This year, with the kids’ crazy after-school sports and study schedules, my husband and I are trying to have a devotional moment with them in the mornings before I take them to school. At least several days a week, anyway. Yesterday, given their love of sports, I thought the passage below from First Corinthians a most appropriate discussion because it speaks of running the race of life.
Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified. —1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (HCSB)
I love this passage and think it particularly applicable to youth for several reasons.
1. Run the race in such a way that you may win.
Paul’s advice applies to anything you do in life as well as the overall race of life. Whatever you’ve committed yourself to, run it to win it. Pursue it to master it. Do it and do it right the first time. Don’t give half an effort so you either must do it again or settle for mediocre results. Anything worth doing is worth dedicating your full effort. Always remember, your actions reflect on you. Your character, your example, your dedication, your drive, your dependability, your successes, and your failures (which are as important as your successes). A determination to run each race so you may win it, or at least place your very best, is a mindset. One that will carry you far in life. You don’t have to actually win every race, but try your best to achieve excellence. With that outlook, you’ll win far more than you lose.
2. Don’t Run to receive earthly award but eternal reward.
“However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away.” Paul’s running metaphor segues perfectly into the most important race of all—the race to win souls to Jesus before His glorious return. And, at a much more personal level, this is your race. Victory yields an imperishable crown: eternal life in heaven, where every tear will be wiped away and there will be no more pain. The cost of not completing this race, for failing to accept Christ and the salvation He offers, is terrible and great. It is eternal separation from God in the fiery flames of hell and later, the eternal flames of the lake of fire.
3. Don’t disqualify yourself or your witness.
Paul disciplines and maintains strict control of himself “so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” To me, this has multiple applications.
First, if you’re a believer and your witness is compromised because of actions you take contrary to what you profess to believe, you disqualify your witness in the eyes of new believers and those who might be on the brink of accepting Christ into their hearts. You’re acting as a hypocrite. Now, we’re all sinners and are going to fall short of the mark. But we, as Christians, should strive to act in accordance with God’s Word and live a life centered on Christ so that our actions are not used as excuses by others who seek to denigrate God’s Word and reject It.
Second, it does us no good to profess our belief in Christ if we haven’t truly accepted Him into our hearts. This is but another form of hypocrisy, the best example of which are televangelists focused more on soliciting your money or preaching the prosperity gospel than on the true ramifications of the Gospel and their own salvation.
Third, actions have consequences. Though we are saved by faith alone and not by works (Ephesians 2:8), James tells us faith without works is dead (James 2:17). After preaching to unbelievers, Paul wanted those who heard him to see the fruits of Christ in his life. He disciplined himself to live according to God’s Word so that everything he did was a confirmation of his preaching about Christ and nothing he did would disqualify himself or his witness.
Whether you’re young or old, run the race of life to win. Let your actions reflect the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit inside you. Realize other eyes are upon you, watching you. Be an example, not a hypocrite. Finally, remember the most important race of all is the one for your salvation. You run only against yourself in this race. What others say or do or think is irrelevant to your performance. Secure a win in this race above all else. Run it to win life eternal with Christ Jesus in heaven.
What are your thoughts on this passage from First Corinthians? Do you have any favorite scriptures from the Bible? I’d love to hear from you.