Perseverance in the Race
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 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. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 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.
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. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 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.
I was a runner in high school. I ran track and cross country throughout high school and I wasn’t one of those “I’m just running to get in shape for my other sport” kind of runners (no shame to those who did!). I wanted to compete and win. One thing that is a little unique about track and cross country is that while you run with a team the sport is largely dependent on an intrinsic motivation and desire to get better.
I can’t speak for all runners, but when I was running there was always someone we called the rabbit. There was someone in every race, usually who was new to competing. At the starting line everyone lined up and when the gun went off the rabbit would race to the front of the pack. For a short distance they would be leading the race…how exciting! But the excitement only lasted for a minute or two. After the adrenaline would wear off they would steadily drift to the back of the pack. By the end of the race they would limp across the finish line.
Here’s the thing about competing to win… in order to win, the will to win needs to be exercised over a period of time. You can’t show up the day of the race, competition, or game without having done any training, and expect to win! Training is the most important part of competing to win. You have to show up everyday, whether you want to or not. You have to listen to your coach or mentor. You have to push yourself. You have to work together (yes, even in running!). There is no short cut to winning fair and square. You have to press in and train hard.
There are a lot of parallels that we can draw here with our spiritual life and Paul chose just a couple. He chose to compare our life to a race and he challenges us to run in such a way as to win that race. This is going to take some training. This is going to take intentionality. We aren’t being asked to run a sprint – follow God for a month and then quit. Or a year or two. Or even a decade. Paul is saying “win the race”…but this is a long and tough race! It requires endurance, not simply sprinting for a day or two.
The question, as it should, often turns to “How? How do I run the race for the long haul? How do I persevere?” Here are three things to consider:
- Focus on the prize.
- Run with someone.
- Ask for help.
Paul says, “I run with purpose…I discipline my body…” He is focused on one thing, he kept his eyes on eternal life, a life with Christ. Read the gospels, get to know who Jesus is and what he did. Understand his heart by searching the scriptures. Don’t let the distractions of wealth, fame, or a comfortable life slow you down or get in your way.
Run alongside someone. Who is running the race with you? You have brothers and sisters in this race. You have mentors and leaders. (some near, in class or on campus, and perhaps some that you follow digitally!) Who do you know who would be open to talking about Christ with you?
Ask the Lord for help. We are not meant to run this race in our own power; we are designed to run on God’s fuel. Spend time in prayer sharing your heart with him, listening for his voice. Tell the Lord what you need. The training process isn’t easy, there will be hard days, and we need to depend on the Lord to see us through from start to finish.
When Paul challenges us to run the race, he doesn’t want us to be a rabbit. He wants us to prepare, get disciplined, and run the long race for the prize of eternal life with Christ.