Megan Evans, Women’s Ministry Director, LHBC

1 Corinthians 9:24-27  (NLT)
24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So, run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

When life gets frustrating and feels unbearable at times, it can be tempting just to quit or check out for a while.  Perhaps you have found yourself wanting to throw up your hands and say, “I’m done,” or “see God, I knew this wouldn’t work.” And while those might be raw human responses, God’s Word tells us that giving up is not a strategy for victory.  

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 is a playbook for the Christian life.  Paul writes in this passage that like athletes running in a race, believers need to train, learn how to be disciplined, and run to win!  But in place of an earthly prize that will fade away, as a follower of Christ, we will receive an eternal prize. In 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul says “And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”

It is exciting to think about Jesus coming back for us!  It is exciting to think about spending eternity in heaven in a new resurrected body like Christ.  But until that day, “Coach” Paul says to keep running to the finish line. He says in Philippians 3:14, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Paul knew first-hand about life’s turns and its ups and downs, yet his life is a testimony of victory. And as he pressed forward, Paul enjoyed God’s grace, mercy, peace, direction, joy, hope…all of the things we too can experience as God’s children.  Paul knew life was more than just a leisurely jog on a well paved track.  

Daily life resembles less of a smooth path and more like a rugged course of a cross country race.  My son is a cross country runner, and I have noticed that cross country runners navigate a course with a variety of surfaces, from dirt, grass, and mud to pavement to gravel and everything in-between.  As the race begins, the runners prepare to run a race with sharp turns, short steep hills, narrow paths, logs to jump over, and occasionally a creek or bridge, each obstacle threatening to disrupt their rhythm.  

How do we condition our body to navigate life’s unexpected obstacle?  

  1.   Like an athlete, we need daily conditioning—building up spiritual disciplines like prayer, and reading and meditating on God’s Word that will condition us to keep our eyes on Christ.  
  2.   If we fall, we get right back up again. I have witnessed cross country runners slipping down a hill as the course gave way to a sharp turn.  I have seen runners emerge from the woods with dirt and skinned knees. Occasionally, I have even seen a runner miss the course markers and run off the race path.  When we move God’s Word from our head to our heart, we learn to live out our faith, learn from our mistakes, and learn how to run with purpose in our steps. 
  3.   We need each other. One of the most encouraging race day moments I have ever witnessed was seeing two runners at the back of the race encouraging the other to finish.  Each with tear streaked faces of determination, they called out to the other to keep going. We need the encouragement of fellowship that we find when we plug in with other believers, a small group, and a church home.  

Today, don’t throw up your hands. Get back in the race.  Link arms with Jesus and run to win. You’ve got this, because God’s got this! 

Dear Lord, thank you for encouraging me. Thank you for reminding me that you are right here with me when I fall or fear the obstacles around me.   Keep my eyes focused on you and remind me that the best is yet to come! In Jesus’ name, amen.  

1 Timothy 1:17
To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.