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Running the Race

One of my heroes was Tom Landry from Mission, Texas. In WWII he flew thirty missions as a B-17 pilot. He later coached the Dallas Cowboys for twenty-nine seasons. Tom was a God fearing man, who would arrive at Texas Stadium just before a Sunday game… always after teaching a bible class at his church. I was blessed to meet him at a business banquet in 1994. He was quiet, unassuming, and tried not to be noticed… not possible! At the podium these were the first words he spoke from memory… from his heart:

"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. 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. 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 9:24-27

The apostle Paul used imagery of an athlete in his letter to Corinthians. It had strong meaning to them, drawing a comparison between the life of a Christian and of an athlete. Corinth was the site of the Isthmian games, similar to the Olympics. The main event was the endurance race… the same Paul used to illustrate his message regarding the pursuit of heaven. So what was the Apostle saying to the Corinthians in that passage shared by Coach Landry?

  1. Living life as a Christian is a battle! We’re in a fight!!! For our eternal life!!!
    • Paul said: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” 1 Tim 6:12
    • “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Pet 5:8
  2. The race for our crown is not a sprint, rather an endurance race! Do you get discouraged? Do you let it affect your Christian walk? We must face life’s sorrows with calm endurance, grasping the strength which God gives! My hero Tom Landry said:  “A winner never stops trying.”
  3. What do we need to win the fight – to be victorious in the race? Discipline!
    • We have to discipline our hearts and minds. As the apostle Paul said in our text: “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
    • What is your temptation / weakness? Lazy? …. That’s one of mine. When was the last time you performed a good deed in service of the Lord?  “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Ephesians 2:10
    • “So those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.” Titus 3:8
  4. We need to know our goal – “eyes on the prize”!!!
    • Paul’s words again: “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.”
    • When Jesus departed from his disciples, he told them, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto my self; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:1-3
    • So what’s the prize??? “that where I am, there ye may be also!”
    • That’s the prize!

Our contest is not by the world’s rules…rather God’s Rules!!! We should not be surprised that God’s wisdom does not fit man’s rules.

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.” Eccl 9:11

Here’s the point: If our salvation was a result of our keeping the law, then we would be lost… losers in a competition that we could not win. Our righteousness is through faith in Christ and not in our law keeping. It is God’s righteousness that comes through Christ and not our own… Amen???

We must stay within the limits that God has set for us… simply put, we must obey God… for it is the word of Christ that will judge us on the last day (John 12:48).

We are saved by God’s grace and mercy, but the gift of His grace brings responsibilities. “ For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” Titus 2:11