I read a verse today in 1 Corinthians that jumped out at me:
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 (1 Cor 9:24, NIV, emphasis mine)
I thought about a race, and how the runners are focused on the goal line, not the other runners. They aren’t looking around at who is where, what they’re doing, how they’re running. No, if they want to win, they keep their eyes forward and pressing toward the goal line. Winners are focused on one thing: winning the prize. Single minded, single purpose, single focus.
I thought about how competitive our culture is, both inside and outside the church.
- We are easily distracted by what others are doing and saying…or not doing or not saying.
- We do just enough to get by
- We compare ourselves to others to see if we (or they) measure up
- We strive to be more than someone else; or to be like someone else
We look around way more than we look up! And what we see becomes our goal. Is what someone else has a worthwhile prize?
Reading on in 1 Corinthians…
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. (1 Cor 9:25, NIV, emphasis mine)
Strict training. What does that look like?
- Spend time in His Word
- Spend time in His presence
- Spend time in worship
- Spend time thanking Him for all He does for you
- Spend time getting His direction; then follow it
- Stop spending time on whatever interferes with your training
Can you imagine a high school athlete talking about getting into the Olympics but never attending practice? Maybe he/she is very gifted, but we all know that gifts alone don’t get you to the Olympics. Takes a lot of hard work, dedication, practice, and time. Takes choosing to lay down anything that gets in the way of the goal.
In the same way, God gave us the gift of salvation. But that gift alone does not mature us in our relationship with Him. The gift does not transform us to be all He created us to be. It just gets us started.
Our goal – the prize – is more of Jesus. If we want to obtain that prize, we need to choose to invest time in our training. We need to keep our focus on Him, choose time with Him, and block out all that distracts us from our goal.
There is no other way.
And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; so that I may attain to the resurrection [that will raise me] from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on [b]so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14, AMP)