“Do you not know that in a race all 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.”
– 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 (ESV)
All runners have one thing in mind—the finish line! I have had the opportunity to compete in some great road races ranging from 5K’s to marathons. In each one of these competitions, I have welcomed the finish. Regardless of the race distance, getting to the finish line requires certain things from every participant. They must be prepared and focused. They must discipline themselves to follow a training schedule that prepares them to be successful. They must maintain a constant and consistent pace throughout the entire race. There is nothing a runner fears more than the dreaded initials DNF (Did Not Finish) beside his or her name in the race results. Crossing the finish line means receiving the prize, usually a medal around your neck or the coveted race T-shirt.
Our Scripture today is talking about another kind of race. We are reminded that our spiritual race will also be challenging. To get to the finish line will require resolve, strength, courage, persistence and tenacity. We must run with every ounce of energy we have. We will not finish the race well if we are lazy or halfhearted. Paul speaks from experience because his race included persecution, hunger, beatings, homelessness and so much more. Paul was able to endure because he was focused on the finish. He did not allow himself to get distracted. He understood he was running for a prize much more precious than a medal that will tarnish or a T-shirt that will fade or wear out. We, like Paul, are running for a prize that is priceless—eternal life. It is not a race for the faint of heart. Our challenge is to reflect deeply on our own spiritual race. Are we consistent or are we on-again-off again? Do we know where we are going? Do we understand what it takes to get there? Are we willing to pay the price for the imperishable prize?
Heavenly Father, thank You for the race You have placed me in. Help me to run with focus and the will to win. Guide my steps and may I always run for Your glory. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.