The Expository Files

Run in Such a Way That You May Win

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore, I run in such a way, not as without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified." (I Corinthians 9:24-27).

Paul uses two illustrations to describe the Christian and Christianity: the runner and the fighter. he purpose of these common illustrations is to help us better understand our roles as children of God. We need to walk worthy of vocation (Ephesians 4:1) and to be faithful as soldiers of the cross as we "fight the good fight of fight of faith'' (2 Timothy 2:3; 1 Timothy 6:12).

We are familiar with the figures of a runner and boxer, so we can clearly understand the lesson involved. .Many will fail to reach the goal of heaven --- all run but one receives prize; your opponent is Satan. Only one of you will win your race. Some box vainly; beating up on the air; a boxer who swings and misses may beat the air to a pulp! But loses the fight.

We Will Fail Without A Clear Goal
The Christian has a definite goal (v.25). What is it?

Peter describes our goal as "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven.." (1 Peter 1:4). Paul was able to talk about having done what it takes to reach this goal (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Even the great men and women of faith from the Old Testament era remembered this goal (Hebrews 11:7-16).

But, it is easy to become sidetracked by other concerns and lose sight of this goal. We can become castaways. We can become fatally overconfident. "`Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.'' (1 Corinthians 10:12). We recall how Demas, a once faithful worker, lost sight of the goal (Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:10). We can also have the wrong goal. We are told to seek the kingdom/righteousness of God first (Matthew 6:33). We are warned not to trust in riches (1 Timothy 6:17-19). We are warned not to love the world nor things of the world (1 John 2:15-17). And we must not let the praises of men become too important to us (John 12:42-43; Luke 6:26; Galatians 1:10).

We Will Fail If We Do Not Observe The Rules
First, one must compete in the proper area. The boxer must stay in the ring and the runner must stay in the proper track. To break the rules is to forfeit the contest.

We must stay within the limits that God has set for us. Simply put, we must obey God (Matthew 7:21). It is the words of Christ that will judge us on the last day (John 12:48).

Now, I know that the "in" thing to do today is to suggest that everyone has the right to make up their own rules as far as religion goes. But it is not so. Without abiding in the doctrine of Christ, one does not have God (2 John 9). Are you willing to submit to God's rules for life? For your manner of speech? Conduct? Dress?

We Will Fail Without Proper Training
In our text, Paul said that the athlete must exercise "self-control" which means to exercise self-restraint. In order to accomplish this, one must be willing to accept the proper training.

The same thing is true spiritually. We are to make our lives as "living sacrifices" (Romans 12:1,2). We need to keep ourselves mentally prepared as well. We "renew" our minds in Bible study and meditation (2 Timothy 2:15). We also need to build upon what we have accomplished thus far, exercising our senses (Hebrews 5:12-14).

We Will Fail If We Do Not Value the Prize
Perhaps the value of the prize can best be seen in the words of Jesus. If we gain the whole world and lose our souls, then we will have settled for mush less than what we could have had. (Matthew 16:26). Paul talks of the perishable wreath athletes of the first century contended for. It would not last. But our goal is imperishable. It is eternal and we shall be perfectly harmonious with our God and our new home. It will never get better than that.

By having a definite goal, staying in the designated area, being properly trained, and having a worthy goal, I can one day possess the incorruptible crown. We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare? The hare started quickly but soon stopped before the end of the race. The tortoise continued on steadfastly and he won the prize.

While this is only a story it teaches the truth which is set forth in the Bible. All of the hare's efforts were vain. At the race's end, it had been as if he had only been beating the air. Don't live your life that way.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 6.10; October 1999