The Rules of the Race

“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.”

1st Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)

I was challenged once by a particular lesson presented by an old friend. He was suggesting a sermon I might deliver sometime. But it made me re-think my own Christian race and realize that at that time I had an error I needed to correct—an area where I was not running according to the rules.

All of us need to reevaluate our lives to be sure we are running “in such a way as to get the prize.” Paul, the apostle, gave us the example. He was continuously aware of the need to have full, conscious control of his actions: “Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1st Corinthians 9:26-27, NIV).

We cannot approach the Christian life with a “whatever” attitude. (You know that one: you ask a teenager about something and they say, “Whatever!”) Our Christian race is only won when it is run with the proper attitude and purpose. Often, God notices our incorrect attitudes and sends someone to steer us back to the right way. We frequently brush it off. (“Whatever!”)

If “whatever” would work, Jesus would not have criticized the Pharisees. They were very pious and morally precise; why not leave them alone? They were not left alone because they did it out of a sense of self-righteous pride. With that attitude, they could not be acceptable to God!

There are several other attitudes people hold about the Christian life that do not fit with the rules of the race.

  • The “I do it because I have to” syndrome produces lives that appear to be Christian but are not filled with Christian joy.
  • The “I’m already saved, don’t bother me” syndrome reveals both a lack of gratitude and a lack of purpose.
  • The “pay attention to me!” syndrome reveals a person who thinks he is in the church to be served rather than to learn how to serve others.
  • The “I know what’s right, now fall in line!” syndrome produces orthodoxy but not love.

These problem attitudes are not problems from their beginnings. They originate from good ideas. The attitudes listed in the previous list, for example, begin from submission, grace, dependency or leadership. However, that attitude was not then watched by its owner to see what it grew into. These folks are running, but it is not the Christian race they are trying to win.

Let’s all evaluate our own attitudes and also pray for each other that we will each run in such a way as to get the prize.

November 2, 2003
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