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. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9.24-27)
The Pursuit of Spiritual Excellence
Jesus has called us to be His disciples. He demands dedication of us, and He promises a great destiny for us. People will make sacrifices to achieve or acquire that which they really want – it’s a matter of priority. As Christians, our greatest priority should be the pursuit of spiritual excellence. Paul compared it to running in a race. But this race is different. It is not competitive. We are not out to beat each other. We are not competing against each other. Rather, we are all running and at the same time encouraging and assisting each other to continue and win. Winning is not victory over each other, but instead is the defeat of a common enemy – the devil.
Run in such a way that you may win. Running requires effort and training and development. The Lord means for us to work – to put forth some effort. He never promised this calling would be easy. He has promised it will be worth the effort. We must run as best we can while using each opportunity to further develop and strengthen our faith. It is only through such participation, such earnest pursuit of spiritual excellence, that God is able to use us in His kingdom.
The Purpose of Spiritual Excellence
The Privilege of Reward. Jesus promised His faithful disciples a crown that lasts forever. Peter reminds us that we have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (that we might) obtain an inheritance imperishable and undefiled that will not fade away (1 Peter 1.3-4). As Paul neared the end of his life, he wrote, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4.7-8). Compared to eternity, our time here pales into insignificance, yet it is so very important, because how we use the life God has granted to us here will determine the nature of our life in eternity.
The Possibility of Defeat. Paul realized that even after he had taught others, the possibility existed that he himself, through some sort of sinful negligence, might be disqualified, “become cast away.” We cannot think of a greater tragedy, so let that possibility be a constant part of our motivation. Pray God will powerfully use us in His service, but never let us take for granted the need for steadfast, conscientious, unswerving fidelity to Christ and His church.
Let us make the pursuit of spiritual excellence the core of our fellowship and work together here. Pray for God to draw us closer to Him and to each other through our worship and fellowship and study together.
And as they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Permit me first to go bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” And another also said to Him, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say goodbye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9.57-62)