Amplified: Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: Are you not aware that those who run in the stadium all run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may win the prize. (Westminster John Knox Press)
ESV: Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
KJV: Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
Lenski: Do you not know that those who run in the stadium all run, yet only one receives the prize? So run that you may attain.
NET: Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So run to win. (NET Bible)
NIV: 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. (NIV - IBS)
NLT: Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: Do you remember how, on a racing-track, every competitor runs, but only one wins the prize? Well, you ought to run with your minds fixed on winning the prize! (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: Do you not know that those who are running in a race are indeed all running, but one receives the victor’s award? Be running in such a manner as the one who won the race, in order that you may obtain the victor’s award. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: Have ye not known that those running in a race -- all indeed run, but one doth receive the prize? so run ye, that ye may obtain;
DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT THOSE WHO RUN IN A RACE ALL RUN BUT ONLY ONE RECEIVES THE PRIZE?: Ouk oidate (2PRAI) hoti oi en stadio trechontes (PAPMPN) pantes men trechousin, (3PPAI) eis de lambanei (3SPAI) to brabeion?: (Those who run: Ho 12:10) (Run: Ps 19:5 Ec 9:11 Jer 12:5)
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS
LIKE A RACE
If you have time, read the pithy, poignant and practical Puritan paper entitled The Heavenly Race by Thomas Watson
“Whatever your hand finds to do,
do it with your might”
In the preceding context, Paul discussed how he labored to win as many as possible (1Cor 9:19). Paul now gives a strong exhortation for Christian self-discipline and self-denial, using himself as an example and employing athletic figures familiar to the Corinthians at their own Isthmian athletic games, which were hosted by the city of Corinth.
Dr John Piper introduces his sermon on 1Co 9:23-27 with these remarks…
When Paul wrote these words to the Corinthian Christians, he assumed that they all knew about the games. The Olympic Games took place in Greece every four years without interruption from 776 BC until they were suppressed by the Emperor Theodosius in AD 393. That's 1,169 years. Everyone knew about the games. So Paul didn't have to explain the games. Everybody was aware of the games then. And everybody is aware of the games today.
What Paul did with the games—just like he (and Jesus) did with everything else in life—was to see them in relation to God. Paul was so saturated with Christ and the gospel that he couldn't see anything without thinking of how it related to eternity and the great issues of the Christian life. So he took the games and he taught the Christians to transpose them into a different level, and to see in the games a reality very different than everyone else is seeing. He said in effect,
"The games are played at this level of reality. They run at this level. They box at this level. They train and practice and deny themselves at this level. They set their sights on gold at this level. Now I want you to see all that at another level. I want you to transpose the temporary struggles and triumphs of the Olympic Games onto a different level of reality—the level of spiritual life and eternity and God. When you see the athletes run, see another kind of running. When you see them boxing, see another kind of boxing. When you see them training and denying themselves, see another kind of training and self-denial. When you see them smiling with a gold medal around their neck, see another kind of prize." (Olympic Spirituality, Part 1) (Bolding and italics added)
Do you not know - Paul asks a rhetorical question (asked purely for effect with no answer expected) because every citizen of Corinth would be very familiar with the famous foot races which were held at the Isthmian games. Furthermore they would have common knowledge of the foot races that were held at those games in the stadium. This introduction would have secured the reader's attention to pay heed to his important point about the Christian's "spiritual race."
Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw (eido) His star in the east, and have come to worship Him."
Eido/oida suggests fullness of knowledge, absolute knowledge (that which is beyond doubt). The perfect tense speaks of an experience in the past in which the readers had received an understanding which persists to present. Paul is saying in essence to his Corinthian readers "You've been to the games and you know that when you go to the foot races, there are a number of athletes running but only one wins the prize.
As John Saul Howson explains
They "knew" well that each race was eagerly contested, and that "one" obtained the prize. (The Metaphors of St Paul-interesting book published in 1868 <> See Index = 4 metaphors - Soldier; Architecture, Agriculture, Greek Games)
John Piper adds that…
When Paul wrote these words to the Corinthian Christians, he assumed that they all knew about the games. The Olympic Games took place in Greece every four years without interruption from 776 BC until they were suppressed by the Emperor Theodosius in AD 393. That’s 1,169 years. Everyone knew about the games. So Paul didn’t have to explain the games. Everybody was aware of the games then. And everybody is aware of the games today. What Paul did with the games—just like he (and Jesus) did with everything else in life—was to see them in relation to God. Paul was so saturated with Christ and the gospel that he couldn’t see anything without thinking of how it related to eternity and the great issues of the Christian life…
“Now I want you to see all that at another level. I want you to transpose the temporary struggles and triumphs of the Olympic Games onto a different level of reality—the level of spiritual life and eternity and God. When you see the athletes run, see another kind of running. When you see them boxing, see another kind of boxing. When you see them training and denying themselves, see another kind of training and self-denial. When you see them smiling with a gold medal around their neck, see another kind of prize…
Every time you turn the television set on, I want you to hear God talking to you through the games. If I understand Paul in this text, the games in Barcelona are meant to be seen and heard by Christians as a tremendous impulse to fight the fight of faith and run the race of life with nothing less than Olympic passion and perseverance. (1 Corinthians 9:23-27 Olympic Spirituality 1 - Beyond the Gold)
Adam Clarke - It is sufficiently evident that the apostle alludes to the athletic exercises in the games which were celebrated… on the isthmus or narrow neck of land, which joins the Peloponnesus (Click map of Isthmus of Corinth)… to the main land; and were thence termed the Isthmian Games.
Run in such a way - By setting aside anything that might hinder your witness. The picture of running (by analogy with the Greek runner) was that of running with an earnestness of purpose (See discussion below).
Jonathan Edwards, felt by many to be America's greatest theologian once wrote 70 resolutions to stir himself up so that he might not grow weary and lose heart in his once in a lifetime race. Here is one that speaks particularly to running with earnestness of purpose…
“Resolved: to live with all my might
while I do live.”
Matthew Henry - There is the greatest encouragement, therefore, to persevere with all our strength, in this race. Those who ran in these games were kept to a spare diet (cp Jn 6:27). They used themselves to hardships (2Ti 2:3,4-note)). They practised the exercises (1Ti 4:7, 8). And those who pursue the interests of their souls, must combat hard with fleshly lusts (1Pe 2:11-note). The body must not be suffered to rule. The apostle presses this advice on the Corinthians. He sets before himself and them the danger of yielding to fleshly desires, pampering the body, and its lusts and appetites (1Co 9:25). Holy fear of himself (his own evil flesh) was needed to keep an apostle faithful: how much more is it needful for our preservation! Let us learn from hence, humility and caution, and to watch against dangers which surround us while in the body (… that we might enabled by His Spirit to run this one time race with endurance and passionate purpose.)
Only one life
Twill soon be past
Only what's done
For (in) Christ will last!
Jerry M. Hullinger's description of the serious nature of athletics in ancient Greece helps us understand Paul's charge for believers to run their spiritual race with similar gravity…
Athletics in the Greco-Roman world were approached with great vigor and passion. (Ed: Think of your own manner of "spiritual running" - would you describe it as one with great vigor and passion?) This fact helps explain why Paul applied this imagery to the Christian life. In sporting events the goal of the athletes was not merely to take part but to win. To lose, in many cases, was a disgrace.
Pindar, a Greek poet of the fifth century B.C., noted that
“the athlete delights in the toil and the cost.”
And Philo wrote,
“I know wrestlers and pankratiasts often persevere out of love for honor and zeal for victory to the point of death, when their bodies are giving up and they keep drawing breath and struggling on spirit alone, a spirit which they have accustomed to reject fear scornfully… Among these competitors, death for the sake of an olive or celery crown is glorious.”
The Stoic philosopher Epictetus (ca. A.D. 55-135) noted the same common belief.
“In the Olympic Games you cannot just be beaten and then depart, but first of all, you will be disgraced not only before the people of Athens or Sparta or Nikopolis but before the whole world. In the second place, if you withdraw without sufficient reason you will be whipped. And this whipping comes after your training which involves thirst and broiling heat and swallowing handfuls of sand.”
The word Paul used to depict this spirit is agonizomai (1Co 9:25), which referred to an athletic contest (“engaging in a contest”) or to any struggle.
In classical Greek the noun agon was used in a number of ways: (a) a gathering, (b) a gathering place of the gods on Mount Olympus, (c) the “gathering” of ships in a harbor, and (d) a fight. In the Apocrypha agon occurred primarily in this fourth sense.
Paul’s use of the word with athletic overtones could refer to an “expression of the contestants’ manly discipline.” Stauffer described the force of this word in this way:
“First is the thought of the goal which can be reached only with the full expenditure of all our energies… a passionate struggle, a constantly renewed concentration of forces on the attainment of the goal… The struggle for the reward [demands] not only full exertion but also rigid denial. The final assault is so exacting that all forces must be reserved, assembled, and deployed in it. The final goal is so high and glorious that all provisional ends must fade before it… If a man is not ready to set aside his egotistic needs and desires and claims and reservations, he is not fit for the arena.” (BSac 161:643 July 2004 p. 344.)
Run (5143)(trecho from dremo = to run or walk hastily) means literally to move faster than a walk, making rapid linear movement. Webster says to run is "to go steadily by springing steps so that both feet leave the ground for an instant in each step." Trecho therefore describes someone in haste (Mt 28:8, Mk 5:6, Jn 20:2, 4, Lk 24:12). Figuratively trecho describes rapid propagation of doctrine, spreading without restraint (2Th 3:1). It also pictures one exerting effort, striving hard, spending strength to attain a goal (Ro 9:16-note, Gal 5:7, 2:2, Php 2:16-note, He 12:1-note). In Gal 5:7 trecho describes the course of the conduct.
Here in 1Cor 9:24 Paul uses trecho to emphasize the preparation and effort necessary to run spiritually. He is not using running in the sense of defeating an opponent in a race as in the actual Olympics.
BDAG characterizes the figurative use of trecho as "to make an effort to advance spiritually or intellectually."
