Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. (1 Corinthians 9:24)
Watching the 2012 Olympic Games, I was reminded that the Apostle Paul often used athletic analogies to motivate us to strive for godliness in our Christian lives. Just like world-class athletes who want to win the race, Christians must exercise self-control to achieve godliness; Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. (1 Corinthians 9:25a).
Our modern day Olympic athletes compete for gold, silver and bronze metals. Winners at the ancient Olympic Games received the olive wreath also known as kotinos (Greek: κότινος). To achieve success, these athletes had to exercise self-control, work hard and invest many hours in training. But of course, in time, the memories of their victories and their temporal rewards faded away; They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (1 Corinthians 9:25b)
Paul's point is that, unlike these Olympic athletes, godly Christians can earn eternal rewards for godliness, presented by God Himself... Prizes that will never perish or fade away!
To God, some Christians must look like five year olds running the race. When the starting gun goes off, they begin meandering down the track waving to their parents. One runs the wrong way, another one stops to tie his shoes, and one little guy just sits down on the track and cries. The parents say, "Oh, how cute!" and then declare them all winners. This may be cute for five year olds, but such behavior it is not so cute for adults running in the Christian race, seeking godliness.
To gain godliness, like winning athletes, we must exercise self-control and self-discipline; Therefore I run in such a way, not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:26-27). We know that Christians can never lose their eternal salvation. Everyone in this race is destined for heaven. But Paul says that we can be disqualified and ultimately lose some eternal rewards known as imperishable crowns. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
We should learn some valuable lessons from these Olympic athletes about what it takes to be a winner. But our rewards for godliness are far more precious; ...On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. (1 Timothy 4:7-10) Christian, run to win! Maranatha!