Persevering Athletics

“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. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Tonight there was a much-anticipated event on TV – the NCAA championship basketball game. As I watched, I thought about the kind of training these athletes endure so that they can compete in their sport.

In several places of the New Testament we find pictures of the athletic used to illustrate the Christian walk. We are told that we are running a race and need to train properly in body and in spirit so that we may reach the goal of eternal life.

There is indeed a physical discipline to the Christian walk. We must be self-controlled in our bodies. Likewise, we must be self-controlled in our inner selves. We are told to throw off everything that hinders us. Sin can be both a physical act and a non-physical act. We must throw off the physical acts of sin as well as the sinful thoughts and desires that attack us from within and entangles. Again, we are told to persevere in the race we are running.

One very important thing defines the difference between a physical athletic competition and our spiritual race – the prize. The prize in an earthly race is physical and temporal. But the prize we are running for as Christians is not of this world. We press on towards eternal life in Christ Jesus and riches that cannot spoil or fade away, a reward stored up for us in heaven.

The Christian life is not an easy life. Just as an athlete trains vigorously for years to discipline themselves to compete, the Christian life requires discipline and training. You would not expect someone to walk off the street and onto the NCAA championship team without having ever played the game of basketball. Likewise, the Christian must live the life we are called to live with self-control and discipline, keeping with the guide of the Word of God. Then we will be fit for the race ahead and able to persevere to the finish.

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