This is a pretty famous passage in scripture. And it compares our life to a marathon. We are all running the race God has put us in. The prize we’re running for? The crown we receive from Christ for accomplishing the task he has given us, namely the task of spreading his kingdom.
What is that crown? I don’t know, but it seems from Jesus’ teaching that we receive his praise and and are invited to share in his happiness for all eternity. More, we receive even greater responsibilities in the eternal kingdom because of our faithfulness to him in this world. (Matthew 25:21, 23)
The question is, “What will we do in order to get that crown? Will we do whatever it takes?”
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (25-27)
Let’s put it this way. If you’re going to run a marathon, you are not merely thinking of today and how to please yourself. Rather, you are willing to sacrifice the pleasures of today in order to achieve a greater goal. You’ll sacrifice those potato chips and hamburgers and eat only healthy foods. You’ll put aside the time you spend watching TV and surfing the internet in order to run hours at a time, no matter how hard it is. And by doing that, you put yourself in a position to win the prize.
In the same way, if we are serious about spreading God’s kingdom, we can no longer make ourselves and the pleasures of this world the focus of our lives. We need to sacrifice some of the things we want in order to serve the kingdom.
For Paul, as we mentioned before, that meant sacrificing a salary from preaching in order that he might reach more people. It meant sacrificing his freedom as a Christian sometimes and only eating kosher foods when he was with the Jews. In other cases, if he was with a person that felt like it was wrong to eat meat that was offered to idols, it meant giving up his freedom to eat that as well.
But so many of us are self-centered. We think only about pleasing ourselves. We are so concerned with our rights, that we trample on the feelings of others.
Others of us are stingy with our money and fail to give those in need. Or we are stingy with our time and guard our free time like it was gold, even when others need us.
Still others of us are too concerned about the rewards we’re getting here on earth from the ministry we are doing. In other words, our motives aren’t right. We’re seeking wealth or respect from those we are supposedly serving.
And all of these attitudes will leave us disqualified for the prize come judgment day.
Are we willing to do whatever it takes to win the prize? Are we willing to give up the pleasures of today to gain something far greater? Are we willing to sacrifice our rights, our time, our money, and our pride now for the sake of the crown awaiting us?
Or will we continue to focus only on what we can gain in the here and now and find ourselves disqualified for the prize?
What will you choose?