WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL
JULY 20TH, 2021
TOPIC: ARE YOU RUNNING TO WIN THE PRIZE?
BY T. O. BANSO
“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” (1Corinthians 9:24 New King James Version).
In most competitions today, including athletics, there are prizes for the persons who come first, second, and third. But indeed, the person who comes first is the actual winner. That’s why in the Olympics, although the flags of the three are raised at the medal presentation, it is only the National Anthem of the winner of the gold medal that is played.
The Isthmian games were held in the Isthmus of Corinth in ancient times. Only one person received the prize although all the participants ran. There was no provision for second place or third place awards as it is the practice in modern games. In the real sense of it, the first prize is the actual prize in modern games and contests, second place and third place awards are just consolation.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, must have alluded to the Isthmian games, which they were familiar with. He says to the Corinthians, “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” (1Corinthians 9:24 New King James Version).
Paul likened the Christian race to a competition where there was only one prize to win. There were no consolation prizes. He, therefore, urged the Corinthians to run in such a way to win. Nobody should be content with merely participating and not running to win the prize. Don’t be satisfied that you have given your life to Jesus; run the race to win the prize.
Paul continued in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (New King James Version).
From 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, we can deduce the following: There is a race. More than one person is running the race. There is a prize to win, which every athlete runs to win. Only one person wins the prize. In contrast to the physical race Paul alludes to, all who run the Christian race can win the prize. But they must run in a way to win it.
Paul says that all athletes practise strict self-control to win a prize that will fade away, but Christians do it for an eternal prize. Therefore, he counsels that the Christian should run straight to the goal with purpose in every step.
He alluded to boxing saying he was not like a boxer who missed his punches. He said he disciplined his body like an athlete, training it to do what it should, for fear that, after preaching to others, he might be disqualified, rejected, or not have God’s approval.
What can we learn about how to run the Christian race and win the prize from Paul’s allusion to the physical race?
1. Understand the race you’re running. The first is to understand the race you are running. Be clear about the race you are participating in because there is a way to run every race. You cannot run a marathon as if you are running 100 metres or 400 metres race. You should not be ignorant of the particular race you are running so that you don’t approach it in an improper way and with a wrong mindset. Understanding the race will help you in your preparation and conduct.
There is a race set before you; run it with patience. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us” (New Living Translation).
God is the one who sets the race everyone is to run. He knows what race He has set before you. Know and run the race He has set before you. That was what Paul did and he could say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7 King James Version). The word “course” there is rendered race in some Bible translations.
You started the Christian race when you gave your life to Jesus and it will end when you leave this earth either by death or rapture if you’re still alive at the time of the rapture. Face your race; don’t engage in competition or comparison.
2. Exercise self-control. You need self-control, discipline, or temperance. This is non-negotiable in becoming a champion on the tracks. This involves the athlete’s entire lifestyle. He is temperate in his diet, leisure, keeping training schedule, etc. He abstains from some things to keep fit. He doesn’t consume anything he likes or attends training anytime he wants.
Others who run just for leisure may do that but he can’t because of the prize that he wants to win. The Christian must be disciplined in prayer, Bible study, speech, relationship, and so on. Exercise self-control in all things.
3. Be diligent. There is serious and long-term daily training usually required in preparation for participation in a race. It is, to say the least, a tedious endeavour but the athlete’s motivation is the prize he hopes to win. Success is an accumulation of daily training and exercises. That’s how to build stamina and improve your speed. The Christian must be diligent in running the race to the end.
The apostle Peter said, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:5-9 New King James Version).
He added, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (verses 10-11 New King James Version). Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless (2 Peter 3:14b). Be diligent in running the race before you.
4. Run with purpose. In order to win, the athlete must not just work hard in his daily training and general preparation for the race, he must, during the race proper, constantly keep in focus his goal of winning This is the best time for him to give his best; this is the day he has been preparing for. He cannot afford to lose the prize. He must put up his best performance.
The goal of winning the prize should drive his performance as he goes on his mark to take off and to run to breast the tape, if possible, set a new record! The Christian must run the race with the eternal prize, the imperishable crown, as its goal. The Christian prize is eternal, not earthly prizes that lose value over time.
In Acts 11:22-23, when the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch and he had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all that with the purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. You also should, with the purpose of heart, continue with the Lord. Run the Christian race with purpose.
5. Be obedient. Some rules guide the conduct of participants in every race. An athlete who does not abide by the rules will be disqualified even if he comes first in the race. Some athletes have been disqualified in the past for cheating or violation of the rules. The prizes of some athletes have been withdrawn and they were banned for some years after testing positive for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
A Christian must be obedient to God as he runs the Christian race. He is not permitted to do whatever he likes. He must follow what God says. Philippians 2:8 says that Jesus, being found in appearance as a man, humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. The Christian should be obedient to God.
As Paul said, he disciplined his body and brought it into subjection, lest, when he had preached to others, he should become disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). You also should discipline your body and bring it into subjection. In Acts 20:24, Paul said among other things that he wanted to finish his race with joy. You should also.
Like Paul, fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith. Then, you will obtain the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to you on that Day, and not to you only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Paul said, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14 New King James Version). Are you pressing toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus? Are you running to win the prize?
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Holy Spirit, help me to run to receive the prize, the imperishable crown. Help me to discipline my body and bring it into subjection so that, ultimately, I will not run and be disqualified. I shall not run in vain in Jesus’ name. I shall fight a good fight, finish my course, and keep the faith.
(For over 600 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
WhatsApp No: +2349081295947