The metaphor of a runner is frequent in Paul's writings but sometimes is not obvious. For example, the phrase “fought the good fight” (2Ti 4:7-note). J S Howson explains that "We must be careful here to give the right meaning to the word " fight." This term has nothing to do with war. It denotes an athletic contest. And the particular kind of athletic contest, which he specifies in his customary way, is the foot-race. But now he is writing near the close of life. The race is nearly run, the struggle is all but over, he is weary, as it were, and panting with the effort, but he is successful, the crown is in sight, and the judge, the "righteous" Judge (2Ti 4:1-note), Who cannot make a mistake, is there, ready to place that bright wreath upon his head. (The Metaphors of St Paul - page 140)
John Piper makes the poignantly powerful statement that…
Eternal Life Hangs on the Way We Run - In other words life is not a game with no lasting consequences. The way we live our lives has eternal consequences. Life is a proving ground where we prove who we are, whom we trust, and what we cherish. Eternal life, the upward call, the crown of righteousness—all these hang on what our life says about who we are, whom we trust, and what we love.
Make no mistake here! Life is not a place for proving to God or anybody your strength. Life is a place for proving whose strength you trust—man’s or God’s. Life is not a place for proving the power of your intelligence to know truth. It’s a place for proving the power of God’s grace to show truth (Matthew 16:17). Life is not a field for demonstrating the force of our will to make good choices. It’s a field for showing how the beauty of Christ takes us captive and constrains us to choose and run for his glory.
The race of life has eternal consequences not because we are saved by works, but because Christ has saved us from dead works to serve the living and true God with Olympic passion (Hebrews 9:14).
The race of life has eternal consequences not because grace is nullified by the way we run, but because grace is verified by the way we run. “By the grace of God I am what I am and his grace toward me was not in vain, but I labored [I ran, I fought] more exceedingly than all, yet it was not I but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul’s running did not nullify the purpose of grace; it verified the power of grace.
Eternal life hangs on the way we run and the way we fight not because salvation is based on the merit of works, but because faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Life is a proving ground for whether faith is alive or dead—a proving ground for whom we trust. (1Corinthians 9:23-27 Olympic Spirituality 2- How Then Shall We Run?)
Thomas Watson said…
Faith will make us walk, but assurance will make us run.
Race (4712) (stadia from histemi = to stand) was a measure of distance which when allowing for variations according to locale was about 600 Greek feet (625 feet = Roman; circa 607 feet = English) or 192 meters. Stadia also described the actual arena for the public athletic contests (spectacles) which was surrounded by tiers of seating for the spectators.
John uses the related word stadion writing…
Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles (stadion), they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. (John 6:19)
Comment: The Greek for "about 3-4 miles" is more literally "about twenty-five or thirty stades". The stade was a unit of linear measure equaling about 607 feet or 187 meters. Since the Sea of Galilee was only about 7 miles wide (at its widest point) the disciples were coming near the midpoint of the Sea (really a "lake").
Vincent has a lengthy comment on stadia noting that it is derived…
From histemi = to place or establish. Hence a stated distance; a standard of length. In all other New Testament passages it is used of a measure of length, and is rendered furlong, representing 606¾ English feet (1/8th of a Roman mile). From the fact that the race-courses were usually of exactly this length, the word was applied to the race-course (or "stadium" - the best known race-course at Olympia was a exactly a stade long) itself. The position chosen for the stadium was usually on the side of a hill, which would furnish a natural slope for seats; a corresponding elevation on the opposite side being formed by a mound of earth, and the seats being supported upon arches. The stadium was oblong in shape, and semicircular at one end; though, after the Roman conquest of Greece, both ends were often made semicircular. A straight wall shut in the area at one end, and here were the entrances and the starting-place for the runners. At the other end was the goal, which, like the starting-point, was marked by a square pillar. Half-way between these was a third pillar. On the first pillar was inscribed excel; on the second, hasten; on the third, turn, since the racers turned round the column to go back to the starting-point. (See the description of the stadium at Ephesus in Wood’s “Discoveries at Ephesus”)
The isthmus of Corinth was the scene of the Isthmian games, one of the four great national festivals of the Greeks. The celebration was a season of great rejoicing and feasting. The contests included horse, foot, and chariot-racing; wrestling, boxing, musical and poetical trials, and later, fights of animals. The victor’s prize was a garland of pine leaves, and his victory was generally celebrated in triumphal odes called epinikia, of which specimens remain among the poems of Pindar (See a fine description of the Olympic games, on which the others were modeled, in J. Addington Symonds’ “Studies of the Greek Poets,” Volume I. Chapter 11). At the period of Paul’s epistles the games were still celebrated, and the apostle himself may very probably have been present. At the same time, he would have been familiar with similar scenes in Tarsus, in all the great cities of Asia Minor, especially Ephesus, and even in Jerusalem.
Metaphors and allusions founded upon such spectacles abound in Paul’s writings. Racers, 1Co 9:24; boxers, 1Co 9:26, 27; gladiators fighting with beasts, 1Co 15:32; the judge awarding the prize, 2Ti 4:8-note); the goal and the prize, 1Co 9:24; Php 3:14-note; the chaplet, 1Co 9:25; 2Ti 2:5-note); 2Ti 4:8; the training for the contest, 1Ti 4:7, 8; the rules governing it, 2Ti 2:5; the chariot-race, Php 3:14-note. These images never occur in the gospels. See on of life, Rev 2:10-note).
TDNT writes the following on "the stadium"
Runners in the Olympic games rank high, and the term has a cultic nuance in this connection. Yet there is also criticism of runners. Plato contends for intellectual achievement, and the Cynics point out that many animals excel men in running. Yet critics like to depict themselves as the true contestants who deserve the crown, even though wreaths in fact are better adapted for goats, which can eat them.
The New Manners and Customs explains that in the Ancient Greco-Roman world…
Running was one of the most popular of the Olympic games. The place prepared for the race was called the stadium because its length equaled a stadion, or six hundred Greek feet. The stadium was an oblong area, with a straight wall across one end, where the entrances were, the other end being round and entirely closed. Tiers of seats were on either side for the spectators… The starting place was at the entrance end and was marked by a square pillar. At the opposite end was the goal, where the judge sat and held the prize. The eyes of the competitors remained fixed on him: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2-note). The goal, as well as the starting point, was marked by a square pillar, and a third was placed midway between the two… The competitors, through severe training, had no superfluous flesh, and ran unclothed. Flesh and clothing were laid aside as a “weight” that might hinder them in the race. (Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. The New Manners and Customs of the Bible: Page 545)
RUN TO WIN!
Only one receives the prize - Here Paul draws a distinction with his analogy with the Olympic runners - they were competing against each other because there was only one "first place." Christian "runners" are in the same race but are not in competition with one another for one prize. To the contrary, the "prize" is within the reach of every Christian runner. We each have our own "lane" in which to run (see note) and do not need to compare ourselves with other "runners" (see illustration).
Do you really believe there is a prize worth winning? If you do then 1Corinthians 9:24-27 is Paul's "secret message" instructing us how we can run to win! Too many believers either don't understand the Biblical truth about "the prize" or they have grown indifferent to this incredible truth, which is a divine promise from the "non-lying God" to all who determine to discipline themselves in this present passing life because the eyes of their heart are fixed on the prize in the eternal life to come! (see 1Ti 4:7-note, 1Ti 4:8, 9, 10-note)
A W Tozer wrote…
Nothing spiritual can be gained in competition…When two men step into a prize ring they know that only one can win, and whoever wins can do so only by forcing the other to lose. When five men line up on the track for a race they know that only one can come in first. Four men must lose that one may win. It is not so in the kingdom of God. Christians do not run against each other. All can win the race. Paul likens a Christian to a fighter, but the Christian’s fight is not with other Christians. Each one can win and no one need lose. The man of faith fights against the devil, the flesh and the world. He wins as they lose; but he never wins anything truly spiritual in competition with a fellow believer. In the nature of things he cannot. To think so is to entertain an absurdity. (The Tozer Topical Reader 1:112)
Prize (1017) (brabeion - kindred verb brabeuo = to be an umpire, Col 3:15) is used only here in the NT. The crown is not salvation, which is God’s gift to those who trust in Christ; it is, rather, the future reward of one who is a Christian and seeks to honor Christ in his life. The reward will be received at the Judgment Seat of Christ (See 2Co 5:10-note, Ro 14:10, 11, 12-note 1Co 3:11, 12, 13, 14, 15).
As emphasized, Paul does not mean there is only one prize so only one person wins! Unfortunately denominations and individuals sometimes act as like this were true!
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia has the following description of the ancient Greek foot race and the prize to the winner…
(e) The Foot-race. -- The words for "run" and "race" (Greek trecho and dromos) sometimes clearly, and in other cases probably, allude to foot-races at the games. For obvious references compare 1Co 9:24; He 12:1-note; 2Ti 4:7-note; for possible references see Acts 13:25; 20:24; Ro 9:16-note; Gal 2:2; 5:7; Phil 2:16-note; 2Th 3:1. The second of these passages (Heb 12:1-note) alludes to the necessity for the greatest possible reduction of weight, and for steady concentration of effort. All the passages would remind the first readers of the single-course and double-course foot-races of the games.
Addendum: The races took place in an enclosure of about six hundred feet in length called a stadia. Three kinds of races were held in these enclosures. “In the stade-race the competitors had to run a single length of the stadium, a distance of 192.28 meters. In the diaulos, which was the middle distance event at the ancient Olympics, they ran twice the length of the stadium, once in each direction, which means that they covered 384.56 meters. In the long-distance event, i.e., the dolichos, they had to run twenty-four lengths of the stadium, a total distance of 4614.72 meters.” Considering the stamina required by the long-distance event, it is probable that this is the running event Paul referred to in his epistles when he likened the Christian life to a race that comprises one’s entire earthly life.
Paul told the Philippians to “press on toward the goal” (Php 3:14-note). The Greek word for goal is skopos, which is most likely a reference to the square pillars located at each end of the track on which the runner could fix his eyes in order to run accurately as well as have something to encourage him.
