“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
With the 2012 Olympic Games not too far away we can be certain that all the athletes are training extremely hard so that they can stand on the winning podium with a gold medal around their necks. What would we think of someone who took part in the games but had no desire or intention to win? Yet this is exactly the spiritual condition many believers have adopted for their lives. Without the determination to win we can do nothing more than fail. Does such an attitude glorify the Lord in any way?
God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives no matter how lowly our social standing might be. The story of Queen Esther reveals that the Lord can take someone who would otherwise be ignored and use him or her to deliver His people from destruction. How do we know that God has not raised us up “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)? Esther had to take the risk and step forward to fulfil her God-given destiny. It is risky business for the flesh following the Lord, but we can always be assured that He always has the very best in store for us. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). We might have to face uncomfortable circumstances, but each of them will bring something good into our lives. We might not always think that life is fair, but God always is.
God requires us to run to win the prize regardless or the hurdles and stumbling blocks along the way. In fact He has given us His Holy Spirit to guide, strengthen and comfort us all the way. As in the natural, the Christian runner must train hard, be determined and keep his eye on the finishing post. Winners do not just happen to win, instead there is a great deal of hard work behind their accomplishments. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
What keeps us from accomplishing what God has purposed for us? There are really only two things that hinder us from advancing, which are, sin and fear. These will weigh us down so much that we simply have no desire to take another step. They will bind us up so tightly that we cannot catch enough breath to move forward. It is here that we must take a stand and deal with the things that rob us of God’s best. Sin has to be repented of: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), and doubt must be resisted through faith in Christ: “Be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).
As we move forward with Christ, and as we exercise our faith in Him, nothing will stop us receiving the great prize. “Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3) … “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17). There is absolutely no reason why we cannot aim for victory, for we can be the blessed overcomers God desires us to be. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). All that is required is faith in the promises that the Lord has made. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). Though this is common knowledge in Scripture, sadly some do not accept or receive it as true. They have no one else to blame but themselves if they fail. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).
If we have not grown in the Lord over the last few decades, years or months, it is not God’s fault but ours. He has provided all the means so that we can glorify Him. Maybe we have refused to make adjustments in our lives. Maybe we excuse ourselves because our jobs are so demanding. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that we have lost our desire to serve the Lord. Our hearts need to be set aflame again with a holy desire to put God first in our lives. “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:4-5).
We cannot claim to be led of the Spirit if all we are doing is indulging the flesh. We must be prepared to follow God’s instructions to the letter, then we will see all the blessings He has provided for us. There is no promise of an easy life in Scripture, instead it reveals that we have to race hard like an athlete and fight like a loyal warrior. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12). We have to constantly be on guard to ensure that our hearts do not grow cold. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
God has promised to meet our every need while we love, follow and serve Him. No matter what setbacks we might encounter, we can be certain that His promise holds true. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). No matter how impossible our problems might be, let us believe that “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). We sometimes make a mess of our lives, but God faithfully works in us to bring us to the desired end. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Failure is never permitted by God for He has not planned for it in our lives. Of course we often fail Him, but He never changes His mind about what He wants to accomplish in us. “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). The big difference between us that the athletes competing in the Olympic Games is that everyone of us will stand on the winners’ podium if we hold on and run in faith. “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)” (Hebrews 10:23).