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Running the Christian Race - Vol. VI Issue 2

Posted by Mike Mccauley
Mike Mccauley
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on Monday, 12 May 2014
in Pastors' Corner

Running the Christian Race Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Sermon Summary

Derek Redmond, a British 400-meter Olympian, is remembered for his incredible story in the in 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. He would snap his hamstring in his race. Falling to the ground in agonizing pain, he would summon the will to rise and limp in his lane to finish the race. As he is painfully hobbling around the track his father emerges from the stands to assist his son in finishing his race. Likewise, as we run the Christian race, we will encounter setbacks and falls. However, our heavenly Father who sees will come to our aid to help us complete our Christian race and cross the finish line. Growing up as a child in the church I would often hear the saints say, "For the race is not given to swift nor to the strong, but to the one who holds out and endures to the end." I spent many hours searching the Bible to find that Scripture only to discover that it was a fusion of two passages put together (Ecclesiastes 9:11, Matthew 10:22). Though innocently contrived by the saints, its colloquial expression is true in principle. The Apostle Paul in today's lesson will use an ancient track and field event to communicate a biblical truth from 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul encouraged his hearers to run a focused Christian race. Specifically, he wanted believers to run the Christian race with a mindset to win. This noble goal raises an important question. How do believers run the Christian race to win? I want to make four observations from the referenced text concerning this question. Paul addresses this issue through observing the "Biennial Isthmian Games" (the Pan-Hellenic games of ancient Greece), which was named after the Isthmus of Corinth. He discusses the following activities:
1. The preparation for participating in the Christian race, v.25. To compete at the highest level in any athletic sport one must be self-disciplined and willing to engage in rigorist training. The same is true of Christians. There are spiritual disciplines that the believer engages in to build his or her spiritual muscles, they are: prayer, Bible study, fasting, and worship to cite a few. These basic spiritual activities help to develop the believer's sensitivity to spiritual phenomenon; or some might call it honing spiritual discernment capabilities. They strengthen and enhance one's spiritual growth and development towards maturity in the faith (Hebrews 5:11-14). In Rocky IV, which was a Hollywood blockbuster, Rocky Balboa squares off against Ivan Drago who has just killed his friend Apollo Creed, an ex-heavy weight champion himself in an exhibition fight. Rocky and Drago undergo rigorous training as they prepared to fight each other in Russia. Drago trains with all the latest scientific equipment and Rocky trains' lo-tech―he is chopping wood, jumping rope and running up a very tall mountain to reach its peak. After their stringent training is over, both men stepped into the ring as lean and mean fighting machines and the fight was on. Rocky would win the slugfest in the 15 round by knocking out Drago. However, my fascination was the movies contrast of both men in their preparation for the fight! The symbolism here is that their hard work allowed them to go the distance even though there was one winner. Likewise, God and life will reward you
2. The painstaking discipline of the believer in the Christian race, v. 27. In verse 27, the word 'discipline' is from a term in the Greek that carries the literal meaning of "to hit under the eye." Paul is suggesting that in his race in which he was determined to win, that he was willing to knockout the sinful bodily impulses that sought to prevent him from his mission of winning souls to Christ. To illustrate, I played high school varsity football and just before we would return to school from summer break, the varsity football team would prepare for the "Back-to-School Jamboree" game. However, before we could play the Jamboree against our opponent, we would have to endure the August heat in two-a-days (twice a day practice). We had to condition and discipline our bodies in the summer heat for three weeks for 12 minutes of glory (or play). In the world of sports it is often said, "No pain, no gain!" To achieve major goals (gains) in life demands discipline. What type of self-discipline are you willing to impose upon yourself to achieve both spiritual and noble secular goals? Are you willing to buffet (or knockout) those negative mental and bodily impulses (slothfulness, excuses, fears, etc.) that attempt to prevent you from achieving your dreams? I encourage us all to embrace the "pain" (hard work) to achieve the "gain!"
3. The performance of the believer in the Christian race, v.26. The Apostle Paul ran the Christian race with a specific goal in mind, which was saving souls (1 Corinthians 9: 19, 22). This apostle was not interested in shadow boxing—swinging at air (v.26b). Instead, his blows were self-directed. He wanted to make sure that his flesh would not detour him from fulfilling his passion; therefore, he subjected himself to willful self-discipline. He chose to live a life that was on target. Just like the Apostle Paul, we must choose to live a life that is on target too. Our goal is to run a dynamic Christian race and our target must also be the winning of souls to the kingdom of God with an end result of discipleship (Matthew 28:16-20). One of the priorities in my Christian walk is to finish well! I constantly request that the saints pray that prayer for me, why? Because the race is fraught with hindrances and obstacles that attempt to disqualify or sideline us. Nevertheless, we must not throw in the towel, but ". . . run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. . . ." (Hebrews 12:1c-2b, NASB). Saints, keep your eyes on the prize!
4. The prize for winning the Christian race, v. 24-25. In ancient Greece, the Greek runners would compete for a laurel reef as a reward for their athletic victories. Today, our Olympians compete for medals: the Gold, Silver and Bronze. They work hard to stand upon the platform to hear their nation's national anthem played if they win the gold. Likewise, the Christian that works will receive rewards for their faithful service and ministry (Matthew 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; Revelation 22:12). It should be noted that we are not working to get into heaven, but because heaven has gotten into us. Moreover, the Bible mentions four crowns that will be rewarded to the saints—crowns are symbols of rewards, distinctions earned. These crowns are:
  • The crown of joy or rejoicing, the reward of ministry (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19)
  • The crown of righteousness, the reward of faithfulness in testimony (2 Timothy 4:8)
  • The crown of life, the reward of faithfulness under trial (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10), and finally
  • The crown of glory, the reward faithfulness under suffering (1 Peter 5:4; Hebrews 2:9)
Conclusion. Live a life that is on target and run your Christian race to win!
Pastor Henderson's Corner
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