Gardiner explained that “it is obvious that in a straight two hundred yards race the runner must have some point to fix his eye on if he is to run straight, and a post with a distinguishing mark would have been of great value as a guide.” (BSac 161:643 July 2004 p. 348)
(f) The Goal. -- The goal of the foot-race, a square pillar at the end of the stadium opposite the entrance, which the athlete as far as possible kept in view and the sight of which encouraged him to redouble his exertions, is alluded to once: "I press on toward the goal" (Phil 3:14-note, Greek skopos).
(g) The Herald. -- The name and country of each competitor were announced by a herald and also the name, country and father of a victor. There may be an allusion to this custom in 1Co 9:27: "after that I have been a herald (Revised Version margins, Greek kerusso) to others"; compare also 1Ti 2:7; 2Ti 1:11, where the Greek for "preacher" is kerux, "herald."
Addendum: The first day was occupied with sacrifices to the gods and the taking of oaths by the judges and competitors. The second morning began with the naming of the competitors by the herald, and was followed by chariot races, horse races, and the pentathlon for men. Contests for boys were held on the third day. On the fourth day the men’s games in foot racing, jumping, wrestling, boxing, and pankration were held. The final day of the games was spent in sacrifices and an evening banquet in which the victors were entertained. (BSac 161:643 July 2004 p. 344)
(h) The Prize. - Successful athletes were rewarded at the great games by a wreath consisting in the apostolic age of wild olive (Olympian), parsley (Nemean), laurel (Pythian), or pine (Isthmian). This is referred to in a general way in Php 3:14-note, and in 1Co 9:24: "One receiveth the prize" (Greek in both cases brabeion; compare also Col 3:15: "Let the peace of Christ arbitrate (Revised Version margin) in your hearts," where the verb is brabeuo). The wreath (stephanos) is directly alluded to in 1Co 9:25: "They (the athletes) do it to receive a corruptible crown"; 2Ti 2:5: "A man … is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully"; and 1Pe 5:4-note): "Ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away." There may be allusions also in Phil 4:1; 1Th 2:19; He 2:7,9; Jas 1:12-note; Re 2:10-note; Re 3:11-note). In the palm-bearing multitude of the Apocalypse (Rev 7:9) there is possibly a reference to the carrying of palm-branches by victors at the games. The judges who sat near the goal and who, at Olympia at any rate, had been carefully prepared for their task, may be glanced at in 2Ti 4:8: "The crown … which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day." (The Games)
Paul's use of metaphor of a runner to emphasizes each believer's individual responsibility. Therefore we are all (each individual believer) to run like a runner who wants the prize and there is prize for all believers who run faithfully. But there are rules for the race --We are to run the race as God says run it. If someone else "drops out" of the race, that should not affect us because we will each be judged individually. We are not trying to "outrun" other believers (See illustration of the danger of looking around - Illustration)
Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
ift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the Path, and Christ the Prize.
The Bema Seat of Christ (2Co 5:10-note, Ro 14:10, 11, 12-note) is not to be confused with the judgment at the Great White Throne (Re 20:11-note, Re 20:12-note, Re 20:13-note, Re 20:14-note, Re 20:15-note) which is only for unbelievers. On the other hand the Bema seat is only for believers. At the Bema Seat we will not be judged for sins because our sins have been finally judged and paid for in full at the Cross! Every believer will stand before Christ the Judge and our works will be tested by fire (1Co 3:13, 14; Rev 1:14-note eyes "like a flame of fire") Works that are burned are those deeds which were initiated by our flesh and which we then ask Him to bless! Works that will not be burned are good deeds which are initiated by or prompted by and energized by God's Spirit. Christians who fail to keep a "Bema Seat" mentality (not in a bad sense but a good sense - an event you look forward to) are more likely to think lightly of sin in this present life.
Beloved, we are developing our capacity to enjoy God right now. If we don't enjoy Him in this life, what makes us think we will enjoy Him in the life to come. In some way, the degree of the reward corresponds directly to the way which we run the race. For example, to whom much is given, much is required. Don't look at others as you run. Look to Jesus and He will guide you know in how you are to run. Too often we are trying to work out someone else's salvation instead of our own!
We need to run this "once in a lifetime" Christian race as if we were Olympians -- we need to the same heart, the same intensity and the same enthusiasm as a runner who seeks to win an Olympic gold medal.
Awake, our souls! away, our fears!
Let every trembling thought be gone!
Awake, and run the heavenly race,
And put a cheerful courage on.
In order to help us run in such a way that we may win the prize, someone has compiled a set of "tests" to help us discern whether an action should be pursued.
1. THE WORLD TEST. Is it worldly? Will it make me worldly to do it (John 15:19, 1John 2:15-17-note)
2. THE QUALITY TEST. Is it good for me physically, emotionally, and spiritually (Ro 12:9b-note)
3. THE TEMPLE TEST. Can I do it when I remember my body is God’s temple and must not be marred or misused (1Co 6:19-note)
4. THE GLORY TEST. Will it glorify my Lord, or will it on the other hand possibly bring shame to His name (1Co 6:20-note, 1Co 10:32)
5. THE BLESSING TEST. Can I honestly ask God’s blessing on it and be sure I’ll not regret doing it (Pr 10:22, Ro 15:29-note)
6. THE REPUTATION TEST. Is it apt to damage my testimony for the Lord (Php 2:15-note)
7. THE CONSIDERATION TEST. Am I being considerate of others and the effect this might have on them (Ro 14:7-note, Ro 14:21-note)
8. THE APPEARANCE TEST. Will it look bad? Does it have the appearance of what is wrong or suspicious (1Th 5:22-note)
9. THE WEIGHT TEST. Could this slacken or sidetrack me in running the Christian race (He 12:1-note, 1Co 9:24)
10. THE COMING OF CHRIST TEST. Would I be ashamed to be found doing this when He comes again (1Jn 2:28)
11. THE COMPANION TEST. Can I invite Christ to go with me and participate with me in this (Mt 28:20b, Col 3:17-note)
12. THE PEACE TEST. After having prayed about it, do I have perfect peace about doing it (Col. 3:15a-note, Php 4:6-note, Php 4:7-note)
How much greater is the race believers are called to run! One of the most grueling of all bicycle races is the Tour De France. A contestant in that event, Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, describes it in a National Geographic article titled, "An Annual Madness.? The race covers about 2000 miles, including some of France's most difficult, mountainous terrain. Eating and drinking is done on the run. And there are extremes of heat and cold. To train for the event, Lassalle rides his bicycle 22,000 miles a year. What kind of prize makes people endure so much hardship and pain! $10,000? $100,000? No. It's just a special winner's jersey. What then motivates the contestants? Lassalle sums it up: "Why, to sweep through the Arc de Triomphe on the last day. To be able to say you finished the Tour de France."
No pain, no gain.
Know pain, great gain.
“Be steadfast, immovable
always abounding in the work of the Lord”
In such a way - Paul says not to sit and soak up sermons, but run to win! Christianity is not a spectator sport! We need to heed the words of the track coach who said "If you have anything left ten yards past the finish line, you didn't give your all." (Are you as convicted as I am!)
Just live your life before your Lord,
Rise to that higher, nobler plane--
With single eye His glory seek,
And you shall His approval gain.
In such a way includes heeding the exhortations in the following passages…
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance (bad things for sure, but even "good things" what "weigh us down" - Ask God to search your heart - Ps 139:23, 24) and the sin which so easily entangles us ("The easily besetting, encompassing or surrounding sin". What is your "besetting sin"? You need to set it aside by the power of the Spirit, Ro 8:13), and let us run with endurance (hupomone [word study]) the race that is set before us (He 12:1-note)
Comment: Run is in the present tense which conveys the truth that this is a lifelong struggle/race, one which ultimately can be run successfully only in His strength. Many Christians are just "spiritually" jogging, some just walking slowly, and others are sitting or even lying down. Yet the biblical standard for holy living is a race, not a morning constitutional. Race is the Greek agon, from which we get agony. A race is not characterized by indulging and luxury, but is a demanding, sometimes grueling and agonizing task which requires our utmost in self-discipline, determination, and perseverance.
Note that each runner has "the race" laid out before him or her. The point of the verb "set before" (prokeimai [word study]) is that of something lying before one. It is like a road that stretches out before one’s gaze. In short, dearly beloved of God, our Father has a “lane” set out and prepared for each of his children to run in and a goal for each one to reach. We are not competing with each other. We are competing with ourselves (specifically in regard to our continual battle against the world, the flesh and the devil) striving (agonizomai) to run the race. Remember, we are not running the race in order to get into heaven. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that our sins are forgiven and we have the assurance of heaven (Jn 14:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). It is also worth noting that in the Greek and Roman games, the contestants had to be citizens and no slaves or outsiders were permitted to compete. In the Christian race, each runner is a citizen of heaven (Php 3:20-note) and is running to bring glory to the Lord. (Mt 5:16-note)
Spurgeon comments: In (the Greek) games, those who ran and wrestled wore very little clothing, or often nothing at all. A runner might lose the race through being entangled by his scarf, so he laid aside everything that might hinder or hamper him. Oh, for that blessed consecration to our heavenly calling, by which everything that would hinder us shall be put aside, that we may give ourselves, disentangled, to the great gospel to race!
John Angell James: Besetting sins are powerful hindrances to Christian progress. In the case of most people, there is some one sin to which, either from their situation, taste, constitution, or other circumstances—they are more powerfully tempted than to others. Satan knows very well what in every case this is, and skillfully adapts his temptations to it. He is an expert angler, and never chooses his bait, or throws his line, at random! Independently, however, of him, the very tendency of the heart is in that direction. That one sin, whatever it is, while indulged, will hold you back! You cannot make progress in holiness, until it is mortified. Even its partial indulgence, though it may be considerably weakened, will hinder you! Study then your situation, circumstances, and constitution. You cannot be ignorant which temptation and sin, you are most liable to succumb to. You must know in what way you have most frequently wounded your conscience, and occasioned to yourself shame and sorrow… Study yourselves! Examine your own heart! You must find out this matter, and it requires no great pains in order to know it. It floats upon the surface of the heart, and does not lie hidden in its depths. There, there, is your danger! As long as that one sin, be it what it may, is indulged, you cannot advance in the Christian life! Other sins are like unnecessary clothing to the racer. Besetting sins are like a ball and chain around his ankle! Direct your attention more fixedly, and your aim more constantly, to the destruction of besetting sins. You know what they are, whether … lusts of the flesh, or lusts of the mind, or bad tempers toward man, or sinful dispositions toward God, or violations of piety. Let us be distinguished by a great mortification of besetting sins, which, more than anything else … distress us, disgrace us, and hindered us in our progress heavenward. No sins require … such severe mortification, such incessant labor, such earnest prayer, such strong faith for their destruction as besetting sins. But all this is necessary, for if they are not destroyed, they will probably destroy us.
