“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. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. I Corinthians 9:24-25
It is an incomparable feeling to crest the very top of a 14,000+ foot peak; one you had labored to conquer for many hours, even a long, hard day or more. It is a terrific feeling to peddle the last mile of a 560 mile bike ride. You are thrilled when your chest breaks the ribbon at the finish line of a foot race indicating you won. The roar of the crowd is a sweet sound in the boxer’s ears as the referee raises his arm in victory in the center of the ring. All of these are almost a better reward than the medal, ribbon, or trophy which winners receive. The Apostle Paul loved this comparison of an athlete in rigorous, disciplined exercise to eventually compete and win in the contest for which his training was begun, with the race of the Christian’s life. The similarities are always worth your serious thoughts as you consider the prize of your physical goal against the prize of your life’s endeavor; and the comparison of the rigor and discipline you place in each one.
St. Paul contrasts these passing feelings and the destructible awards, as grand at the moment as they may seem to you, with the honor of a life time of rigor toward an indestructible result and a glory which is unsurpassed. Listen to Paul’s words: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus, Philippians 3:12-14. You have to work to keep this contrast in the front of your mind with the glory of what is truly ahead, far surpassing your estimated value of the award and accomplishment of this momentary physical contest or event. It is certainly difficult to do; for the tangible of the moment is always so much more prominent in your eyes and mind, than the intangible of God’s promise. But this is exactly what Paul is calling you to tackle with your faith and action.
You have to rigorously exercise your faith to achieve something so much more important than the world’s comparable achievement; and it is astounding just how far these two are apart in value; from tiny and trivial to unbelievably great. The reward and feeling of the moment for the physical achievement is like a breath of air that is there briefly and quickly lost to the wind. The weight of glory is so infinitely greater! But seriously we are too willing to trade trinkets for infinite riches which permanently last. Only a rigorous faith can make this leap; for each of us is too tied to this world’s and this moment’s trinkets and fleeting honors that we cannot see the far greater joy beyond.
It is worth your thinking to ask yourself if you put as much effort into pursuing your spiritual life habits and disciplines as you do into preparing for a race or a prodigious physical achievement. This is Paul’s exact point! He doesn’t want you to be disqualified for the ultimate prize by not rigorously attacking the race of your life. Compare your energy, work, time, and sweat and pain preparing for a quickly passing moment of some physical and mental challenge like a 600 mile bike ride with the same put into a lifetime race that equates with who you are now, what you will be, and where you are really going, so that you are assured of hearing from your great Judge yet in your future, “Well done! Enter into the glory prepared for you!
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