1. The Olympics have come to Atlanta. We can see the opening ceremonies. We see the packed stadium. The athletes are performing before thousands in the stadium. There will be hundreds of thousands of TV viewers. Electricity is in the air. The adrenalin of each contestant is at an all-time high.
2. Paul compares the Christian life to a race. 1 Corinthians 9:24; "Know ye not that they which run in a race ...? So run, that ye may obtain". Galatians 5:7. "Ye did run well". But our race is not run on a course that is defined by stripes on a field.
3. Paul was concerned about not running in vain. Galatians 2:2; "lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain". Philippians 2:16; "that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain".
B. Some Aspects of the Christian Race. Let's consider some comparisons between the Olympic events and the Christian race.
1. When ready for the actual competition, how do the athletes look? Sweat suits? Sweat bands? Sweat shirt? Wrist weights? Ankle weights? Barbells? Dumbbells? Regular workout shoes? NO! Those days, months, even years of training are behind. Today they are peak performers. How is your training program coming along? Luke 13:24; "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able". 1 Corinthians 9:25; "And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things". 2 Timothy 2:5. "And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully". Allow me to define “Strive”. “To exert energy or effort. To struggle; contend” (Webster's II). Greek definition from Strong's – “struggle, to compete for a prize, to contend with an adversary, fight, labor fervently”.
2. Just as the stadium in Atlanta was packed with spectators, we, too, have a host of spectators. Hebrews 12:1a; "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses". Hall of Faith. In this sense, consider some of the potential spectators. Perhaps we can see Moses on the twenty-third row. Then, there is Elijah standing close to the fence. Perhaps we can make out some of the disciples discussing one of the contestants from the fifteenth row. But, consider the Main spectator - Hebrews 12:2; "Looking unto Jesus".
3. The agonizing training is behind. The race is at hand. The race is ongoing right now. It is time to focus. Hebrews 12:1b; "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us". Philippians 3:7; "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 13. "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before". When "forgetting those things which are behind", consider Luke 9:62; "And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God".
4. We assure that we have lightened up as much as possible. The least and lightest clothing is necessary. We will need the least resistance possible if we are to win this race. Our focus, our priority is not our successful pursuits. "I count all things but loss", Paul said. Neither do we need the pull, the drag of worldly pleasures.
There will be Thoughts, Speech, & Actions to Discard. Galatians 5:19-21, "sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, drunkenness, orgies; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; envy, boasting, pride, rudeness, self seeking".
And, there will be Thoughts, Speech, & Actions to Acquire. Galatians 5:22-23, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control"; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, "patient, kind, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, not delight in evil, rejoice in truth, protects, trusts, hopes, preserves, unfailing"; Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things"
5. Our focus, our priority, is the Goal before us. Hebrews 12:2-4; "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God". Philippians 3:7; "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Verse 8. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 10. That I may know Him ..., Verse 13. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, Verse 14. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus".
6. Our desire is to finish the course. This is why we have trained. Luke 14:28-30; "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish". Acts 20:24; "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God". 2 Timothy 4:6-8; "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing".
7. Rewards await.
|a. Paul's converts were his "joy and crown"||Philippians 4:1|
|b. Incorruptible crown||1 Corinthians 9:25|
|c. Crown of righteousness||2 Timothy 4:8|
|d. Crown of rejoicing||1 Thessalonians 2:19|
|e. Crown of life||James 1:12; Revelations 2:10|
|f. Crown of glory||1 Peter 5:4|
|g. Casting crowns before throne:|
|Revelations 4:10, 11; "The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour, and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created".|
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May God speak to your heart! Bob Conar