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Bible Truths: “Learning from Athletics”

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Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?  So run, that ye may obtain.  I Corinthians 9:24

The Bible, in quite a few instances, compares our lives here on earth to a sporting competition.  We are told to “run, that ye may obtain [the prize]”.  We are told that just as an athlete must play within the rules, we must also “strive lawfully” (II Tim 2:5) .  We are told that just as an athlete is “temperate in all things” (I Cor 9:25) when he is training for a medal, so should we be as we strive for eternal rewards.  In the Book of Hebrews we are told to “lay aside every weight…and…run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Heb 12:1)  For we know that we “wrestle not against flesh and blood” (Eph 6:12), but rather we wrestle spiritual battles against Satan and his minions.

We see that athletics give us a good picture of what our Christian lives should look like.  We need to train.  We need to be dedicated.  We need to learn.  We need to get out and actually play the game.  We will lose some.  We will win some.  At the end of our lives, we should desire to be able to say, as Paul was able to say: “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…” (II Tim 3:7,8)

Just as an athlete trains for the time when the competition arrives, believers must train themselves for the time when they will be tested.  The Bible tells us to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Tim 2:15).  We should constantly be sharpening ourselves through prayer and study, readying ourselves for the time when we will need to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3).  Sometimes, we may not feel like studying or praying, just as an athlete doesn’t always feel like practicing.  Nevertheless, just as an athlete does, we are to “bring [our bodies] into subjection” (I Cor 9:27), and do what we know we need to do.

An athlete does not just practice, but practices to get ready for the real competition.  We, as Christians, need to enter the field of play, as well.  This means getting out in the world and sharing our faith with others.  This means contending for the faith in our churches.  This means, personally, waging a war on sin in our lives.  This means loving one another, with a sacrificial love of action, actually doing something.  Our faith, our study, and our prayer should lead us to a life of action for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

As does a marathon runner, we are to “run with patience the race that is set before us.”  There will be times during each of our races when we feel like giving up and withdrawing from the race.  We must not.  We must continue to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Our world holds athletes in high esteem.  We innately understand that excellence in athletics requires much sacrifice.  We appreciate those athletes who discipline themselves, dedicate themselves, overcome trials and press on toward the prize.  My encouragement to all of us today is to think of the race that is your life.  Are you running to win?  Are you running with a purpose?  Are you preparing yourself for the race?  Are you in the game, or on the sidelines?  Let us all run to obtain the prize.

Pastor Lee Smith

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