Run in such a way as to get the prize. … Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
I fear that many of my Christian friends run or box with no real goal or “prize” in mind. They’re going through the motions that they’ve been taught and have had modeled to them. They’re more like joggers just trying to lose their love handles so they can look a little sexier at their high school reunion. (Not likely if they’re anywhere near my age. The only sexy people I saw at my last reunion were the waitresses at the restaurant.) They’re like boxers (not the kind you wear) with no actual opponent in the ring. In fact, there’s not even a ring. They shadowbox in their living room, presumably with their boss’s face in their mind’s eye.
This “race” isn’t for exercise or socialization. Some people approach their “race” like they’re out for a jog with some friends. They’re all decked out in the latest runners’ fashions maintaining a nice leisurely pace one time around the park. But this contest is for something more serious than that.
Christianity is no hobby! We don’t run “aimlessly,” but to finish––to win. It’s not one another we have to defeat. Our opponents are sin, Satan, and the system of the world (please take note of the ingenious use of “S’s.”) Against such we run for victory.
Shadow boxers have only imaginary opponents. They visualize the ring, the other boxer, the referee, the crowd, and most of all, the winner’s belt. None of it’s real. It’s all in their head. Boxers of this ilk always win. They never lose. And they rarely go the distance, but knock out their imaginary adversary in the first round. Imaginary Christians in an imaginary battle!
Some people seem to think that spiritual success is already in the books as though the contest were just for show. But winning is no done deal. It isn’t over till it’s over. I mean if Paul could have been “disqualified,” it seems clear to me that our status in the race is still in some contention.
Coming to Jesus is not the finish line, it’s just the starting line. We don’t get a prize for signing up for the race. We have to run to the finish for the winner’s wreath! Jesus said, “He that endures to the end shall be saved.”
The thing is, we don’t know how far along we are in the race or how near its finish. We don’t know how many rounds are left to fight. Therefore, it behooves us to keep running at a good pace so as to finish well and keep swinging until the final bell.