“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Olympic athletes live their life in such a way that they are always in training for the next competition. They want to be in the best physical shape and have the most endurance so that they can have the victory. They are conscious of their diets and exercise programs and do not stray from their strict regiments in order to achieve their goal and obtain the prize.
This is how we should be as Christians. We should live this life as if we were Olympic athletes competing to be the best. This world is not our home; it’s not the time to relax and kick back, but now is the time for training. If we strive to be like Paul and at the end of our life say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” then throughout this life we cannot afford to be distracted with the things in this world. Our flesh will have its appetites that seem appealing and harmless if only indulged in “just this once,” but similar to an athlete eating a piece of chocolate cake, it ruins their diet and has great effect upon their training.
Paul points out in this passage that these athletes compete for a perishable crown. They are striving to win something that will one day fade in glory. However, we are competing in this world to obtain an imperishable crown, one that will last throughout eternity. If this is our goal, we should be even more diligent in our training knowing that our benefit will last forever. So why are we so lackadaisical in our lives here? Why do we not fight the good fight of faith? Why do we settle into complacency and get desensitized by the sin around us? Instead, we should be disciplined in our daily lives, physically and spiritually, so that we too can have this mindset: to run with certainty. We cannot afford to run half-heartedly, gazing at the scenery around us or the birds flying in the sky. We need to run hard and press forward in the midst of adversity, face first into the wind. We need to know what we’re fighting against, or more precisely who. We are not fighting against people, but spiritual forces around us and our flesh within us. We need to fight hard against our enemy because he will do everything he can to keep us from running and from fighting. He doesn’t have to come first in the race, he just has to keep us from completing it.
So what are we to do? Discipline our bodies and bring them into subjection so that we are not disqualified from the race. We need to not indulge in the desires of the flesh, but keep our eyes fixed on the prize. Our prize is Jesus. We receive the imperishable crown and are able to cast it at the feet of Jesus for His glory. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. He is the prize and should be the motivation for our race.