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9th September 2012
Many of us have enjoyed watching the London Olympics. It's been so exciting to see the world's best athletes here in Great Britain. These athletes train day-in, day-out for four years in the hope of winning an Olympic medal. They push themselves hard, they avoid certain foods and they give up hours and hours for what culminates, in some cases, to just 10 seconds on the track or field or diving board. What keeps them going? They have their eyes on a prize that has great value.
The apostle Paul uses the picture of athletes competing to describe the Christian life. He worked so hard because he was committed to seeing souls saved, and he instructs us to train and run as those who want to win the race, not come in second: we're not here to make up the numbers – we are here for a purpose.
None of the athletes at the Olympics just turned up and ran. To compete at this level they dedicate their whole lives to it, letting it consume them. Olympic athletes do this to gain a crown that will last just four years before they have to compete again to regain it. But we are to train and run after a prize that is eternal! For athletes, it is four years of sacrifice for a moment of success; for Christians, it is one brief moment of sacrifice compared to the eternal reward we are running for!
The Christian life is not supposed to involve wandering around aimlessly, nor putting in lots of effort but in no effective direction, nor putting in no effort and wondering why we are finding it so difficult to keep going! The apostle Paul said that he beat his body, making it submit to him – he practised self-discipline so that he wouldn't be disqualified and he took responsibility for himself. Sometimes we can assume that because we've been baptised, take the bread and wine, and share in community life where the Spirit is present, we have arrived and are all set! But we mustn't become complacent. The apostle Paul warns us from Israel's history to be careful not to be like the Israelites, many of whom saw amazing things but were not individually transformed.
We're foolish if we think we can fulfil God's purposes for our lives without thoughtful diligence and commitment. Growth in the Christian life is not automatic! If you go into strict training, it will impact your diary, it will mean giving up certain things and taking up other things. It will involve sacrifice – but a sacrifice that pales in comparison to the great reward at the end!
Verses: 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:5
Food for thought:
Posted by Paul Mann