The other day my daughter and I were on our way to a youth ski race. Kids on different ski teams compete against each other by going down the slalom course. The top 3 kids who achieve the fastest time in their age group win a medal. Usually my daughter is excited to go to ski team to have the opportunity to ski for a few hours. But this day she was having a little trouble. She groaned and complained how she didn’t want to go. She didn’t want to compete, she just wanted to ski.
I tried to sugar coat the situation and encourage her, she was going to have fun. She had already won three medals in the three races she competed in. In my attempt to encourage her I said, “Don’t you want to win another medal?” Her response was very convicting. She said, “I’ve already won enough medals, I don’t need another one.” She was right.
Honestly, I didn’t care if she won or not. I just wanted her to to have fun and do the best she could. It was more about changing the attitude of her heart and working through it. Then I was convicted by her words.
How many times have I been trapped in the lie of achieving more? And when was it ever enough?
I am reminded of when Paul was speaking to the Corinthians of the imperishable crown.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets a prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
Paul was using the analogy of running a race to represent how are we living our physical and spiritual lives? In the worldly races we run, there will only be prizes given to the top winners. Even though everyone participates in the race, not everyone wins a prize. Only those who perform and achieve the best times win. Paul was teaching the Corinthians, what is the point in running a race to obtain a prize in which we only receive ourselves? If we are going to go through the training and effort in running the race, we should not do it just for ourselves. We should run to obtain the crown that lasts forever in which everyone receives who runs the race.
Paul’s words asks a deeper question. ‘What race are we running anyway?’ ‘Are we training to win another medal or training for heaven?’
Even though my daughter had performed very well in her previous three races, unfortunately this day she was disqualified. She assumed because she did so well previously she would do the same in this race as well. At the end of the race she had missed a ski gate. In the ski race, if a racer misses the ski gate they are disqualified—their time doesn’t count and are ineligible to receive a prize.
“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:26-27
Paul was warning the Corinthians don’t become lackadaisical when running the race, be purposeful and intentional. When we run aimlessly, we become careless and lack discipline to complete the race to the end.
Oh how we can become disqualified from the race when we allow sin to reign and rule in our lives. We can become overly confident that we have already received and obtained the prize of heaven and become lax in our walk as Christians. God showed me an important reminder that day. He made me question what race am I really running, and what am I running it for?
Am I running to win a crown that will perish or the imperishable crown of life that is everlasting?
Don’t become disqualified from the race, keep your eyes on the prize. The race we run as Christians has already been won. When we participate in the race, we partake in the victory of Jesus—receiving a crown that never perishes. There is no greater prize a runner could receive than the reward of heaven. Heaven is the ultimate prize. That day with my daughter was a reminder to stay focused on the reward of heaven, so we can endure and persevere to the end.
Paul leaves us with words of encouragement. He knows the race we run as Christians will be hard. He knows it will take discipline and training. In all of our efforts, Paul reminds us we are all in training for heaven. When we run the race for the Lord, we will never be disqualified from receiving the greatest reward ever in heaven.
Keep running the race, keep fighting the good fight, You are victorious in Jesus Christ!