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March 15, 2013

Text: I Corinthians 9:24-27   “Do your not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one   receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly. I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified”. (ESV)

We Christians are in a race: not the 100 meter dash, but a marathon (26 miles).  Christians who finish will receive the prize of going to heaven. There is a finish line at the end of the race and to cross it should be the goal of every Christian. In using this analogy Paul recognizes that not all who begin the race will endure its rigors. So the apostle gives us some strategy as to how to “gut it out” to the end.

First, recognize that the race is real, long, and grueling, and not all will be rewarded. So prepare yourself to obtain the prize that will be given. Do not settle for a piece of paper that says that you participated. That subverts the real objective — getting to heaven. Watch a marathon race on TV and you’ll see that the runners grab water cups along the way to fortify themselves. So partake of the “water of life” (the Bible) along your trek. Psalms 42:1-2 Paul cuts to the chase and tells us to run with the goal of of getting the prize. Don’t stop along the way and pick the posies. Don’t let yourself get sidetracked. And don’t settle for a baseball cap. Instead of the booby prizes, tenaciously cling to the real reward. “Take hold of eternal life…” I Timothy 6:12

Continuing with his sports analogy, Paul cites another attribute of the athlete: self-control.   Self discipline is a hard-won victory over the self. Modern society practices selfishness rather than self control. Look abut you,  and you will see people who do not take responsibility for their actions. Keep looking and you will see others claim they are victims of prejudice or exploitation. They tell you, “You’ve gotta cut me some slack”. Learn to say, “No.” Learn to say, “I must”. Have the intestinal fortitude to choose to do right rather than wrong.

Paul offers himself as an example of the Spartanism of the Christian soldier. “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus”. II Timothy 2:3 First there is Paul’s example of the runner who is invested in reaching the end of the race; he does not wander from the course. Second Paul cites the boxer who does not uselessly flail with his arms, but aims his punches where they do the most harm. The sum of this is that the Christian in his efforts toward heaven must have discipline, self-control.

The apostle also testifies to the abiding nature of the reward to be given. The real value  of the prize ahead is more important than the trinkets that are sought on earth. Peter assures us that God has promised us lasting rewards. He called it “an inheritance” and said that it is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”. Reliable promises of eternal reward. It will never depreciate or disappear.

Work for the things that are eternal, and not for the things that are decaying.

One Comment
  1. Larry permalink

    Randy, I really love these messages. They are encouraging and insightful–and best of all they call me back to very important truths and messages. I’ll be sure to be using some of them in sermons in the weeks ahead. As I read, who might I see besides Jesus and Peter and Paul? Maybe McCord and Jones and Kelcy–and Skaggs? Keep up the good work!–Larry

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