“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” (1 Corinthians 9:24–25, KJV)
It has been a few years now that I decided to run a half marathon. It was 13.1 miles long. The race was at the end of March and I began training in the beginning of January. Of course, I had been running 5 and 10-kilometer races, but this was my first race of this length. The training program was quite intense. Five days a week I would run and do physical training. I gradually built up from 5-kilometers, 3.1-miles, to 12-miles. Sometimes, with stretching and warm-ups it would take half a day to complete the 12-mile run. It was strenuous and it took discipline. Frankly, there were days when I just did not want to run.
Then came the day of the race. It was a cold morning in New Hampshire. We had a north wind and it was 29 degrees at the start. I dressed in somewhat light attire. I shivered at the start. When the starting gun sounded, I took off. I had a half-quart of water and a few snacks for energy on the way. I set out with the goal to finish. At the 12-mile mark, I hit the wall. I started to get cramps in my feet and lose strength in my legs. I slowed for a bit, but the cramps did not subside. So, I decided the only thing to do was to run through the pain.
Well, I finished the race. When I got back to the hotel where they had set up recovery food for us, I discovered that I placed third in my age group.
Here is the point, Paul explained that as Christians we have a prize set out before us. He used the metaphor of a race. In every race there is a prize. Believers are to run this Christian race with the energy and discipline like a runner would in an earthly track and field event. As the track star trains with great discipline and then runs as to win the prize, so must believers do the same in our Christian pursuit of the goal. It takes training and discipline. This is in understanding the purposes and ways of God as revealed in His word and then putting these things in practice with a purpose of accomplishing His mission, bringing Him glory.
Paul went on to explain something about this prize that we are pursuing as Christians. When I ran my half-marathon, I received a third-place award. Yes, I was proud of this accomplishment. It was a talking point for at lease a month. However, soon the glory faded into a vague memory that only one or two people even remember. Moreover, I know that some day I will leave this earth and that award will perish with many of the things I have collected in this life. Yet, Paul’s point is that while the earthly prizes we may pursue in this life are perishable the price of the Christian race is imperishable. Our reward is eternal and will remain forever. In light of this, why would we pour so much energy into something earthly that will perish, when we can pour our lives into that which will never perish.
Jesus stated it, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19–21, KJV)