Running the Race

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

  • What is right and what is wrong?
    • Right – those things that bring glory to God
    • Wrong – those things that go against the very nature of God’s holiness
    • Gray area?
    • Acquired sin factor – those things taught, believed, culturally identified with wrong, but in and of itself was not wrong.

2 Timothy 2:15 – Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

1 Corinthians 9:19-22 – For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;  and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;  to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;  to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

These verses speak of freedom but are followed by verses 24-27 which emphasize a life of strict discipline.  The Christ walk involves both freedom and discipline.  The goals of Paul’s life and our life are to bring glory and honor to God and bring people to Christ.

So then…glorify God, honor God, and bring someone to the knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

You might ask yourself, “Can I do this?  Can I participate in this?  Can I go there?  Can I say this?  The Bible states that we are to “abstain from the very appearance of evil.”

Paul compares the Christian life to a race.  Someone who is getting ready to run a marathon will be very careful of their diet, will exercise and get needed rest before the race.  They will not sit up watching movies until the wee hours of the morning and indulge in a huge meal the night before the race.  There is nothing wrong with sitting up late watching movie or indulging in a huge meal in and of itself.  But if they want to win, they discipline their body.

So it is with our Christian walk.  They are things that in and of them self are not wrong, but we must ask our self  will they sidetrack us or someone else?  Will they cause us to be entangled in the cares of this world?

if they hinder us from spending time in God’s Word, in being in fellowship with other Christians, in showing to our community, we need to reject them.

Freedom and discipline are both important.  We can have varied opinions on a lot of things but we must discipline ourselves and also care about how our freedom will affect others.

! Corinthians 10:1-6 – Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life. They all ate and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God’s fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ. But just experiencing God’s wonder and grace didn’t seem to mean much—most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.

The same thing could happen to us. We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did. And we must not turn our religion into a circus as they did—“First the people partied, then they threw a dance.” We must not be sexually promiscuous—they paid for that, remember, with 23,000 deaths in one day! We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes. We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them.  (The Message Bible)

Free is fine, but do not use your freedom to stray, to walk in those areas that could lead you into wrong doing. 

Take care that your freedom does not cause you to rebel.

One Thing I Know

2 Timothy 4:7-8

I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

There are several helpful truths we learn from Paul in this portion of scripture.

  • Finishers focus on the finish line.  Paul never lost sight of the finish line.  He knew that, beyond this short life there is a great life of joy that stretches forever into eternity, and that those who are faithful here will enter that life and get a crown of righteousness.  We have a tendency to forget that the real finish line is not in this life.  That’s the clear truth from the Bible.  The real finish line is after this life is over.  Unless you want to stagger through the gloom of a senseless existence, hold on the promise of the hereafter.  Without that hope, nothing else makes sense.
  • Finishers stay in proper spiritual shape to stay the course.  Do not waste your time arguing over foolish ideas and silly myths and legends.  Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit.
    • Are you in proper spiritual shape to stay the course?
    • Are you giving God enough time?  We live in a hurry, hurry life and sometimes God even has trouble getting through to us.  We have instant messaging on our computers, cell phones that we take with us everywhere, even to church.  We have microwaves, two jobs and instant entertainment in our homes.  Somewhere in today’s fast-paced society we must learn to slow down and listen to God and wait on Him.
  • Finishers maintain their passion.  Do you have a passion for serving the Lord Jesus Christ?  Paul had a purpose, a plan, and he maintained his passion.  He had no intention of disappointing the One who had done so much for him.  He knew he was running the race, not just to win a prize, but to bring glory to Christ.  Doing God’s will was his passion!  Is it yours?

Do you know what God’s will is for your life?  The old hymn says:

                                    I know not why God’s wondrous grace

                                    to me he hath made known,

                                    Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love

                                    redeemed me for His own.

                                    But I know whom I have believed

                                    and am persuaded that He is able,

                                    To keep that which I’ve committed

                                    unto Him against that day.

Are you persuaded?  Are you convinced you are in the race to stay?  Are you convinced you are on the right track?  Are you striving toward that goal?  Is that the ONE THING  that is first and foremost in your mind?  Is that the ONE THING that takes priority over all else.  Hang on to it and do not let it go.  Your eternal life depends on it.

  • That ONE THING could be called passion or commitment.
  • That ONE THING could be called drive or commitment.
  • That ONE THING could be called hanging on or commitment.
  • That ONE THING could be called determination or commitment.
  • That ONE THING could be called righteous stubbornness or commitment.
  • That ONE THING could be called hardheadedness or commitment.
  • Whatever that ONE THING is, hide it in your heart and do not let go.  It will get you to the finish line and help you reach the goal.

You probably need to know that finishers do not have an easier race than others.  It is easy for all of us to justify our quitting attitudes with statements like, “If only I had it as easy as so and so, I’d be successful too”  But if you read about the lives of successful people, you will find they did not have it any easier than the rest of us.

Take John Wesley, for instance, one of the greatest preachers of the last millennium.  Here is a single page from his journal:

  • Sunday AM – May 5 – Preached in St Ann’s; was asked not to come back anymore.
  • Sunday PM – May 5 – Preached in St John’s; deacons said, “Get out and stay out.”
  • Sunday AM – May 12 – Preached at St Jude’s; can’t go back there again either.
  • Sunday PM – May 12 – Preached at St George’s; kicked out again.
  • Sunday AM – May 19 – Preached at St Somebody Else’s; deacons called a special meeting and said I couldn’t return.
  • Sunday PM – May 19 – Preached on the street; kicked off the street.
  • Sunday AM – May 26 – Preached out in a meadow; chased out of meadow when a bull was turned loose during the service.
  • Sunday AM – June 2 – Preached out at the edge of town; kicked off the highway.
  • Sunday PM – June 2 – Afternoon service, preached in a pasture; 10,000 people came.

You see, finishers are not folks who do not run into difficulty.  Finishers are folks who run over difficulty.

  • What ONE THING do you think it was that kept John Wesley going on in spite of difficulty?  Whatever it was, it worked.
  • What ONE THING motivates you to come to church?
  • What ONE THING would it take to get you more involved in serving Christ?
  • What ONE THING would the Lord have to do in your life to get your attention and cause you to do more for Him?
  • What ONE THING makes you want to keep going when trouble or opposition arises?
  • What ONE THING makes you keep pressing on when others are ready to quit?

Look at the ONE THING in the following:

Mark 10:21 – Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

Luke 10:41-42 – And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Philippians 3:13-14 – Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 27:1-5 – The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell.  Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.  One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek:  That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.  For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.