The Ultimate Prize
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 NLT)
Dear Cambridge Family & Friends,
This month my favorite sporting event in the world (literally) takes place as the 2016 Summer Olympics begin. Now, I’m old school so I remember decades back when only amateur athletes were allowed to compete – when sacrifice entailed not only the physical sacrifice all great athletes must endure to forge their bodies into the best shape possible and hone their incredible athletic skills, but also had to work other jobs, balance work, life, family and sport, and do whatever they could to be in position to win the ultimate prize – an Olympic medal.
In his letter to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul parallels the discipline and sacrifice needed for an athlete to successfully compete to that of a Christian, who must discipline themselves to live in such a way that it honors and reflects Jesus Christ. Moreover, Paul notes that we must ‘discipline our bodies’ so that ‘after preaching to others, we might not be disqualified.’ Disqualification is one of the most humiliating things that can happen to an athlete. It usually occurs when an athlete is caught cheating or somehow trying to gain an unfair competitive advantage. Examples in the Olympics have included ‘false starts’ (when a runner tries to get a head start before the gun goes off), taking a shortcut (e.g. cutting into another runners lane or shaving distance off the 26.2 miles in a marathon), illegal physical contact (pushing or shoving an opponent in a race, an illegal hold in judo or wrestling, or striking an opponent when their guard is down in boxing, fencing or taekwondo). The most prevalent reason for disqualification in recent times has been the usage of performance enhancing drugs or PED’s. Some disqualifications happen unintentionally, but most happen when an athlete knows he or she is breaking the rules.
In the Christian faith, it’s important that we continually forge our bodies and hone our skills of living and sharing our faith so that neither others nor ourselves are kept from the ultimate prize – a fulfilling life that honors our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and an eternal life in which we are rewarded unimaginably for our faithfulness. Practical steps include a healthy balance of diet and exercise, regular time in God’s Word and with His people in worship, Bible study and fellowship, abstaining from gossip, electronic and social media that incites sinful and negative thoughts and behavior, and constantly training and disciplining our hearts, minds and bodies to live, give, act and speak love and the Gospel message of grace and redemption.
In Him alone,
Cambridge Baptist Church