1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
We’ve come to the end of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. We have seen the joy and we have seen the disappointment on the faces of the athletes. For many of these athletes, this would mark the end of their career. Their last time competing on the world’s stage. As we recognize their achievements, we’re reminded of the spiritual race that still lies before us…
During the 2018 Winter Olympics, we watched athletes who have invested a lot of time, money, and immense effort in order to compete (often in a single event), hoping to receive gold, silver and bronze medals that will be hung on ribbons around their necks. In the original Olympic games the only prize the Greek athletes received was a crown of olive leaves cut from a sacred tree at Olympia. There were no medals and only the winner’s name was recorded. There was no prize for those who finished second or third.
While today’s Olympic medals last much longer than a crown of olive leaves, they may not be worth as much as you think
Olympic gold medals only need to be gilded with a minimum of 6 grams of gold. The rest of the medal is silver that is a minimum of 92.5 percent pure. Silver medals are made entirely of at least 92.5 percent pure silver. At today’s prices the gold medal is only worth around $300 and the silver medal is worth considerably less. But ask any athlete how much it is worth and they are sure to tell you it is priceless. Even so, these medals do not last forever. Medals can tarnish, be stolen, or even be lost. The ribbons they hang from will rot. The athlete’s moment of glory will one day be forgotten.
Think about it, how many Olympic champions can you remember?
How many world record holders can you name?
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the apostle Paul says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 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.”
Just as the Olympic Games have come to an end, and the athletes have been awarded their medals, the Olympic flame extinguished, our life will one day come to its end. The Bible says that we also compete, not for a medal, not for a temporary crown of olive leaves, not for honor and personal glory but for a crown that lasts forever. The opponents we face are the enemy and his forces and our own fleshly nature. The glory we receive is not that one moment on the podium but one that endures for all eternity. God’s crown is not for one winner, but for all who strive for righteousness.
The crown is our reward for running the race, for being faithful to our calling, for enduring the struggles and the hardships, for wrestling with the sad events and circumstances we cannot control and do not understand, for finishing the course God has set out for us.
Dear Lord, help us to run the race that is before us. Help us to run the race strong and to finish with our best for You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.