Running the Race
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 9:24–25)
Picture a group of athletes running a marathon in the Olympics. As they round the final corner, sprinting towards the finish line, they stretch their body toward the goal. The crowd erupts with cheers when the race is won. Afterwards, the winners step onto the platform during an award ceremony where they are presented with their medals.
Scripture tells us that when our earthly race is over, there is an eternal prize waiting for God’s people. Those who have run well, persevering through afflictions, faithfully serving Christ, will receive the reward. It will not be a plastic trophy, or a medallion made of metal, but the recognition of Jesus which will be infinitely greater. We long to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” from our Master as we enter His glory (Luke 19:17). What a blessing it will be to look back and see how the Lord worked through us to impact others with the gospel. Because you showed his kindness to a stranger, a seed was planted in that man’s heart which would eventually bear fruit when he accepted Christ as Savior. Because you invited neighborhood kids to VBS, young souls were saved, and the course of their lives was changed. We may never know, in this life, how the Lord has touched others through our influence. It’s not that we deserve the credit. This is the Lord’s doing, and all the glory belongs to Him. But it will be a wonderful pleasure to know that our lives have made a difference, and brought honor to his name.
This was Paul’s motive in his life and ministry. “I do all things for the sake of the gospel…” (v.23). He lived each day with a purpose, to serve Christ. He had a mission, sharing the good news with as many as possible. He realized the value of every soul, how Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead offering life to all who believe. That’s why the apostle was willing to endure great adversity for the sake of the gospel. The journey would not be easy. Plenty of people would reject his message of grace, but others would hear and respond with faith. This made it all worthwhile. Paul wasn’t concerned about winning the applause of men. His desire was to please His Savior in all things. His eyes were focused on eternity, and so he ran the race with everything he had, stretching towards the goal.
What about us? Am I running well? Am I focused on the heavenly prize? Am I sharing His love, and the good news of salvation, with those He places in my life, living my life in a manner that pleases God? Or am I simply seeking to please myself? Have I allowed myself to be distracted by things that have no eternal significance?
When my time on this earth comes to an end, I want to be able to repeat the words of 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
Unlike an Olympic race, we’re not competing against one another, but believers are able to encourage one another to press on towards the finish the line. So don’t give up, and don’t allow anything to hold you back or slow you down (Hebrews 12:1). Stretch towards the goal, focusing on the reward that awaits us in glory.