Richard Baxter, Puritan writer: It is a most lamentable thing to see how most people spend their time and their energy for trifles, while God is cast aside. He Who is all seems to them as nothing, and that which is nothing seems to them as good as all. It is lamentable indeed, knowing that God has set mankind in such a race… that they should sit down and loiter, or run after the childish toys of the world, forgetting the prize they should run for. Were it but possible for one of us to see this business as the all-seeing God does, and see what most men and women in the world are interested in and what they are doing every day, it would be the saddest sight imaginable. Oh, how we should marvel at their madness and lament their self-delusion! If God had never told them what they were sent into the world to do, or what was before them in another world, then there would have been some excuse. But it is His sealed word, and they profess to believe it.
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12-note)
Comment: Note the necessity for perseverance. We too can end the Christian race well, even if we began late, started slow, or faltered along the way. The secret is to stay true to Christ to the last moment.
Warren Wiersbe rightly remarked that…
we cannot be good athletes merely by being spectators. If we are merely spectators, the only muscles we will develop are our eye muscles! (Well, maybe our vocal cords, too.) Somebody has defined a football game as an event in which thousands of people who need exercise pay for the privilege of cheering for twenty-two healthy men who need no exercise. Of course, it is much easier to be a spectator than a participant—except when the event is over and they give out the prizes. Then we will wish we had gotten out of the stands and joined the team. It isn’t too late to start running. (Wiersbe, W. W. Be what you are: 12 intriguing pictures of the Christian from the New Testament. Wheaton IL: Tyndale House)
May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.
(May the Mind of Christ, My Savior)
Many believers start out on the right course, but with time are diverted from the track God originally set them on. When we are born into God's kingdom our race begins and our course is set and one day when we enter God's presence our race ends. The interval of our brief sojourn on earth is the time we each have to complete our set spiritual course. If we stray from our course we lose valuable time. The only way to complete our course within the allotted time is to stay on course! Don't be like the Galatians of whom Paul said
You were running well; who hindered (NIV "cut in on") you from obeying the truth? (Gal 5:7)
Paul is not giving the Corinthians a suggestion but uses the present imperative which is a command to "run" as your lifestyle, to live your life as if it were a veritable "spiritual marathon!" Paul is saying in essence
"Run! Don’t walk. Don’t stop. Don’t sit down.
Run because it is only way to win!”
Many Christians are "throwing in the towel" not realizing that they have a future appointment to give an account of how they have run the race at the Bema Seat of Christ. Are you running for the Lord or like Jonah running from the Lord? Remember that the prize is not salvation (which is solely by grace through faith) but is a reward earned for faithful running. The prize is not promised for spiritual wind sprints but for finishing the race with endurance (cp "spiritual marathon").
YOU CAN MISS THE PRIZE!
In a word, while a believer cannot miss salvation, he or she can miss the prize! Do not be deceived. If you fail to faithfully run the race set out before you, do not be surprised when you fail to receive a commensurate reward from Christ, the faithful Witness (Rev 1:5-note, Rev 3:14-note, Rev 19:11-note) and Righteous Judge (2Ti 4:1-note, 2Ti 4:8-note).
John Piper minces no words adding that…
God has not saved you to sit in the stands. God has not saved you to lie on the track. God has not saved you sit on the edge of the pool with your feet in the water. God has saved you to spend yourself for the glory of His Son (Php 1:20-note).
The point of salvation is to make the glory of God visible in the universe (Mt 5:16-note). That’s what this text is about. The running and fighting that glorifies God—that demonstrates He is real and worthy and precious and powerful and pure and loving and holy and satisfying. Running and fighting are all about revealing who Christ is for us and who we are in Him and how precious the prize of eternal life with Him is to us…
Strive, labor, abound, be zealous, be earnest.
Run like the winner runs.
Be done with half-heartedness
and laziness and lukewarmness.
Christ has laid hold on you for this very thing. You do not do it in your own strength (Zech 4:6). You strive (Col 1:29-note) and labor (1Co 15:10) and abound (2Co 9:8) and love in the strength that He supplies (Php 4:13-note, Ep 3:16-note, Ep 6:10-note, 2Ti 2:1-note, Ezek 36:27) so that in everything He gets the glory (Ps 115:1-note, 1Pe 4:11-note) I think that’s the gist of 1Corinthians 9:24. (Read or listen to the full message - Olympic Spirituality, Part 2)
And lest one misapply texts such as 1Cor 9:24, turning them into "moral self improvement programs" do not be deceived. Yes we are to run, but the running is grace enabled and God glorifying, not self improving. We run, but God works in us…
by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored (kopiao [word study] = to the point of exhaustion - cp "run in such a way") even more than all of them, yet not I, but (now Paul explains how he was able to labor to the point of exhaustion) the grace of God with me. (1Co 15:10, cp Ro 9:16-note)
The earnestness of purpose
that is essential to the Christian's career.
St Paul appeals to the experience of the Corinthians. There was nothing with which they were better acquainted than these famous foot-races. Their own games near their own city were among the most celebrated in the world. They "knew" well that each race was eagerly contested, and that "one" obtained the prize. But at this point we must mark a difference. In that race there was competition; and because there was competition, each runner was in earnest. In the Christian race there is no competition. The prize is within the reach of all.
But then each runner must be as much in earnest as though there were competition and only one prize. And this is what the Apostle expresses. He does not say (as I understand his words) "run so—in such a way—as to obtain,"—but, " run so—as those runners run—in order that ye may obtain." In their case there is rivalry and therefore they are in earnest. In your case there is no rivalry; but their earnestness of purpose is an example to you.
And certainly no pattern of earnestness can be a more forcible example, than the earnestness that arises from eager competition.
"Run in the Christian race
as the athlete in the footrace runs."
All his nerves and sinews are strung up for the effort he is making. Nothing else is thought of; and as the distance between his feet and the winning-post diminishes, he does not flag, but throws more and more exertion into the movement of his limbs. Whatever strength and elasticity he can summon up, whatever struggling remainder of his short and failing breath he can muster, all may be wanted at the very last moment.
And what a contrast this is to our dull and languid Christianity! We go and take our place in the course as though the prize could be won without any running at all, or as if there were no prize worth running for. We dream and loiter and fold our arms; we turn aside to look at every object of passing interest; or if we did begin with some vigour, all the zest and warmth of the struggle grows feebler and fainter when it ought to become more animated, and, like the Galatians, we care little what hindrances occur to stop our course, and to risk a dishonorable fall.
Earnestness of purpose is what we lack, and there is no picture of earnestness more forcible than that which is drawn from the ardour of competition. (The Metaphors of St Paul - published in 1868 - available online)
May win (2983) (katalambano from kata = intensifies verb + lambano = take, grasp, receive) means to take eagerly, to seize, to possess, to attain. In 1Cor 9:24 katalambano is translated as "win", which conveys the idea of making it one's own or even to "seize for oneself." I like the way the Amplified Version translates it "that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours."
Paul uses the aorist tense for katalambano which means something like "that you may actually, truly, surely capture the prize."
Run the straight race through God's good grace,
Lift up thine eyes and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path and Christ the prize.
In Philippians in which Paul utilizes the "race metaphor" we find this same verb katalambano three times "Not that I have already obtained (lambano) it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of (katalambano) that for which also I was laid hold of (katalambano) by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of (katalambano) it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. (Php 3:12, 13-note)
Keith Krell writes that…
the prize that Paul is speaking of is a reward that may or may not accompany salvation. The Christian’s prize is the honor and glory of eternal rewards. It is the joy of hearing Jesus say, “Well done!” (Mt 25:21, 23) This is the amazing grace of God. We receive salvation as a free gift and then the Lord blesses us on top of that with temporal and eternal rewards for faithfully serving Him. What a God!
So what does faithful running look like? Who are those who run in such a way that they may win?
Christians who finish their lives still growing, still serving
Senior saints that persist in daily prayer until the Lord calls them home
Husbands and wives who stay faithful to each other “until death do us part”
Young people who preserve their virginity until marriage, in spite of crushing peer pressure
Pastors who stay passionate about ministry until their last breath
Church members who weather the rougher patches and remain joyful, loving, and faithful
Today, you may be thinking,
“I’m not running well.
In fact, I’m barely in the race at all.
What should I do?”
The answer is: recommit to win God’s race. As long as you are in the race, run to win.
Don’t just run to finish,
but to win.
No one just happens to make a comeback to win. Not when he is far behind. Only by believing it can happen, and with a renewed resolve to win, is a comeback accomplished. If you find yourself far behind in the race, don’t give up. Keep on running. You can still win. Don’t quit.6 Living for God’s approval requires finishing well. (See full message - Living for God's Approval 1Corinthians 9:24-27)
Vance Havner wrote that "It was said of the great racehorse Man o' War: "Some horses led him at the first turn, some led him at the backstretch, a few led him at the far turn, but no horse ever led him in the homestretch." Some Christians run nobly at the start of the race, some do well halfway, but blessed is the man who makes a good finish. Paul's batting average was good to the end of the season: "I have finished my course" (2Ti 4:7-note).
My latest sun is sinking fast,
My race is nearly run;
My strongest trials now are past,
My triumph is begun.
