Run To Win!
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Sunday 26th April 2015
Today is this year’s London Marathon Day. This event attracts participants from all over the world every year. Even though, I am not registered to run this 26-mile marathon, I am involved in another race – the race of life. As a matter of fact, we are all in a race. Each of us was born to run the race of life. Hence, the marathon is a metaphor to remind us of the race we’ve been called to run.
There are five peculiarities to the race of life, namely: (a) Where you start does not matter: Some start their race in the palace, while others start in the wilderness. It doesn’t matter from where you start the race of life, as long as you focus on and attain the more important goal – the end of the race. (b) How you start does not matter: Some start their race very fast (with all the privileges and trappings of affluence) while others start struggling through life. It doesn’t matter how you started your race as long as you keep the end in mind and reach the goal – the finish line. (c) There is no competition: Unlike the marathon in which you are competing against others, in the race of life you are the only one on your race course. Each of us are running different races, hence there is no basis for competition. In addition, there is no reason to be intimidated by someone else’s race, because your own race was specifically designed for you. (d) There is a time limit to your race: Your race is not indefinite – you do not have forever to run. Each of us has different time limits to our races. Your allotted time to run the race of life is not within your control and it is not your prerogative to determine for how long you will run. More so, the time allotted to you is not disclosed. Hence you must live with the intention to make every moment count, and to maximise each moment.(e) The singular most important aspect of your race is finishing it: You are expected to finish your race within the allotted time. You must live with the consciousness of the finish line – always focusing on the end of the race. Hence, everything you do must be propelling you to the finish line. Despite the several distractions in life, you must refuse to be distracted. You must be resolute and set your face on the finishing line. In Colossians 4:17, St. Paul in admonishing the church in Colossae, writes: ‘And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you” (NLT). Conversely, we must pay close attention to the assignment that God has placed within our care, as each of us run the race set before us. It is my prayer that we will all finish well, in Jesus name! (Amen).
Here is the New Living Translation of our foundation scripture: ‘Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified’ (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Just as St. Paul reminded the Corinthian church about the reason why they are in the race of life, I would like to do the same today. Don’t you realise that you are on a mission, you are on assignment, and you are designed in life to attain your goals and aspirations? Don’t you realise that your life is an answer to the questions of the next generation? The Isthmian Games, a popular highly competitive race during those times, held a year before and a year after the Olympics was used metaphorically by St. Paul to communicate the importance of the race of life.
In order to win the Isthmian Games, each athlete had to be highly disciplined, focused and thoroughly trained. In speaking to the church in Corinth, a church that fully understood the part that grace plays in salvation, he emphasized the need to play their part in winning an already guaranteed victory. In using imagery that the church was familiar with, he underscored the importance of spiritual discipline. Conversely, you’ve been born to run the race of life and to ultimately finish and win your race. When you recognise that you are in a race, you will be careful to maximise every moment.
The bible is full of accounts of characters who ran their race and finished – runners such as Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Nehemiah, David, Paul and Jesus Christ. Paul describes reaching the finish line by writing in 2 Timothy 4:7-8; ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing’ (NLT). So did Jesus when he pronounced on the cross, ‘It is finished’. I admonish you today to do the same, run your race with the finish line in mind.
So, firstly, realise that you are in a race. Secondly, run to win. In life you must run with purpose. Be diligent in your ministry – do all you do in God’s house to make a difference. At home, be a homebuilder not just a husband, be a help-meet and not just a wife. Despite the thousands of participants taking part in the Marathon, many are not running to win, but are satisfied and happy to be part of the crowd. Paul admonishes the Corinthian church to run to win, because rightly so, winning is encoded in the DNA of the church. The grace to win is within the church; hence he encouraged them to put that grace to work. The same is true for each member of Christ’s body today – in spite of the disadvantaged starts in life, within each of us is the ability to win our individual races – so let’s run to win. Remember that to win is not a call to compete against any one, but to finish your race within the allotted time.
In running your race, remember that there is joy ahead of you. Hebrews 12:2 put it this way: ‘We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne (NLT). Jesus has already set the tone for this race already, so that we are aware of the outcome. At the end of your race is a reward, just like Jesus experienced. It is imperative then that you do not give up, despite the challenges that confront you. Live every day conscious of the reward. Live to make an impact at work, at home and everywhere you go. Make a difference!
You may look around you and be discouraged about your surroundings. Despair not; here is Job’s encouragement: ‘And though you started with little, you will end with much’ (Job 8:7 NLT).
Here are seven things you need to do in order to run to win:
(i) Run on purpose: St. Paul emphasized this in verse 26 of our foundation scripture, which reads: ‘So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing’ (NLT). Can I encourage you to focus on your purpose from today? Here is a quote you may be familiar with: ‘The greatest tragedy in life is not death but life without a purpose’. Your fulfilment in life is dependent on your becoming and doing what you were born to be and do, hence fulfilling your purpose should be your primary goal in life. All things were designed to begin and end with purpose. More so, God is a purposeful God, and as such we must live a life that is purpose-driven. You are designed and perfect for your purpose. God designed you to meet the unique requirements of your purpose. Your arrival here on earth is evidence that your purpose is necessary. So, be purpose-driven in all that you do.
(ii) Discipline your flesh: St. Paul speaks of disciplining the flesh in verse 27, which reads: ‘I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should (NLT). You cannot afford to give your flesh everything it wants. Galatians 6:8 warns us from feeding the flesh. ‘Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature, but those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit’ (NLT). Those sinful habits such as gossip, malice and those guilty pleasures must be curbed and jettisoned in order to win the race of life. Professional athletes are disciplined round the clock and they keep to that routine rigorously – their waking and sleeping times, their diet and eating patterns, the exercise regime. In the same way, our flesh must be subdued and trained to comply with the dictates from God.
(iii) Forget the past: How far and how fast can you run if you continue looking behind you? Obviously, you will be hindered in moving at the right speed. The past may be painful and difficult to put behind you, but it is important that you do. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reads: ‘This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!’ (NLT). St. Paul emphasizes this point even further in Philippians 3:13, which reads: ‘No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead’ (NLT). You cannot reach for the things which are ahead and in the future unless you forget the things in the past behind you.
(iv) Lay aside every weight and sin: The writer of Hebrews, in Hebrews 12:1-2 admonishes us to unload every weight and sin that could press us down: ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us’ (NLT). Lay aside weights such as malice, hurt, unforgiveness, and past relationships hindering your progress. Instead of straggling, put some distance between you and those things delaying you and soar like an eagle.
(v) Press on: In order to win the race of life, you must keep on hoping and trusting in God. Philippians 3:12 reads: ‘I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me’ (NLT). Keep on the good work that you have known hitherto: pray, fast, hope, believe and keep on helping others.
(vi) Don’t Give Up: Galatians 6:9 reads: ‘So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up’ (NLT). It is clearly stated in this scripture that there is a reward for not giving up. Despite the issues confronting you, I want to encourage you not to give up. There is a due season for the reward, when all things will be perfected and fit together, creating the big picture that God has prepared already. Your part is to hold on – don’t give up.
(vii) There is a due season: As mentioned above, it is worth reiterating again. There is a due season – the appointed time, the ‘Kairos’ moment for you. Look ahead, for it is close by.
I pray that you will indeed enjoy the blessings of your due season and make it to the finish line in Jesus name!
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