As I write this the world is looking forward to the Olympic Games to be held in London. In television interviews contestants are full of enthusiasm as well as trepidation. Every contestant wants the prize almost more than anything else in the world. Their one aim is to win the gold medal, to stand on the podium and reap the reward of years of unremitting hard work and unswerving self -discipline.
In ancient Greece Corinth was the centre of the Isthmian Games which took place every two years. The Corinthian Christians to whom Paul wrote his letter would be familiar with athletes in training for the games on the streets of the city and on the surrounding hillsides. They needed to take a lesson from the scene around them. The athletes trained with intensity and continuity. Everything was second place to winning the prize.
Some of the Christians in Corinth wanted the reward without the hard work. They lacked self-discipline and perseverance. They had become careless and indifferent because they had failed to understand that dedication to Jesus is not about beginning the race but about finishing it well. Absolute commitment and single mindedness was necessary for the training athletes if they hoped to win a crown made of laurels which would be withered within a few days. How much more committed and focused should the Christian be who will one day receive an imperishable crown.
Paul isn’t like a runner who doesn’t know the finishing line. He’s focused on it. The goal is not reached by drifting but by pressing on towards the prize, which is Jesus Himself. To know Christ is ‘surpassing greatness’ (Philippians 3:8) and in comparison to this nothing in the world is of value.
The Bible makes it clear that when the race is finished crowns will be given. Paul writes of a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8); Peter writes of a crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:4); John writes of a crown of life which will be given to those who persevere to the end (Revelation 2:10).
So, when we stand before the throne in heaven having received the crown that will last for ever, what will our response be? I guess we’ll bow down in wonder before Jesus, who redeemed us, and as the hymn writer says we will ‘Cast our crowns before Him, lost in wonder, love and praise’.
Is your heart set on winning the race and receiving the crown because Jesus is first in your life?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for choosing me to be a competitor in the eternal race. Forgive me for the times when I’ve lost sight of the things that really matter, the path and the prize. Please convict me of the things in my life that are a hindrance to me being totally dedicated to You and to the high calling You have on my life. Amen.
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