(My Latest Sun Is Sinking Fast)
John Walvoord wrote that - In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 the figure is used of an athletic contest, a runner striving for the prize, and we are exhorted so to run that we may obtain. Life is a race. We are to live in such a way that when we stand before Christ we will win the prize. (Walvoord, J. The Return of the Lord)
It is a solemn fact of Scripture that every Christian will give account of himself to God (Rom. 14:12). In view of that, there is not only the motivation of love to serve Christ but also the motivation of being found worthy to the extent that their works honored and glorified God. (Walvoord, J. F. The prophecy knowledge handbook)
RUN TO WIN! - It's as true in life as in running: Only the determined achieve their goals. Olympic medals don't go to overweight businessmen who puff around the track for exercise.
Eric Liddell, in the film "Chariots of Fire," illustrates this principle. Just before the first turn in a 400-meter race, Eric was shoved off balance, and he stumbled on the infield grass. When he looked up, he saw the others pulling away. With a look of intense determination, Eric jumped to his feet, and with his back cocked and his arms flailing he rushed ahead. He was determined not only to catch up with the pack, but to win. And he did!
This was the kind of fervor that the apostle Paul brought to his ministry. In 1 Corinthians 9:24 he said, "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." Paul saw himself as an Olympic athlete competing for a gold medal, straining every muscle, nerve, and sinew to get to the finish line. And what's
the prize? Not a temporary reward but "an imperishable crown" (1Co 9:25).
For us as Christians, victory is possible. So let's run as though we want to win! -- Haddon W. Robinson (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
We must fix our eyes on Jesus
If we're going to win the race--
Working hard to godly living,
Trusting in His saving grace.
Winners never quit,
and quitters never win.
Be Still, My Soul was reportedly the favorite of Eric Liddell, the athlete who became famous in the 1924 Olympics for refusing to run on the Sabbath (see the movie Chariots of Fire). Liddell later became a missionary in China, and was imprisoned during World War II. He is said to have taught this hymn to others in the prison camp (where he eventually died of a brain tumor).
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
The following resource has 5 well done vignettes of Olympians
Eric Liddell: Meet with the Coach Each Morning
James Connolly: Persevere Through Difficulties
Jesse Owens: Nurture the Right Friends
Lawrence Lemieux: Rescue the Perishing
Felix Carvajal: Finish Well
These stories are excellent illustrations of the truths in 1Corinthians 9:24-27 - Going for the Gold by Robert J. Morgan
How Will You Finish the Race - In 1981 Bill Broadhurst entered the Pepsi Challenge 10,000-meter road race in Omaha, Nebraska. Ten years earlier, surgery for a brain aneurysm left him paralyzed on his left side. But on a misty July morning, he stood with 1,200 lithe-looking men and women at the starting line. The gun cracked. The crowd surged ahead. Bill threw his stiff left leg forward and pivoted on it as his right foot hit the ground. His slow plop-plop-plop rhythm seemed to mock him as the pack disappeared into the distance. Sweat rolled down his face, pain pierced his ankle, but he kept going. Six miles, two hours, and twenty-nine minutes later, Bill reached the finish line. A man approached from a small group of bystanders. Bill recognized him from pictures in the newspaper. "Here," the man said. "You've worked harder for this than I have." With those words, Bill Rodgers, the famous marathon runner, put his newly won medal around Broadhurst's neck, proclaiming him a winner.
The sight of Jesus hanging "helpless" on a cross looked like a tragic defeat. But three little words from His lips amounted to a victory shout: "It is finished!" Three days later the truth of His words would be known. The empty tomb confirmed His claim. He had finished His work by defeating death and atoning for sin.
The Christian life is not a race to see who comes in first, but an endurance run to see who finishes faithfully. Remaining faithful to the finish makes us true winners. —D. J. De Haan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
We are judged by what we finish, not by what we start.
Tour de France (Not a Race on Foot but a Race Nevertheless) - One of the most grueling of all bicycle races is the Tour De France. A contestant in that event, Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, describes it in a National Geographic article titled, “An Annual Madness.” The race covers about 2000 miles, including some of France’s most difficult, mountainous terrain. Eating and drinking is done on the run. And there are extremes of heat and cold. To train for the event, Lassalle rides his bicycle 22,000 miles a year. What kind of prize makes people endure so much hardship and pain! $10,000? $100,000? No. It’s just a special winner’s jersey. What then motivates the contestants? Lassalle sums it up: “Why, to sweep through the Arc de Triomphe on the last day. To be able to say you finished the Tour de France.”
What a tragedy to see this same motive lead to doping scandals in so many of the top tour riders (cf the Tour 2007 when the yellow jersey leader was actually removed from the race because of suspicious behavior. So beloved, don't bring about a scandal but instead finish well like Paul! Your reward is will far surpass -- in degree and in time -- the satisfaction and transient glory these top athletes receive for finishing a grueling bicycle race in Paris! No you won't sweep through the Arc de Triomphe on the last day, but you will stand at the bema or Judgment Seat of Christ and be appropriately recompensed for what you have done during your earthly race, whether it is good or "bad" [bad is phaulos which means useless or worthless and does not refer to sin which some falsely teach - see 2Cor 5:10-note) (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
As an aside - Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France seven consecutive times, more than any other man, even after surviving cancer. However, Lance Armstrong did not run in such a way as to win the prize with honesty, honor and integrity (2Ti 2:5-note) and so was stripped of all his victories. He went from god-like idol to goat. He lost the prize and was banned for life in addition to being stripped of all results from August 1998 onward, including all seven Tour de France titles! Let us not run like Lance Armstrong, who road to win at any price, but let us run in such a way so as to win the prize far greater than the Tour de France!!!
Don’t Look Back! - On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first man in history to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Within 2 months, John Landy eclipsed the record by 1.4 seconds. On August 7, 1954, the two met together for a historic race. As they moved into the last lap, Landy held the lead. It looked as if he would win, but as he neared the finish he was haunted by the question, “Where is Bannister?” As he turned to look, Bannister took the lead. Landy later told a Time magazine reporter, “If I hadn’t looked back, I would have won!” One of the most descriptive pictures of the Christian life in the Bible is of an athlete competing in a race. 1Corinthians 9:24, 25,2 6, 27 tells us that discipline is the key to winning. In Hebrews 12:1-note, He 12:2-note, we are encouraged to lay aside anything that might hinder our spiritual advancement and to stay focused on Christ. And in Php 3:12, 13, the apostle Paul said, “I press on,…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” Lord, give us endurance as we run this race of life. Help us not to wallow in past failures, but to be disciplined and to shun sinful ways. May we fix our eyes on the eternal goal set before us and keep looking unto Jesus. - H G Bosch (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
A computer study of five thousand racehorses has revealed a way to predict whether or not a young horse will develop into a good runner. According to an article in USA Today, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used computers and high-speed cameras to find out how a good horse runs. He discovered that the legs of a fast horse operate much like the spokes of a wheel. Each leg touches down only as the leg before it pushes off, resulting in peak efficiency. Later studies disclosed that a horse's manner of walking changes little after the first few months. Therefore, motion analysis when a horse is young can predict how well it will run when it matures.
In the Old Testament, Isaiah talked about running well in the course of life. He said that the people who run the best are the ones who learn to wait on the Lord. They don't waste energy trying to do things on their own. They make the Lord their strength and hope.
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul compares the Christian life to a race. He said that those who run well are characterized by efficiency of effort. For the Christian, this means running with control and self-discipline (1Co 9:24-27). The author of Hebrews said that a good runner gets rid of anything that adds extra weight (He 12:1-note).
To earn an imperishable crown we must wait on the Lord, practice self-control, and lay aside sinful burdens. These are the secrets of running well. —M. R. De Haan II (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Those who wait on the Lord
will run without the weight of sin.
Run!— In the award-winning film Chariots of Fire, one of the characters is legendary British sprinter Harold Abrahams. He is obsessed with winning, but in a preliminary 100-meter dash leading up to the 1924 Olympics, he is soundly beaten by his rival, Eric Liddell. Abrahams’ response is deep despair. When his girlfriend, Sybil, tries to encourage him, Harold angrily declares, “I run to win. If I can’t win, I won’t run!” Sybil responds wisely, “If you don’t run, you can’t win.”
Life is full of reversals, and we as Christians are not excluded from disappointments that make us want to give up. But in the race that is the Christian life, Paul challenges us to keep running. He told the Corinthians, “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” (1 Cor. 9:24). We are to run faithfully, Paul is saying, spurred on by the knowledge that we run to honor our King and to receive from Him an eternal crown.
If we falter in our running—if we quit serving God or give in to sin because of our difficulties—we risk losing a rich reward we could have received had we run our best.
Sybil was right. “If you don’t run, you can’t win.” -- Bill Crowder (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
While running with patience the race for the King,
With obstacles taking their toll,
We slow down to look up for help from our Lord;
He keeps us aware of our goal. —Branon
Greater than winning any medal
will be hearing the Master say, “Well done!”
Running The Race — Spiridon Louis isn’t well known around the world, but he is in Greece. That’s because of what happened in 1896 when the Olympic Games were revived in Athens.
During the competition that year, the Greeks did quite well—winning the most medals of any nation. But the event that became a source of true Greek pride was the first-ever marathon. Seventeen athletes competed in this race of 40 kilometers (24.8 miles), but it was won by Louis—a common laborer. For his efforts, Louis was honored by king and country, and he became a national hero.
The apostle Paul used running a race as a picture of the Christian life. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, he challenged us not just to run but to run to win, saying, “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.” Not only did Paul teach this but he lived it out. In his final epistle, he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2Ti 4:7-note). Having finished his race, Paul joyfully anticipated receiving the victory crown from the King of heaven.
Like Paul, run your earthly race to win—and to please your King. — by Bill Crowder (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
As we run in this race—
As our best effort we bring—
We are spurred on by the fact
That we must win for the King.
The Christian’s race is not a sprint—it’s a marathon.
Running Every Day — The Pikes Peak Ascent is a challenging mountain foot race, covering 13.32 miles while gaining 7,815 feet in altitude. My good friend Don Wallace ran it 20 times. In his final race, he crossed the finish line one week before his 67th birthday! Instead of training just before a race, Don ran 6 miles a day, year round, with rare exceptions, wherever he happened to be. He’s done that for most of his adult life and continues to this day.
