Do you not know that in a race all the runners complete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may attain it. Every athlete exercises self control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after possibly after preaching to others I myself may be disqualified. (II Corinthians 9:24-27)
…Let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1b-2)
Remember from the last post that Paul is using the example of a runner in this passage. He is saying that the runner runs the race to receive the prize. In our run (Christian walk) the prize has already been won by Jesus. We are called to faithfully live our lives out on this earth with our eyes on Jesus in order to reach the prize.
The real question is — What is necessary for us to complete the race? (I am putting principles from II Corinthians 9:24-27 and Hebrews 12:1b-2 together.) First, we are to exercise self control. We are to lay aside every weight and the sin which clings to us. We are to look carefully at put aside anything that hinders us, the sins that become obstacles in the course that is set before us. Shed them, get rid of them. These things slow us down and may easily trip us. Identify them now.
Second, do not run aimlessly. We have a goal: Jesus who is the “founder and perfecter of our faith.” We are to fix our eyes on Him, focusing on the goal. Often when I ran, I would keep a particular stop sign which was the finish line of my run. It was the goal. I focused on reaching the goal. This took my mind off the things that hindered me from reaching the goal (fatigue, the tendency to quit the race, etc.).
Third, run the race according to the rules. If we violate the rules in a race, we may be disqualified. Let me be quick to say, that a true follower of Christ will not be disqualified form the ultimate goal because of the grace of the gospel. Jesus has already finished the race for us. However, we may lose some of the secondary rewards. I don’t want to get off track here; but Scripture does speak of other rewards which we may receive when we reach heaven.
Paul defined the prize he could forfeit — “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (v. 27). He recognized the importance of self discipline. We must discipline our bodies, that is the fleshly, sinful desires of the body. We are to keep these desires under control or we will easily fall into sin.
What does Paul mean when he says, “I myself may be disqualified?’ Disqualified from what? Eternal life? Of course not, Jesus has already won that for us. I think Paul is referring to ministry. Being a leader in the church has higher standards that come with the position. Paul ran the race well. Now let’s go to the end of Paul’s life. In the last letter and in the last chapter of that letter, Paul wrote these words:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved HIs appearing. (II Timothy 4:6-8)
The ultimate goal of our lives will be achieved when we arrive in glory and receive the crown of righteousness.
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