run in such a way as to win the eternal prize!
Lord of all,
Inspire us to keep going, and to persevere in matters of faith. Let us not give up, or slack off, when the going gets tough. Keep us focused upon You, and the prize which awaits all to remain faithful to the end. We ask this blessing not only for ourselves, but also for others. May they be so inspired by our race that they decide to join our team, to the glory of God! We pray this prayer in the name of the one who sets the pace for all of us, Jesus Christ. Amen.