“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 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)
Wow, how things change with time. As my grandchildren grow, I notice how their world differs from my childhood. For example, at birthday parties, the honoree no longer opens presents at the party. Instead, they take them home to open them. Also, the goodie bags full of prizes given to the guest sometimes seem to cost more than the entire party.
The other difference I notice is how prizes are presented to all the children participating in an event instead of just the winner. I understand the purpose of it, but what is this practice teaching the children? I saw some of this manifest itself in the workplace before I retired when younger employees wanted rewards for just showing up each day. What other impacts could this have in the future?
Seeking the Prize
I wonder if these practices influence how people view the church? Have we become a society that wants a prize for showing up each week for the Sunday service? And, do we appreciate the gift of Salvation, or do we squirrel it away, only enjoying it when we get home? Let’s look to the Bible for some answers.
The Bible tells us about prizes also. In our key verse above, we read Paul’s word imploring us to “run in such a way to get the prize.” So, what is the race Paul mentions, and what is our prize?
The Christian race is different from most other races because it is not a competition against someone else. Instead, our race is a matter of significant consequence, with either heaven or hell as the final result. So, the Christian race is a spiritual exercise that yields earthly and eternal prizes for the participants. We succeed when we imitate the life of love modeled by Jesus. And we can achieve this by sharing the gospel and learning to care more for others than ourselves.
The Earthly Prize
As mentioned above, our race holds earthly and eternal prizes. The earthly rewards include the love, blessing, and grace of Jesus. However, God’s grace and blessings were not given for us to sit in church and feel good for showing up. Instead, they were given that we might not only be blessed but also be a blessing to others. A life filled with grace exercises the gifts that grace provided while spreading the gospel of grace and serving others in a hurting and dying world. But, we must also remember Paul’s warning to us in
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV); “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
The Eternal Prize
Eternal life is available to anyone who accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior (see John 3:16 NIV). This is the prize for just showing up and believing. But those who run the race as described above will receive a crown. Paul explains this further in 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV); “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.” So, Paul reminds us why the race is essential in Philippians 3:14 (NIV); “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Ways to Run the Race
Here are a few ways that you can run the Christian race successfully:
- Give tithes and offerings
- Volunteer in your community
- Donate items to those in need
- Share your talents
- Perform acts of service
- Go on a missionary trip
- Pray for others
- Teach Sunday schools
In contrast to society’s view of prizes and gifts today, the Christian understands that winning the prize involves more than just showing up. Additionally, we need to share our gifts with others so they can join the race with us. We are blessed so we can bless others, and when we finish our race, the Lord will reward us.
“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”2 Timothy 4:8 (NIV)
My Lord and Savior. I pray for Your help running the race You have set before me. Guide me daily and help me be all You intended me to be as I follow my path. You are the prize I seek. Let my life be an example to show others to You. In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.