In case you did not know it, London is hosting the Olympic Games this summer. The torch will make its progress the length and breadth of the country. Our schools are using it as a springboard to promote sporting achievement and personal excellence in general. Inspirational stories of hard-training athletes making incredible sacrifices and enduring considerable hardship are in the news. Predictions about how many medals Team Great Britain will achieve are keeping the pundits busy. What with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee as well, we can safely assume that manufacturers of Union Jacks are looking forward to a bumper year.
The world of athletics, running, competition and endurance was one that the apostle Paul turned to on more than one occasion to make a comparison with the spiritual life. Here he is writing on the theme.
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. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
The parallels are clear. We find the theme of seeking to win a prize. That is what it is about. We are looking to win. Besides that there is the call to careful planning and thought in how to finish the race first. In other words, we have to run in such a way as to win. We can’t meander around or stop for a breather half way along. The mention of being temperate is the recognition of the importance of training and self-discipline. Our athletes are on strict diets and carefully devised training regimens. No over-indulgence permitted when there is such a prize at stake. So the Christian has to exercise great care to pursue holiness, justice, and love, and deny every motive or sinful stirring in the heart to seek after their opposites. Not easy that. It takes a lot of prayer and discipline to be done properly.
But now we come to a fundamental question. What is the prize? What is the race all about? Well the Olympics are about gold medals, of course. That is the crowing victory. To have that gold medal draped around his or her neck and to hear the national anthem played is the pinnacle of success for the Olympic competitor. But what of the Christian? What is their race about? Where is it leading to? Paul supplies the answer,
Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable one. 1 Corinthians 9:25
There we have the answer. It is to receive an imperishable prize. The victor’s laurels of Paul’s day faded away after a while. The Christian is looking to gain eternal life. This is heaven. This is the home of righteousness. It is the prospect that the Lord Jesus Christ in His risen splendour offers to all who will believe on His name. This is the finest and most noble race of all. This is the run of your life.
So I trust we will enjoy the Olympics. We will be cheering on our athletes. We will be hoping for a good haul of medals. But will we stop to consider our own souls? To think about the life to come? To ponder the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ? For He offers the best prize of all, even everlasting life.
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