In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul uses running as a picture of his own discipline as a Christian in the race of life. He ran with purpose and discipline to win an eternal crown, and he encouraged others to do the same: “Run in such a way that you may obtain [the prize]” (v.24).
The word temperate in verse 25 carries the meaning of self-control practiced by athletes who train to win the prize. As a consistent habit of life, regular discipline is of far greater value to any athlete than last-minute preparation.
Are we approaching “the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1-note) with a hit-or-miss spiritual regimen or with purpose and discipline born from a desire to please God?
The key to going the distance is the discipline of running every day. — David C. McCasland (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
Lift up thine eyes and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path and Christ the prize.
Running the Christian race
takes dedication and discipline.
The Finish Line — When I was in college, I ran on the cross-country team. In the final event of the season, the state’s small colleges competed against each other, with about 75 runners in the event. We ran the 5K course in the rain and mud on a cold November day.
As I neared the finish line, I spied a runner from one of the other schools just a short distance ahead of me. He became my goal. I ran as hard as I could and passed him just as I crossed the finish line. That last dash meant I finished 42nd, which seemed a lot better than 43rd! It meant our team finished one position higher in the final standings than the team represented by the runner I had beaten. The point? I didn’t give up—I ran all the way through the finish line.
This is probably what Paul had in mind as he wrote to Archippus, one of his young ministry protégés: “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it” (Col 4:17). When we feel discouraged and want to quit, it’s good to remember that the Lord who entrusted us with the privilege of spiritual service will give us the grace and strength to carry out that service. Let us “run with endurance” (He 12:1-note) so that we will receive the “imperishable crown” (1Cor. 9:25).— Bill Crowder (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
Lift up thine eyes and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path and Christ the prize. —Monsell
Running with patience is perseverance in the “long run.”
Foolish Baggage—In 1845, the ill-fated Franklin Expedition sailed from England to find a passage across the Arctic Ocean.
The crew loaded their two sailing ships with a lot of things they didn’t need: a 1,200-volume library, fine china, crystal goblets, and sterling silverware for each officer with his initials engraved on the handles. Amazingly, each ship took only a 12-day supply of coal for their auxiliary steam engines.
The ships became trapped in vast frozen plains of ice. After several months, Lord Franklin died. The men decided to trek to safety in small groups, but none of them survived.
One story is especially heartbreaking. Two officers pulled a large sled more than 65 miles across the treacherous ice. When rescuers found their bodies, they discovered that the sled was filled with table silver.
Those men contributed to their own demise by carrying what they didn’t need. But don’t we sometimes do the same? Don’t we drag baggage through life that we don’t need? Evil thoughts that hinder us. Bad habits that drag us down. Grudges that we won’t let go.
Let’s determine to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1-note). by David C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
The world has lost its transient lure—
Its evil spell I shun;
I've set my course for higher things
Till earth's brief race is run. —Bosch
Keep out of your life anything
that would crowd Christ out of your heart.
Run to Win - As a teenager, James Martinson had one dream—to someday be on the US Downhill Ski Team. But the army drafted him and sent him to Vietnam, where he suffered a severe injury from a land mine, resulting in the loss of both his legs. He became hateful toward people and toward God, abused alcohol and drugs, and even considered suicide.
Then James met several Christians who explained how Christ could change him. Initially he didn’t believe them, but finally he invited Christ into his life. He recalls, “I didn’t get my legs back, but I began to experience something new from the inside.”
Eager to share Christ, James started working with teenagers. “Come run with us!” they begged. He answered, “I can’t. I don’t have legs.” “You’ve got a wheelchair,” they replied. This was the start of his wheelchair racing, a challenge that eventually made him a big-time winner. People often ask, “Was it wheelchair marathoning that changed your life?” He answers with conviction, “No, it was Jesus Christ.”
Feeling like a loser? Turn in faith to Jesus Christ. Then accept the apostle Paul’s challenge to run for the prize of an eternal trophy (1 Corinthians 9:24). Jesus will not only transform your losses into gains, but He’ll transform you! (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
O Lord, I now admit my sin,
And I accept Your grace;
Transform my life and help me grow
Until I see Your face. —Hess
When Jesus comes into a life,
He changes everything.
A W Tozer wrote - There was a celebrated Englishman who sat with a friend once, watching and listening to a philharmonic orchestra. As they listened, the Englishman watched a man playing second violin. He was playing it well, but he was second violin. The Englishman said to his friend, “See that man there playing second violin? If I were playing second violin in that orchestra, do you know what I would do? I would never rest day or night until I was playing first violin. And then I would never give myself rest day or night until I was directing that orchestra. When I got to be director I would never rest until I had become a composer. And when I got to composing music for the orchestra I would never give myself rest until I was the best composer in England.”
The children of the world are sometimes wiser than the children of light. We have been offered not the directorship of a great orchestra, but glory and truth unsearchable. We have been offered the face of God and the glory of Christ. We have been offered holiness and righteousness and indwelling by the Spirit. We can have our prayers answered and have hell fear us because we have a hold on God who invites us to draw on His omnipotence. We are offered all this, and yet we sit and play second violin without ambition. Lord, don’t let me be satisfied with second fiddle. Strengthen me to run in such a way that I might be all that You want me to be, for Your glory. Amen. (Tozer on the Almighty God: A 366-day devotional. 2004 October 16. Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread) (Original excerpt from Rut, Rot or Revival)
Tozer - Failure to see this is the cause of a very serious breakdown in modern evangelicalism. The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar. The tragic results of this spirit are all about us: Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit. These and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul. (Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. 1998. The Tozer Topical Reader 2:209. Camp Hill, PA.: WingSpread)
"Don't you 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!" 1Corinthians 9:24
True religion is a business of the greatest importance. The soul, which is the more noble and divine part, is concerned in it; and, as we act our part here—so we shall be forever happy—or miserable. The advice of Solomon in this case is most seasonable:
Whatever your hand finds to do—do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Ec 9:10.
The business of true religion, requires our utmost zeal and intensity, Matthew 11:12.
… Sometimes a Christian's work for heaven is compared to the running of a race; so in the text,
Don't you 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. 1Cor 9:24
In which words the Apostle seems to allude either to the Olympic games, which were kept every fifth year in honor of Jupiter, or to the Isthmian games celebrated near Corinth in the honor of Neptune, in which games they put forth all their strength to win the prize. Just so, said the Apostle, run the race of Christianity which is set before you with a winged swiftness that you may obtain the prize of salvation!
The words fall into two general parts:
1. The race to be run, "so run."
2. The end of running, "that you may obtain."
The observations out of the text are these two:
1. Christianity is a race.
2. Wise Christians should labor so to run as to win the prize: "that you may obtain."
DOCTRINE: Christianity is a race. The life of a Christian is a race.
Hebrews 12:1-note, "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us."
We must be travelers,
before we are possessors.
Heaven is a place of rest.
Hebrews 4:9, "There remains a rest for the people of God."
No more wrestling there, for then we have overcome the enemy. The saints in glory are set forth with palms in their hands, Revelation 7:9, in tokens of victory. No more running there for the prize being obtained, the saints have thrones to sit and rest themselves upon, Revelation 3:21.
But this present life is a race,
and it must be run
For the illustration of the doctrine there are three things to be opened:
I. How a Christian's life is compared to a race
II. How a Christian race differs from other races.
III. Why this race must be run.
I. How a Christian's life is compared to a race. That appears in four particulars:
1. In a race, there is the way or path to run in; so in Christianity there is the pathway in which we must run.
Psalm 119:32, "I will run the way of Your commandments."
Jeremiah 6:16, "This is a good old way."
It is as good as it is old. The way of sanctification and obedience is the way the saints have gone in, and the way which God has been found in.
This way we are to run in is a pleasant way. It is sweetened with comfort.
Proverbs 3:17, "All her ways are pleasantness."
Romans 15:13, "Joy in believing."
The way of true religion is strewn with roses. Oh, the bunches of grapes which God cuts down, the flagons of wine which He gives to those who turn their feet into this way!
The way of God's commandments is a clean way—it is a way paved with holiness, Isaiah 35:6. Christians may run in this way and never wet the soles of their feet. The way of sin is defiling; such as walk in this way, the filth of hell sticks upon them. In the ways of sin, there are such deep slews, that men sink into perdition—but the way of the Christian race is clean. Such as run this race cleanse themselves from all pollution of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, 2Corinthians 7:1.
2. A race is LABORIOUS.
The running of a race is a strenuous exercise; men put forth all the strength of their bodies in running. Thus, Christianity is a laborious race. We must put forth all our strength in this race.
"My soul follows hard after God," Psalm 63:8.
Philippians 2:13-14, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize."
The word signifies, "I stretch my neck forward;" and, said the Apostle, "I press toward the goal as runners race with all swiftness, and stretch themselves forward to lay hold on the prize." It is not an idle wish or a dead prayer which will win the garland—but a Christian must put forward with all speed and vigor of affection, that he may obtain what he runs for.
3. A race is SHORT.
A race is but a short space of ground; it is soon run. Thus, our time being short, our race cannot be long; and this may encourage us in the race of religion, and keep us from being out of breath. Remember, it is but a short race.
1Pe 5:10, "After you have suffered awhile."
So I may say, after you have run awhile, you will be at the end of the race. It is but awhile, Christians, and you shall be finished wrestling, weeping, and praying, and you shall reap the fruit of all your prayers. It is but awhile, and you shall be finished suffering and be among "the spirits of just men made perfect." It is but awhile, and you shall be at the end of your race, and you shall receive, "the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:9. How should a child of God rejoice to think that he has gotten over a large part of his race and is almost at the end!
As Taylor, the martyr, once said,
"I have but two steps to go over, and then I shall be at my Father's house!"
You who have set out early for heaven and now are in your old age, comfort yourselves with this—you have but a few steps more to take—and then you are at the end of your race!
