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.
In the beginning of this chapter Paul talked about how he was not accepting payment from the church for his teachings even though he had every right to. For many in that day as it is today, ministry was a way to make money and many were doing it only to make money. While it is totally acceptable and right to be paid for what we do, even in work done for the church, money shouldn't be the main reason for doing it. Paul wanted to make it clear he was doing what he did in order to reach as many people as possible and to get them to see the truth of the gospel.
In the last few verses of this chapter he compares his efforts of preaching to the church as that of being someone running a race. There are several things that go into becoming a runner but here are three that come to my mind. First a runner must do away with eating sugar or foods that would keep them from being as healthy as possible which takes a lot of self control. Second, a runner typically picks a particular style of running in which he is best at, whether it be distance running or in running short sprints. Then third there is a part near the end of a race where the runners go into what they call the kick. They are getting near the finish and the one that wins is usually the one that can finish with the hardest kick. Where they tap into the last of their energy reserve and give it all they have, kicking with all their might till they cross the finish line.
These three things can also be practical ways that we as Christians can look at as ways to live our lives. Being who God has made us to be as different parts of the body. First, not eating sugar. While eating smart is a good thing, I compare putting sugar in my body more to what I am putting into my mind. For me, what I watch on TV or the movies I watch or videos I watch on my computer. There are many things that are not necessarily wrong to watch but for me much of what is offered can have an effect that causes me to lose focus on the race I'm trying to run. I begin to look at things more the way the world sees things rather than the way God wants me to see things. The second thing is in doing things according to our skills, distance running or sprinting, or in making use of the gifts God has given us in order to be useful for Him. For most of my Christian life I have allowed other Christians to talk me into being involved in a program or in doing something I was never made for. In feeling guilty for not doing what I was urged to do, I would often go ahead and get involved and fail miserably since it wasn't really what I was made for. I needed to learn what my gifts were then practice using those gifts in the way God planned for me to use them. Finally, as for giving that final kick. I think as runners, a mistake they can make, especially when coming to the finish line, is to look around and see how they are doing compared to the rest of the runners. They must run the way they have practiced and have been trained to run by their coach and just give it all they have. In the same way I need to learn to quit looking around and comparing myself to others and remember I am unique and made to run in a special way and practice running that race listening to my coach, Jesus. I need to run the way He trains me. For me, I know that serving is my gift and something I really enjoy doing and I'm trying to learn and practice better how and when to use that gift. In this time of my life and possibly all of us, as His return seems more and more imminent, I want to kick as hard as possible keeping my eyes totally focused on the finish line, being confident in who God has made me to be, running in the race He has placed me in and running the best I possibly can.
by Ken Edgerly