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. I Corinthians 9:24 (NKJV)
Our city is justly proud of our wonderful, world-class basketball team. During annual playoffs businesses display massive banners with the team logo, cars fly team flags, and people wear T shirts bearing the likeness of the players. One of my colleagues has a player’s form on a bobble head in her office, and another jokingly created a candle to be burned during games.
And so it was that after they’d won their first series of playoffs this past week and began the second round, I was totally confident they’d again be champions. I watched the first half of the second series game and went to bed confident in their 25-point lead. In the morning I was totally shocked to see that they’d lost the game by one 2-point basket. Just 2 measly points.
Paul often used sports metaphors in his preaching. He talked about fighting a good fight; finishing the race (II Timothy 4:7); not running in vain (Phil. 2:16, Gal. 2:2); running well (Gal. 5:7); and competing to receive a crown (I Cor. 9:25). He saw the importance of not only beginning a contest and continuing it, but the necessity of finishing the race well.
All of us are engaged in a fierce competition to win a prize that is eternal and in which we must not fail. We may falter, we may be benched for a while, we may even be injured, but we must persevere. And all the while, Christ Jesus is running in and with us encouraging us to keep going. It’s not enough to be ahead midway through the battle; we must persevere to the very end where he will greet us with a well done, good and faithful servant.
Hebrews 12:1, 2 says it best: …let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Heavenly Father, you’ve called us to live a life we cannot live and to run a race we cannot run. But in you, we can do everything you ask of us, and we always triumph through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We press on, looking to that blessed hope in you. AMEN.