In a world that is fixated on achievement and personal validation, the Christian doesn’t seek after a temporary acknowledgment of their greatness, but instead has the goal of a crown that will last forever. What we are after in this disciplined journey of life is to life faithfully to Jesus, doing what He has called us to do and being who He has called us to be.
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… (1 Cor. 9:24).
This is one of the metaphors Paul used to describe the Christian life. He likened it to an athletic context – specifically a race. Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth, and his readers would likely have had a pretty vivid picture of athletic contests.
Of course, the most famous games in ancient times were the Olympics, but between the Olympics there was another set of games held right there in Corinth. These contests were called the Isthmian Games, and Paul may have even seen them. So when he wrote to the Corinthians that the Christian life was like a race in which you compete, they would certainly have been familiar with the metaphor.
So if that’s true – that the Christian life is like a race – what are the implications for us today? There are at least three of them:
1. The Christian life is a journey.
A race is, fundamentally, a journey; it is forward motion from one point to the next. So the first and most basic implication of the metaphor for us is that the Christian life is also a journey. And though that journey will be filled with ups and downs, joys and pains, it is a journey with purpose and meaning.
Just like a race isn’t an aimless kind of walk, so also is our journey with Jesus. From the moment we believe in Jesus, God puts us on a journey of transformation. We are, day by day, moment by moment, being formed in the likeness of Christ. We are becoming like Him. And while that progress is painfully slow sometimes, we can look back over the course of our lives in Christ and say along with John Newton.