Few are not aware that the Olympic Games are underway in Rio. Every four years great athletes gather from all over the world to compete in these Olympic Games. The winning of the gold is probably every athlete’s dream. There have been events that have marred the games from time to time, but all in all, the Olympics are still highly respected and the winners are honored. In this current event, there have been complaints of the facilities and such not being up to par, a number of athletes were suspended because they did not pass certain drug test and the latest has been the armed robbery of four U.S. athletes. These games had their origin in ancient Greece. There were other games that have over the years ceased to take place. The Isthmian Games were named after the Isthmus of Corinth and were played close to the city. They were held every two years, the year before the Olympic Games and the year after. On more than one occasion the apostle Paul alluded to these games in instructing how one can become a child of God and ultimately win the eternal crown of life.
To the church at Corinth, Paul wrote, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (I Cor. 9:24-27). There are a couple of contrast, things which are not good analogies, but we wish to consider five similarities or analogies from what Paul had to say to the Corinthians.
First, one must contend legally if he desires to be a winner in the end! We noted above that some wishing to compete in Rio were not allowed because they were not legal. One must be legally entered into the contest in order to win the contest. All requirements or prerequisites must be met in order to even be qualified to receive the prize, no matter how well one runs the race. One will have to meet the requirements of becoming a child of God before expecting to win the prize of eternal life after they have run this life’s race. One outside of Christ cannot compete for the crown (John 14:6; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; II Cor. 5:17). But, then one must abide by the rules of the contest in order to be awarded a prize for winning. As the apostle Paul told Timothy, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (II Tim. 2:5). We can’t run the race “our way”, but must follow He who has all authority to make the rules of the game (Matt. 28:18; Luke 6:46; Heb. 5:8-9; John 12:48).
Secondly, discipline is absolutely mandatory if one is to win! Paul used the word, “temperate” and stated that he kept under his body, bringing it into subjection. In other words, he practiced self discipline. It was no longer a matter of what he liked, but a matter of what was needed in order to win the prize. Paul wrote, “…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” (Phil. 3:8).
Third, some win and some don’t! This is one of those points with at least a slight contrast. In the illustration Paul uses, there is only one who will win the prize. In the race for eternal life, there can be, have been and will continue to be many who are able to slip the gold medal of eternal life around their necks. Yet, the point is still valid. Not all will win the prize. In fact, most will fail to win. Jesus pointed out that “many” would take the wrong path while “few” would take the strait and narrow that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).
Fourth, patience is a necessity! Patience is the same as steadfastness. The obvious point here is that one must continue to run with all diligence all the way to the end of the race. There is an old saying that “winners never quit and quitters never win”. Paul assures us by saying, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). It takes real work and effort to complete the race without straying off course and being thus disqualified. Paul wrote, “…be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).
Fifth, the winner receives the prize! The prize they strove for was for a corruptible crown. The prize that Paul was striving for and encouraging others to reach was an incorruptible and eternal one, a home in heaven. John wrote to the church at Smyrna, “…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Paul told Timothy, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 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” (II Tim. 4:7-8). So prepare yourself to run and let the games begin! (Send any questions or comments to: [email protected])
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.