4. In a race, there is a crown or PRIZE given to the winner.
Just so in true religion, those who win the race shall wear the crown, 2 Timothy 4:8. Such as do not run through sloth, or will not run through pride—miss the reward; but such as run the heavenly race faithfully, shall have a crown, 2 Timothy 4:8. And this reward is fitly resembled to a crown because of the splendor of it. A crown hung full of jewels is bright and splendid; it gives an oriental luster. Neither can pen describe, or pencil delineate, or tongue of angel express—the glory and magnificence of this crown; nor can it be portrayed by all the beauties of heaven, though every star were a sun!
II. The second thing to be illustrated is to show how the Christian race DIFFERS from other races.
1. In other races, one only is crowned; but in the spiritual race, many win the prize.
The saints shall come to heaven from all the quarters of the world, east and west.
Matthew 8:11, "Many shall come from the east and west and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."
Revelation 7:9, "After this I saw a vast multitude, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white and held palm branches in their hands."
By this multitude too great to count, are to be understood those who belong to the election of grace. These as victors are crowned, and stand with palm branches in their hands. Should but one receive the prize, there might be room left for despair.
2. In other races, some stand still and look on; but here, in the heavenly race, ALL must run.
Those who are unfit to run other races, like the lame and blind—must run this race. None are excused from this race. All have run from God by sin—and all must run to Him by repentance! Either run—or be damned! Either flee to heaven—or fall to hell!
3. In other races, the feet run but, in the Christian race, the HEART runs.
Psalm 119:32, "I will run when You shall enlarge my heart."
In true religion—the heart is all; that which the heart does not do—is not done. It is not lifting up the eye or hand towards heaven, which forwards us in the race—it is the out-going of the heart. Many a man's tongue runs in religion—but not his heart. Do you believe with your heart? Romans 10:9. Do you love God with your heart? Matthew 22:37. This is to run the race of religion; this brings a Christian speedily to the goal. When David's heart was enlarged—then he ran.
4. In other races, only the fastest runner gets the prize; but it is not so in this heavenly race.
Though others may outrun us—yet, if we hold on to the end of the race, we shall receive the reward. Some saints are like Asahel, "as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle," 2Sa 2:18. They run swifter in the race of obedience, as Ahimaaz outran Cushi, 2Sa 18:23. But this is the comfort of weak believers: though they cannot run as fast as others—yet, if they hold on to the end of the race without fainting, they are crowned. He who worked for one hour had his pay, as well as he who worked many hours, Mt 20:9, to show that those who set out later and may be outrun by other Christians—yet persevering, they are saved.
5. In other races, men run for a temporal reward; in the Christian race we run for an eternal reward.
Others run for a corruptible crown, 1Corinthians 9:25. Sometimes the crown bestowed upon the victor was made of olive, sometimes of myrtle. The Egyptians had a crown of cinnamon enclosed in gold—but still it was corruptible. But the crown the saints run for is incorruptible; it is a never-fading crown, 1Peter 5:4. Other crowns are like a garland of flowers, which soon withers, Pr 27:4—but this crown given to the conquering Christian is imperishable. The jewels of this crown are never lost; the flowers of this crown never fade.
6. In other races, the garland is bestowed in a way of merit; but, in the Christian race, it is bestowed as a legacy of free grace.
Though we shall not obtain the prize unless we run—yet not because we run. How can we merit the reward? Before we merit heaven, we must satisfy God's justice—but we have nothing to pay. Besides, what proportion is there between the race—and the recompense? Therefore, the crown bestowed is called a gratuitous gift.
Romans 6:23, "The gift of God is eternal life."
God will so bestow His rewards in such a way, that He Himself may be no loser; though the saints have the comfort of their crown, God will have the glory.
7. In other races, many times, one hinders another; but, in the race to heaven, one Christian helps another.
1Th 5:11, "So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing."
One Christian helps by his prayer, advice, and example—to confirm another. What is the fellowship of saints, but one Christian helping forward another in the heavenly race?
8. One may lose other races and not be miserable—but he cannot lose this race in religion without being miserable.
In other races, a man only loses his wager; but if he falls short of this spiritual race—he loses his eternal soul. How seasonable, therefore, is that Apostolic caution, Hebrews 4:1,
"Let us fear, lest we should come short."
III. The third thing to be explained, is why we must run this Christian race.
There are three reasons:
1. Because God has set us on this race.
Hebrews 12:1-note, "Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us."
It is not arbitrary; it is not left to our choice whether we will run or not. God has set us on the race. God's commands carry power and sovereignty in them. If a general bids his army march—they must march. There's no disputing any duty in the Word of God. The heavens drop down their dew; the stars set themselves in battalion; the earth thrusts forth a crop; the sea is bridled in and dares not go a step farther. If inanimate creatures obey God's word of command, much more those who are endued with reason. When God says to run the race—we must run.
2. There's no other way to get to heaven but by running the race.
By nature, we are distant from the goal; and, if we would have heaven, we must run for it. A man can no more get to heaven who does not run this race—than one can get to his journey's end who never sets a step in the way.
2Peter 1:10,11, "Make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you."
3. Our time allotted to us is short.
Job compares our life to a swift runner, Job 9:25,
"My life passes more swiftly than a runner."
The poets painted time with wings. If time flies—we had need run! The night of death hastens—and there is no running a race in the night!
This shows us that the business of true religion is no idle thing; we must put forth all our strength and vigor. Religion is a race; we must run and run. It is a hard thing to be a Christian. Alas, then, what shall we say to those who stand all the day idle? If we look at many professors—and we would think they had no race to run. They put their hand "in their bosom," Pr 19:24. Is that a fit posture for him who is to run to it? If salvation would drop as "a ripe fig into the mouth of the eater," Nah3:12, men would like it well; but they are loathe to set upon running a race. Never think to be favored upon such easy terms.
The life of a Christian is not like a nobleman's life. The nobleman has his rents brought in by his steward, whether he wakes or sleeps. Do not think that salvation will be brought to you—when you are stretching yourselves on your beds of ivory.
If you would have the prize
—run the race.
The passenger in the ship, whether he sits on the deck or lies on the couch, is brought safely to shore; but there is no getting to the heavenly port without towing hard. "Zaccheus ran to see Jesus," Luke 19:4. If we would have a sight of God in glory, we must run this race. We cannot have the world without labor, and would we have heaven without labor?
If the life of Christianity is a race, this may justify the godly in the haste which they make to heaven.
Psalm 119:60, "I made haste and delayed not to keep your commandments."
Carnal spirits say,
"What need do you have to make such haste? Why are you so strict and precise? Why do you run so fast? Fair and softly—a more easy pace will serve."
Oh—but a Christian may reply,
"Religion is a race. I cannot run too fast, nor hard enough!"
If any had asked Paul why he ran so fast and pressed forward to the mark, he would have answered that he was in a race.
Here is that which may justify the saints of God in their zeal and activity for heaven: they are racers, and a race cannot be run too fast. The blind world is ready to judge all zeal as madness; but have we not cause to run with all speed—when it is a matter of life and death? If we do not run—and run hard—we shall never obtain the prize. If a man were to run for a wager of three or four million, would he not run with all celerity and swiftness?
1Sa 21:8, "The kings business requires haste!"
If any should say to us, "Why so fast? Why so much praying and weeping?" we may say as David, "The king's business requires haste! God has given me a race to run, and I must not linger or loiter!" The haste which Abigal made to the king, 1Sa 25:34, prevented her death and the massacre of Nabal's family. Our haste in the heavenly race will prevent damnation. This may plead for a Christian in his eager pursuit after holiness against all the calumnies and censures of the wicked.
This brings us to several
1. It reproves those who run a contrary race—not the race God has set them upon—but the race the devil has set them upon—the race of iniquity.
This reproves those who sacrifice their lives to Bacchus and make haste—but not to heaven. They make haste to fulfill their lusts! Proverbs 6:18. They make haste to swear, to be drunk. They are swift to shed blood, Isaiah 59:7, "their feet run to evil." The sinner, in regard of the haste he makes in sin, is compared to a swift dromedary, Jeremiah 2:23. A wicked man's swiftness in sin, is like Absaloms' riding on his mule, 2Sa 18:9, "as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom's head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going."
Sinners make haste to sin—as the bird hastens to the snare! They run as the swine possessed with the devils ran into the sea and were drowned! Mark 5:13. Oh, what haste do men make to hell—as if they feared the gates would be shut before they could get there! What need is there of this speed? Why do they run so fast to prison? The sins men commit in haste—they will repent of at leisure! Achan made haste to the wedge of gold—but now he has time enough to repent of it. Sin is an unhappy race, a damnable race! "Will it not be bitterness in the end?" 2 Samuel 2:26, when men come to the end of that race, instead of a crown "behold chains of darkness!" Jude 6.
2. It reproves those who, instead of running the race of God's commandments, spend all their time in joviality and mirth—as if their life were rather a dance than a race.
Job 21:12-13, "They sing with tambourine and harp. They make merry to the sound of the flute. They spend their days in mirth."
They are at their music—when they should be at their race!
Amos 6:4, "They sprawl on ivory beds surrounded with luxury, eating the meat of tender lambs and choice calves. You sing idle songs to the sound of the harp."
It is hard to have two heavens. Some are all for pleasure; they are like those hunting-dogs which Diodorus Siculus speaks of. While they run among the sweet flowers, they smell the flowers, lose scent of the hare—and leave off their hunt. So, while many are among the sweet flowers—the delights and pleasures of the world—they fall to smelling these flowers, and leave off their race. Therefore, they go merrily to hell. I may say, as Solomon, Proverbs 14:13, "the end of that mirth is heaviness!"
3. If true religion is a race, it reproves those who are slow-paced in religion—who creep but do not run.
Their motion is slow and dull. They should be like the sun in the sky, which is swift—when they are like the sun of the dial, which moves very slow. Many Christians move so heavily in the ways of God that it is hard for bystanders to judge whether they are making any progress or not. They are hasty in their passion—but slow of heart to believe, Luke 24:25. What haste did Israel make in their march—when Pharaoh was pursuing them! What need do Christians have to expedite their race—when the devil is behind pursuing, ready to overtake them, and make them lose the prize! We read in the law that God would not have the donkey offered in sacrifice. He hates a dull temper of soul. The snail was accounted unclean, Leviticus 11:30, and the slow-paced professor will be tardy at last, and miss the prize.
