Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NKJV)
It seems that second and third place didn’t mean much in the Isthmian Games. There was the winner and the losers. With that in mind Paul starts off with a rather obvious observation. While everyone who enters the race competes, only one person wins. Since this was the case those that competed gave it their all. They didn’t leave anything on the track. When the race was over they were totally spent having given everything they had to make sure they won the race.
With that image in mind Paul tells us to run to win. He’s not saying that we are in competition with other believers. The idea is that when it comes to our service and devotion to Jesus we are to give it everything we have. We are to put forth just as much effort in our service and devotion to Jesus as an athlete does in trying to win a competition. As I was looking at this in light the picture Paul paints of an athletic competition there were two areas of focus that came into mind.
Focus on eternal rewards. The next Summer Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. I feel pretty confident in saying that as the athletes train they are looking at winning the gold. Athletes of that caliber don’t sacrifice and train with the meager hopes of making a good showing or not embarrassing themselves. As they train, they are focused on the ultimate goal, winning a gold medal.
A key principle for the life of a believer is to live our lives in light of eternity. We live knowing that God will reward us for the lives we live on earth. The Bible says God will give believers
the crown of life (James 1:12),
the crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:8)
the crown of glory (1 Pet 5:4).
The Bible says that once our works have been tested we will be rewarded based on the gold, silver, and precious stones that remain (1 Cor 3:14).
Jesus said that if we are faithful to live for Him in this life we will hear Him say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matt 25:21, 23)
Living focused on what we will receive in eternity for our faithfulness to Jesus is sorta the equivalent of focusing on winning a gold medal while training. As believers, we know that God will reward us for our faithful lives. This should be a motivating factor in the way we live our lives. It should also be something we focus on as we make decisions, act, react and just generally live our lives. Focusing on what we’ll receive then can guide our lives now by reminding us that any sacrifices we make or hardships we endure now will be worth it then.
Focus on daily faithfulness. It’s one thing for a prospective athlete to dream about winning a gold medal. It’s something entirely different to make the decisions day after day that put you in a place where winning a gold medal is possible. Long before the athlete stands on a platform wearing a gold medal, the athlete puts in the hard work of faithful training. The glory of the gold medal is built on the pain, sweat and stress of faithful daily training.
Instead of merely seeing our service to Jesus as one long race that ends in eternity, we need to also see our service to Jesus as a series of short races that end each day. Instead of only focusing on being faithful at the end of all things, also focus on being faithful at the end of each and every day. We need to live in such a way that when each day is over we can go to bed knowing we had done everything that Jesus wanted us to.
The reason I think we need to make this shift in focus is because when we only have a long range view we often become procrastinators. For various reasons we choose not to do things right now thinking we will do them later. When we do this we are not living a focused life. This is exactly what Jesus taught us to do.
“Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23 (NKJV)
He told us to take up our cross daily. This is a short term, right here, right now idea. Living a focused life, not only means focusing on eternal rewards but also focusing on the day to day decisions that enable us to receive eternal rewards. Living a focused life means focusing on daily faithfulness.
How does your life show you are living a focused life?
What changes do you need to make today to live a more focused life?