While growing up, I remember participating in all kinds of running races at school, at camps, and with friends just for fun. I specifically recall attending a summer camp at the age of 6 and running in the 50 yard dash and 100 yard dash. The winner of each race would receive a trophy.
With my great love for sports and strong competitive nature, I ran with everything I had to win…Why? I wanted that trophy of course! And guess what? I won! I actually still have these trophies stored away in an old box in my garage.
These days I am not sure if the 50 yard dash and 100 yard dash still exists…but I can tell you that there are many opportunities to run races if you so choose to…from 5k’s to 10k’s…from ½ marathons to full marathons…from mud runs to warrior and neon dashes! Yup all different kinds of runs for the running enthusiasts!
How about you? Do you enjoy running?
Ok, well maybe you are like me and don’t necessarily enjoy running but you run for its physical benefits. I guess you could say I go through periods of enjoying it…and not enjoying it.
But what I ultimately do enjoy is the end result…whether it be the physical benefits…the sense of accomplishment and achievement…or the charitable benefits when running for a cause.
Running races is certainly not a new thing…as it goes way back even to Biblical times.
The Isthmian games …the equivalent of our Olympics…was an event held every 2 years approximately 10 miles outside the city of Corinth. These games brought people from every part of the Mediterranean to compete or just watch. It was the sporting event of the year…drawing the Empire’s best talent. Athletes would compete in foot races, broad jumping, discus throwing, wrestling, boxing, gymnastics, and equestrian contests. They would compete fiercely, each striving for the Isthmian crown…a wreath of wild celery. (Yes I did say celery!)
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
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 1 Corinthians 9:24NASB
I have found this scripture to be quite interesting! When the writer Paul talks about receiving a prize, he is talking about something more than just a crown made of the bland crunchy vegetable celery!
Initially we may think that the “prize” implies salvation…eternal life with Christ. And that is what we do receive when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. However, salvation is not earned…it is given to us freely!
So what exactly is this “prize” that we may receive…or win?
Unlike the Isthmian crown which is perishable and may fade away…the “prize” actually implies the eternal crown…the imperishable crown…the eternal rewards that we can receive. And this is the truly amazing grace of our God. We receive salvation as a free gift and then the Lord blesses us on top of that with temporal and eternal rewards for faithfully serving Him!!
Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1 Corinthians 9:25NASB
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 9:25NLT
Back to 1 Corinthians 9:24…The words that really capture my attention in this scripture are… Run in such a way as to get the prize. Some bible translations say… Run in such a way as to win.
These words imply that there are different ways of “running”. You can run in such a way as to “finish” a race or you can run in such a way as to “win” a race.
Have you have ever run in a marathon? I have a number of friends who aren’t really avid runners but have trained diligently to run a marathon because they just wanted to run one and experience that sense of achievement when they crossed that finish line.
But how about the runners that are among the first to cross that finish line? Are they just running to “finish?” Or are they running to “win?”
I guarantee you that the discipline and work ethic of the winners are different than those who just want to finish. Now I am not saying that there is anything wrong with that desire to train and “finish” a marathon. I give you marathoners out there a lot of credit for taking on 26.2 miles… which is certainly an accomplishment!
But as Christians, it’s not about how fast you run but HOW you run.
Have you ever run a race where you ran so fast in the beginning that half way through you were so tired that you just started walking because you didn’t pace yourself??? I can guarantee you that marathon winners have trained diligently to pace themselves…they know HOW to run the race in such a way that they may win.
How are you running? Are you running the spiritual race with the self-discipline and work ethic of a marathon winner? Are you running in such a way as to get the prize?
As Christians, whether we like running or not, we are runners and have entered a race not against one another but toward our heavenly reward…toward the prize…to win. And HOW we run matters.
Just as runners are disciplined in their training, we too as Christians must be disciplined in order to run our spiritual race in such a way as to get the prize. And this requires a number of essential spiritual disciplines.
Spiritual disciplines can be described as those behaviors that augment our spiritual growth and enable us to grow to spiritual maturity. This process of spiritual growth and development begins to take place the moment a person encounters Jesus and comes to Him for salvation. And that’s when we have entered the race.
The biggest difference between running a race in the Isthmian games and running a spiritual race as Christians is that there is only one winner that receives the perishable crown in the Isthmian games whereas we can all receive the imperishable crown as Christians. Running the spiritual race requires a number of essential disciplines which include the following but are not limited to:
- Reading and studying God’s Word
- Fellowship (attending church and bible studies regularly)
The one discipline I want to focus on here is…spending one on one time with Jesus reading and studying His Word.
Developing the habit of reading and studying God’s Word is necessary to win our eternal crown and will benefit us greatly while we are here on earth as well.
Studying God’s word has a positive domino effect. The more you study God’s word…the more you will know God…the more you know God, the more you will experience his unconditional love for you….the more you experience His love for you, the more you will love and trust Him….the more you love and trust Him, the more you will obey Him….the more you obey Him, the more you will experience His blessings for you here on earth and in heaven.
The intimate and loving relationship that is created with you spending time with Jesus and studying His Word cannot be replaced with anything else. No Sunday service….no bible study…no discipleship or mentorship program can take the place of your one on one time with Jesus. If you are doing all these things that’s great! Keep doing them! But the things that God will reveal to you…the things that He will entrust to you…the things that He will teach you in your time with Him are truly remarkable and amazing! I speak from my own experiences!
Developing the discipline/habit of reading and studying God’s Word is not always easy but is crucial in the spiritual race we are running.
Just as a runner has a specific course to follow when running a marathon…God’s Word is our specific course/path to follow when running the spiritual race.
And when we focus on HOW to run versus how fast to run, we will ultimately finish the race as winners receiving the prize…the imperishable eternal crown!
- How are you running? Are you running the spiritual race with the self-discipline and work ethic of a marathon winner? Are you running in such a way as to get the prize?
- What are you doing to develop spiritual disciplines in your life…specifically the discipline of reading and studying God’s Word daily?
- Begin the habit of reading God’s Word daily…Whatever it takes for you wherever you are at spiritually and wherever you at in life.
- Purchase a bible that you understand. It’s hard to read God’s Word if you can’t understand what you are reading! My personal preference is NIV Life Application Bible.
- There are many resources to aid you such as daily devotionals. Some great examples are Jesus Calling, Whispers of Hope, Jesus Day by Day and Jesus Our Great Hope.
- With our world of modern technology, you can download the Bible, apps and reading plans on your phone.
- Subscribe to daily devotions such as Proverbs 31 ministries and Our Daily Bread and get emails from them daily. You can also subscribe this weekly devotion at sweeterthanhoneyblog.com.
- Begin spending 5 minutes a day…Read a Psalm or a Proverb. If you are a new Christian, begin reading the book of John or one of the other Gospels…Matthew, Mark or Luke in the New Testament. If you can develop the habit of getting into God’s Word daily…you will see your time with Him increase! It’s not about the quantity but the quality of time.