1 Corinthians 1: 24Do 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.
I recently watched a video of the ending of a prestigious college track & field meet. This particular race ending has received considerable attention, viewed by millions who would normally have no interest in such races. The video shows the end of the 3000m Steeplechase race, a race of 7.5 laps of an outdoor track with numerous obstacles such as hurdles and even water hazards. The race went pretty well as expected with a strong University of Oregon runner having a comfortable lead of more than 10 metres with only the straightaway remaining. Sensing the victory the lead run slows down and waves his arms in the air encouraging the crowd to cheer him on, but what he does not realize is that the University of Washington runner has not given up and is bearing down on him and in fact passes the bewildered Oregon runner with only a metre left in the race. The Oregon runner is later seen lying on his back with his hands covering his face. This certainly was one of the worst moments of his life. Why did he not simply finish well?
There is a moral in this story for all of us as believers. The start of our Christian walk is important, but it does not end there. We need to continue to keep our eyes on the prize and not let down our guard because we can very quickly lose the race. If you have ever participated in a running race, you will know that many can sprint out and be winning the race, but only a few will be able to maintain the pace necessary to win the race at the finish line. This takes training, and it takes discipline. Paul recognized this and therefore instructs us to “Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Cor. 9:24b).
We also have to ensure we do not become arrogant or careless. In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 10) he writes of the Israelites who were miraculously led by God and Moses through the desert, but who sinned in numerous ways and did not reach the promised land. Paul says these things were written down to us as warnings. “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful you don’t fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
It is important for us to run the race of our life with the same determination and care from the start to the finish. Paul encourages us to finish well, because it is at the finish where we will receive our rewards. May we all be able to say, as Paul did near the end of his life: 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 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 Tim. 4: 7-8)