Sunday, June 2, 2024

Running the Race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

"And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things" (1 Cor. 9:25).

“This is an exhortation to self-denial and exertion, clothed in figurative language,” Hodge wrote. “As the exhortation is addressed principally to the Gentile converts, the imagery used is derived from the public games with which they were so familiar. These games, the Olympian and Isthmian, the latter celebrated every third summer in the neighborhood of Corinth, were the occasions for the concourse of the people from all parts of Greece. The contests in them excited the greatest emulation in all classes of the inhabitants. Even the Roman emperors did not refuse to enter the lists. To be a victor was to be immortalized with such immortality as the breath of man can give. To Greeks, therefore, no allusions could be more intelligible, or more effective, than those to these institutions.… The greatest self-denial in preparation, and the greatest effort in the contest, were necessary to success. In the Christian race there are many victors; but the point of the exhortation is, that all should run as the one victor ran in the Grecian games.”

Paul’s exhortations in the preceding passages—to give up ones own liberties for the sake of others, to think of our Christian brothers and sisters first, to be willing to be all things to all men for the sake of the Gospel—can be hard to swallow. No one can deny the difficulty of putting others first. No one can deny the oftentimes intimidating difficulties of the Christian life. It is like a race. It is a struggle from beginning to end, but the prize that waits for you at the finish line is worth it. Sometimes the struggle gets so overwhelming, sometimes your sin hangs about you like a weight, and sometimes you feel like giving up; but if you keep your eyes focused on Christ, on the prize of glory and eternal life, you will be strengthened to endure. As Paul says, the race is not futile, it is not like one beating the air, but it has purpose. Therefore, like Paul, keep your flesh, your sinful nature, under subjection so that you might attain the prize. This is not works, but is the outworking of your salvation, the sanctification process without which no man is saved. As in all things, rely on the grace and strength of Christ, look to Him, keep your eyes focused on Him, and you will not falter in the race.

What sins most easily entangle you? What sins are causing you to falter as you run for the prize of eternal life? Be specific. Confess these sins to the Lord. Be thorough and specific, confessing the full depth of the sin in your life. Ask for strength and grace to overcome those sins. Read and meditate this weekend on Hebrews 12:1–17.