Run To Win
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV) – Do you 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.
I like to exercise and workout. Some of this lifestyle was ingrained in me through my time in the Army. I feel better when I work out. But I don’t work out the same way a person training for the Olympics works out or how someone trying out for an NFL team works out. That kind of training is specific for the goals they are striving to achieve. They know if they don’t train hard, and with focus, they won’t reach their goals.
Our passage today shows how this principle is the same for the purposefulness of growing in our spiritual lives. Paul says that everyone in a race runs, but only one wins. One person gets the trophy for first place. But everyone racing should be racing with that goal. They are not running for exercise, it’s to win. So those athletes exercise self-control in their training and preparation for the race. They systematically run to improve their stamina and speed. Their diets are purposeful. And why do they do it? For a prize that perishes. The prizes during this time were not valuable in price, but in meaning. The wreath they won symbolized victory.
Paul compares his spiritual race to those athletes. He doesn’t run aimlessly. He’s purposeful. He’s not a boxer beating the air, but systematically disciplining his life for the goal. What is the goal for him, and for us? Eternal life in Christ. Holiness. Deeper love for Jesus. Our striving with discipline is to grow spiritually. But we don’t accidently grow or grow without a plan. Athletes don’t get faster by accident or sitting on the couch. It is purposeful planning and execution. The same is true spiritually.
What are your spiritual growth disciplines? Mine are to wake up in the mornings, pray, read my Bible by going through a Bible-reading plan, and reading a theology book. I do this each day. It is systematic, intentional effort for the purpose of spending time with the Lord. I want to grow. So I plan my growth. I’m intentional to discipline myself for the prize because I don’t want to be disqualified. Each person should find their own routine and plan what works for them. But don’t leave it to chance. Run to win.
Reflection & Journal:
- Why is it helpful to compare spiritual growth with an athlete’s training?
- What are some ways that you are currently systematic and intentional about spiritual growth?
- How could you improve upon or increase what you are currently doing?
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