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This life feels like one long race

February 21, 2017 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Posted in: Discipleship

“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)

I love sports, but I hate running. During my high school career, I played soccer, basketball, and baseball for four years, but I could not stand running just for the sake of running. When I tried to run in my first 5K, in college, I discovered quickly that I completely lacked the mental toughness necessary to overcome the physical pain and mental monotony that for me accompanied running long distances.

Unfortunately, I have found that much of life is similar to running a long race. Working a job, being married, raising children, serving the Lord, staying financially and physically healthy – all of it takes endurance and mental toughness. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul makes this exact comparison, encouraging his readers to discipline themselves for holiness as they serve the Lord. Just like running a 5K demands a commitment and perseverance that goes beyond the ordinary, following Jesus is not for those looking for a walk in the park.

If you want to “win the prize” athletically speaking, as Paul says, it demands strict training. Specifically, it means that everything must come second to the goal of winning the prize. The best athletes learn that in order to be the best, they must cut out unhealthy foods, get a good amount of rest, avoid things that distract from the goal, seek out mentors and coaches who will get the best out of them, and even be willing to put important relationships on the back burner for awhile. Similarly, following Jesus means keeping the goal in mind: knowing God and loving Him with your whole heart, soul, strength, and mind. Loving your neighbor as yourself. Making disciples of all nations. Living for the glory of God. And that means, like the athlete, that everything else in life comes second to those goals. As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Life is full of choices, and our choices are often dictated by our goal in life. If our goal is comfort and pleasure, then we will invariably choose those things that bring us the greatest comfort or pleasure. If our goal is love, or sex, we’ll make decisions towards that end. If our primary goal is wrapped up in our marriage, or children, that will influence what choices we make. As those who have been saved by God’s grace and been adopted into God’s family, we find that our goals begin to shift towards the goals God has for us. Let me encourage you today to live your life for the goals that matter eternally. Then, when you find yourself faced with the choices of life, make decisions that are in line with those goals. Life is hard, and following Jesus is very much like running a race. Keep your eyes on Him, and run hard after Him until you reach the finish line.

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