By Bill Brandstatter
My wife and I enjoy watching the Olympic Games. This year in February, the Winter Olympics were held in South Korea. The apostle Paul was very familiar with the games of his day. He makes an allusion to the Olympics in 1 Cor. 9:24-27: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus, I fight: not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (NKJV) Paul states that the reason for running is to get the prize.
The prize for Christians is salvation. He alludes to the prize again in the book of Philippians. There he writes: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13,14) He refers to the prize which is ahead. It takes discipline to be an Olympic athlete. Paul lived in a day when the Olympics in Greece were well-known to many. Paul, when writing to Timothy, describes the crown of victory that awaits him: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8) (NKJV) Paul says the crown awaits others as well. I want that crown. I want to be victorious in my Christian life. It will take discipline and work. Faithfulness is no accident. Just like the Olympic athletes must work and train, so must a Christian.
The writer of Hebrews describes it this way: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) The Christian life is compared to an endurance race. It takes exercise, practice, and discipline; but the result is a victory that can get us to heaven. Whatever it takes, I want that victory. Don’t you?
– Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/