Winning A Race Requires Discipline And Purpose

I Corinthians 9:24 – 27 – “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.”

Paul is using an illustration to show that to live a Christian life takes hard work, self-control and adequate preparation. I learned from sports and coaching that those who excel put in hours upon hours of practice and preparation. As Christians how much time do we spend in Bible study, worship, service and prayer?

My friend Doug Lee having played basketball for the New Jersey Nets and the Sacramento Kings spent hours after school shooting baskets and working on fundamentals. It isn’t unusual for a professional basketball player to shoot 1000 baskets every day. In football hours on end are spent in the weight room building up one’s strength. I remember spending hours taking batting practice, fielding grounders and catching fly’s. The more dedication and the more time spent in preparing the chances of excelling improves.

After being discharged from the Navy during my freshman year in college I needed a job to pay for extra expenses. I was hired by Birds Eye Frozen Foods the summer before starting college. My job was to dump 40 pound boxes of lima beans into a hopper. I believed it had to be the hardest job in the plant. Whenever there was down time I picked up a broom and kept my area swept down. No one else cared enough to keep their area clean. It wasn’t long until I was promoted to one of the easiest jobs in the plant, operating the graders that separated good beans from bad ones.

The second year I was offered the job as assistant production foreman. The third year I became the production foreman over 250 employees. As a Christian I believed setting an example at work was the best way I would have an opportunity to share my witness rather than preaching.

Throughout my adult life I believe the teaching that Paul illustrated in the above verses works in everything we do. As Christians we are running toward a heavenly goal as our reward that doesn’t always come easy. We are not to be a fan sitting in the grandstand but we are to be one of the players. We are to train with intensity and diligence as our spiritual progress and maturity depends upon it. Many Christians take the easy way out. They believe they are saved by grace and nothing else matters. But does it? Christ spent three years teaching the apostles and then He sent them out to be of service to others. James 2:17 – “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” And James 2:26 – “…faith without deeds is dead.” So are we going to be spectators or players? If we are going to be players do we diligently practice or just show up for the game?

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