Run To Get The Prize

When I was a kid, I had a love/hate relationship with track and field day at our school.  I loved the fact classes were canceled and we got to spend the day wandering around outside hanging out with friends.  It was like a day long recess.  On the other hand, I hated the fact that I was expected to participate in all the activities that went with the day.  I was a rather small kid so I had a big disadvantage in the jumping events (both high and long).  Beyond that, I was not a fast runner so I always came in near the back of the pack in the sprinting events.

In grade eight, I decided to be a little more strategic in my attempts to get one of the ribbons that went to the first, second and third place finishers.  I would wait until I thought most everyone else would have signed up and then choose the events that had the least number of people participating in them thus increasing my chances of success.  I waited until the last day before the teachers took the sheets down before I made my move.  Looking at the sheets, I was thrilled to see that only 1 person had signed up for the 800 meter race.  800 meters seemed like a distance just short of infinity but I figured it didn’t matter since I could run, walk or even crawl and still come in second.  With a great sense of pride, I signed up.  With an even greater sense of pride, I began bragging to my friends about my great strategy and how I was finally guaranteed one of those sweet, sweet ribbons.  Then, to my horror, some friends recognized how wise my plan was and they signed up for the 800 meter race too.  All I can remember about the actual race is running around the track for what seemed like 6 hours certain that my heart was about to explode while I watched everyone else pull further and further ahead of me.  Needless to say, I did not receive one of those winner ribbons!

Sprinter Crossing the Finish Line

NOT AT ALL an accurate representation of me during my track and field days.

Why do I tell that story (besides making each reader feel better about their childhood accomplishments)?  Because I think about it when I read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.  In that passage, Paul says:

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 someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

I think about the fact that I tried everything I could to get the prize except the obvious thing – to run in such a way as to get the prize.  How things could have turned out different if I had only practiced this simple truth.

Men, we know that the prize we are running toward is so much more than just a ribbon (no matter how sweet it looks)!  We are running for a prize that is eternal and will be given by God Himself.  I know you, like most men who are followers of Christ, want to get that prize so let me give you a couple of thoughts about running the race the right way.

  1. Know what path you are supposed to take.  You are going to have a very hard time winning a race if you don’t know the track.  The prize is not for people who go their own way, but for those who persevere in following the path God has for them.  What has God called you to do?  Where has God called you to serve?  If you don’t know the answers to these questions, how can you know if you are on the right path.
  2. Don’t go off course.  This seems pretty obvious but it is worth saying.  In Star Wars A New Hope, Gold leader is making a run in the death star trench to shoot his photon torpedoes when three tie fighters (including one being flown by Darth Vader) suddenly appear behind him.  As he begins to panic, Gold Five keeps saying to him,”Stay on target! Stay on target!”  What a great analogy for all of us.  No matter what’s going on around us or who is attacking us, we have to stay on target!
  3. Live a disciplined life.  Paul talks in this verse about the training that all athletes recognize is necessary and commit themselves to.  You will never see any great athlete who doesn’t commit themselves to a very disciplined life.  The word discipline is very similar to the word disciple, which we are as followers of Christ.  How can we think we will succeed as disciples if we never practice the disciplines of our faith.
  4. Pace yourself because life is a marathon, not a sprint.  Long distance runners don’t shoot out of the gate the same way that 100 meter sprinters do.  They know doing that will tire them out too quickly and prevent them from finishing strong.  God wants us to not just begin strong with a big commitment to Him but He wants us to finish strong.  Pace yourself so that you can endure for the entire race and finish well.

Use those four thoughts about running to get the prize to check to make sure you’re running the right way.  Where you aren’t, make adjustments.  Where you are, keep at it.  The prize is so worth it!

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One Comment on “Run To Get The Prize”

  1. Jeremy Keys February 9, 2014 at 8:44 am #

    Great read. Thanks Doug!

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