Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Working for the Prize

“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.” (I Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV)

Imagine if a track coach says to a recruit, “All you have to do is show up at the meet and run.  If you do that, I guarantee you will be a winner.” We would think it ludicrous because we know running, or any competitive sport, requires hours and hours of practice and conditioning.  Yet, we often don’t blink an eye at pastors and churches that proclaim following after Jesus is merely a matter of praying a prayer for salvation and showing up on Sundays.  If you do that, you get the prize.

Paul compares following Jesus to that of the training of an elite athlete. From what we know of athletes at the collegiate, Olympic, and professional levels, their training is integrated into their lives.  Hours are spent each day working on strengthening, technique, and conditioning. The only successful athletes are those who are committed to the grind of training.

Now, is our salvation dependent on how hard we work?  No. It is solely dependent on the grace of God, as Paul makes clear to the Ephesians (Ephesians 2:8-9), but to grow in that grace, to experience the riches of what Paul calls “our glorious inheritance (Ephesians 1:18), requires more than a one-time prayer and a one-hour commitment on Sundays. It requires the discipline of an athlete in training, who shows up ready to work.  It is not easy, and there will be times you question whether it is worth the time and effort, but in the end the reward will far outweigh all the work.  

This work involves regular study of the Scriptures, prayer, serving, and other disciplines that will lead us into becoming spiritual winners, ones who take home the prize of knowing fully the riches of Christ.  

Today, as Paul did, live the life of following Jesus as one who desires to win the prize.  It won’t happen without effort and discipline, but it will be totally worth it in the end.

© Jim Musser 2018

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