4. It reproves those who begin the race of Christianity—but do not persevere to the end of the race.
They faint by the way:
"You did run well—who hindered you, that you should not obey the truth?" Galatians 5:7.
The crown is set upon the head of perseverance. He who runs halfway and then faints, loses the garland. It is sad for a man to come near to heaven and then tire in the race—as it is to see a ship cast away in sight of the shore.
Nay, what shall we say to those who do worse than tire in the race, who run backward into the way of wickedness, like Julian, Gardner, and others. There is no going to heaven backwards. Such cast reproaches upon the ways of God. Better never begin the race—than run back.
2Peter 2:21, "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness—then after they have known it to turn from the holy commandment."
A soldier who runs from his colors, and lists himself in the enemy's regiment, if he is taken, must expect martial law.
Hebrews 10:38, "If any man draws back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him."
God will bear with infirmity—but He will punish treachery. Wrath shall smoke against the apostate; fury will display itself in its bloody colors. Indeed, in war, there is a retreating sometimes which, if it is done politically and to the enemy's disadvantage, is called an honorable retreat; but, in a race to heaven, there must be no retreats. These are not honorable retreats but damnable retreats; whoever draws back, it is to perdition, Hebrews 10.
Let all Christians be exhorted to run this heavenly and blessed race of piety. What arguments shall I use to persuade? Look upon other creatures winged with activity, and then, Christian, shame yourself. Look into the sky and see the sun as a giant running his race, Psalm 19:5, and do you stand still? Look into the air and see the birds soaring aloft and mounting towards heaven. Look into the earth and see the bees working in the hive. Look upon the angels, they are swift in obedience. Look upon other Christians near you; you shall find them in their race—reading, praying, and weeping. And have you nothing to do? Look upon your precious time; time runs, and do you stand still? Look upon the wicked, how quick are they in sin? And shall they run faster to hell—than you do to heaven! Nay, look upon yourself; how industrious are you for the world, rising early, compassing sea and land, and yet how sluggish and heartless in matters of salvation? Will you run for a feather, a bubble—and not run for a kingdom!
Consider the Prize
To quicken your pace in godliness, consider what the prize is, that we run for. It is a crown of glory! This encircles all blessedness within it; there will soon be an end of our race—but there will be no end of our crown. This blessed reward should quicken us in the race; but how shall we run the race so as to obtain? It is sad to run in vain, Philippians 2:16-note. This brings us to the next point.
I shall prescribe some DIRECTIONS about this heavenly race:
1. Take heed of those things which will hinder you in your race.
Shake off sloth; idleness is the pace of the devil. The sluggish professor will never win the race; he is sleeping when he should he running. Sloth is the rust of the soul, it is the disease of the soul. A sick man cannot run a race. Proverbs 12:27, "Lazy people don't even cook the game they catch." Oh, shake off sloth! Abandon this idle devil—if you intend to run a race!
2. Throw off all weights. There are two sorts of weights we must throw off:
a) The weight of SIN.
Hebrews 12:1-note, "Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us."
The prophet David felt this weight, Psalm 38:4,
"My iniquities are gone over mine head as an heavy burden, they are too heavy for me!"
If we do not throw off this weight of sin by sincere repentance—it will sink us into hell. A man cannot run a race with a heavy burden upon his back. An immoral person cannot run the race of holiness; a proud man cannot run the race of humility; a self-willed man cannot run the race of obedience. Oh, Christian, unburden your soul of sin! Throw off this weight—if you intend to lay hold on the crown!
b) The weight of the WORLD.
This is a golden weight which has hindered many and made them lose their race. "Demas has deserted me, because he loved this present world!" 2 Timothy 4:10. So far as the world is a weight, throw it off. I do not say lay aside the use of the world—but the love of the world, 1John 2:15. When the golden dust of the world is blown in men's eyes, it blinds them so that they cannot see their race.
3. Discard false opinions about this race.
Such as, "The race is easy."
Many a man thinks he can run the race from earth to heaven on his deathbed. Oh sinner, you who say that the race is easy—you are a stranger to the Christian race! You are dead in sin until a supernatural principle of grace is infused, Ephesians 2:1.
Is it easy for a dead man to run a race? To run the way of God's commandments is against nature, and is it easy for a man to act contrary to himself? Is it easy for the water to run upward in its own channel? Is it easy for a man to deny himself, to crucify the flesh, to behead his beloved sin? Oh, take heed of this mistake, that the Christian race is easy! Do you know what true religion must cost you—and what it may cost you?
"The race to heaven is impossible."
There is so much work to do that surely we shall never win the race. Cyprian confesses that, before his conversion, he had many thoughts tending to despair. He imagined that he would never get the mastery of some of his corruptions. The thoughts of impossibility, cut the sinews of all endeavors. God has encouraged us to run not only by promising rewards when we win—but by promising strength to enable us to run. Has He not said He will put His Spirit within us, Ezekiel 36:27, and then we can run and not be weary?
How many has Satan disheartened through despair? "Surely," says the despairing soul, "I may run—but I shall never so run as to obtain. There is no hope." "So," says the despairer, "I might as well go on in my sins; I might as well keep the old road. There's no hope; all help is cut off." This is a dangerous precipice. Despair takes a man off his legs—and then, how can he run? Despair is the great devourer of souls; he who is under the power of this sin—disputes himself into hell!
4. Take heed that company does not hinder you from running the race.
If a man should be running a race, and he should have a friend come and take him by the hand and desire to speak with him while he is running—this might make him lose the race. So stands the case here. Many will be ready to meet with us, and stop us in our race to heaven. "Why do you need to set out so soon? Why do you need to run so fast? Stay and bathe yourselves a while in the luscious delights of the world!" Thus have many been stopped in the middle of their race—and lost the prize! To him who would hinder us in our race, we must say with a holy indignation, as Christ, "Get behind Me, Satan!" Matthew 4:10.
Lastly, you must use all MEANS to help you in the heavenly race.
Run the right race. The Apostle calls it "the race which is set before us," Hebrews 12:1-note, that is, the race chalked out in the Word of God, the race of self-denial and sanctity. It is not any race—but the race set before us—which we must run; which confutes the opinion that a man must be saved in any religion.
Fit yourselves for the heavenly race!
1. Diet yourselves.
The racers in ancient times dieted themselves; they would not eat any fatty meat, nor yet a full meal, that they might be the more prepared for the race. Thus must Christians diet themselves by sobriety and mortification, that they may, by a well ordering of themselves, be more fit to run the race which is set before them. Paul beat down his body, 1 Corinthians 9:27, that he might be more fit for his race.
2. Strip yourselves for the race.
The runner in a race used to strip himself of all unnecessary clothing, and wear only a white garment, that he might be light and nimble. Just so, should Christians strip themselves of all conceits of merit—and only wear the white garment of Christ's righteousness!
3. Begin the race early.
Ecclesiastes 12:1, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth." Young ones think they may set upon the race too soon. Can a man be godly too soon? Can he run the race of repentance too soon? But suppose he might—it is still better to repent a year too soon—than an hour too late! Esau's tears as well as his venison—came too late, Genesis 27:33-34. David would seek after God early, Psalm 36:1. Augustine, in his confessions, complained that he knew God no sooner. They will hardly be able to run the heavenly race—who have old age and old sins upon them!
4. Run the pathway, not the roadway.
Hell's road is full of travelers; most go wrong. Exodus 23:2, "You shall not follow a multitude to do evil." The multitude does not consider what is best—but what is fastest. Our Savior has told us, "Narrow is the way which leads unto life," Matthew 7:14. Run in the narrow way of self-denial and mortification!
5. Resolve to hold on in the race, notwithstanding dangers and difficulties.
A godly man must be steeled with courage, and fired with zeal. It is probable there will be thorns and stones in the way of our race—therefore, we need to be well-shod. We must be shod with the gospel of peace, Ephesians 6:15. He whose heart is filled with that peace which the Gospel brings, will be able to run over the hardest piece of religion, with ease.
We must he shod with endurance. Hebrews 12:1-note, "Let us run with endurance, the race set before us." Endurance bears up the heart of a Christian and keeps him from tiring in the race. If this shoe of endurance is off, we shall soon halt and give up running.
6. Always keep you eye upon the right mark.
The Grecians had a white line drawn at the end of the race—and the racer's eye was always upon it. Looking upon the prize quickens Christians in their race! Paul looked towards the mark, Philippians 3:14-note, as archers look at the bulls-eye, and racers at the prize. And Moses, Hebrews 11:26, "looked ahead to the great reward that God would give him!" He looked with one eye at God's glory—and with the other eye, at the prize!
7. Oh, run with delight!
Psalm 119:47, "I will delight myself in Your commandments."
Oil supples the joints and makes them agile and nimble. The oil of gladness makes Christians lively and fit to run the heavenly race!
"The joy of the Lord is your strength," Nehemiah 8:10.
8. Run in the strength of Christ.
Do not think you can, of yourselves, run the race. The Arminians talk of freewill, "but it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs," Romans 9:16-note. By nature we are blind, and lame; therefore, unfit to run a race. We run fastest when Christ takes us by the hand!
9. Be often in the exercise of grace.
It is not enough to have grace in the heart—but it must be in the exercise. Such as run the heavenly race, must not only be living—but lively. They must have a flourishing faith and a flaming love! What is the meaning of the loins girt and the lamps burning, Luke 12:23—but grace in its activity? Without this, there can be no speed in the heavenly race!
If you would run hard—pray hard. Prayer helps us on in the race. Pray over that prayer, Song of Solomon 1:4, "Draw me—and I will run after You."
Pray that you may not mistake your way through error—nor stumble in it through offenses. In a word, let us pray for the Holy Spirit, who animates us in the race, and carries us above our own strength. God's Spirit breathed in us—keeps us in full breath for running the race!