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Run for the Prize

Below is this week's devotional brought to you by my daughter, Jillian Jones. You can read more of her blog posts on her website at
Messy Kind of Holy. Hope you enjoy it.

Run for the Prize

"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. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

This text can be an athlete’s favorite text or the bane of the couch potato’s existence. Somehow, I’m both. While I’ve done a half marathon and love running, I’m also super lazy when it comes to exercise and haven’t run in over a year. It’s a text about self discipline and self control, about setting goals and meeting them. Which is hard. This text is not for the faint of heart. Self discipline, self control, meeting goals are all hard work. Which makes the analogy of sports and physical fitness fitting.

But also like sports and exercise, it’s worth it. When you run, or box, or do any kind of exercise, there is a prize. You get stronger, faster, you feel more awake and productive, you get a sense of accomplishment. Similarly, self control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). When you exercise your discipline and self control in your faith, you get better at it. It helps you grow in your faith, grow closer to God, which is a worthy reward all in its own, and you become a better person.

But that isn’t the only prize for our faith journey. For the apostle Paul, the prize is the gospel. The prize is being able to love better. Love God and love each other. The prize is not heaven, because we don’t earn heaven, it is a gift freely given by grace. The prize is spreading the word of the gospel and winning other people’s souls over to Christ.

And we need to work towards that prize in all that we do. Part of the reason Paul wrote to Corinth was to respond to a discord between Corinthians. You see, some people saw that God was the one true God and food sacrificed to pagan gods had no real power, so they ate food sacrificed to other gods. The others saw this as idolatry and refrained from doing so.

So in chapter ten he addresses that, he says "‘I have a right to do anything’ you say — but not everything is beneficial, ‘I have a right to do anything’ — but not everything is constructive." (1 Corinthians 10:23) People saw the freedom they got in Christ as freedom to whatever they want. But that is not running to win the prize. It is not exercising self discipline and self control. It is not working towards the goal of the gospel.

And when you say "I have a right to do anything" you aren’t thinking of your team mates. Team mates? You might think. This analogy of running, this call to self discipline and self control, it may seem like a solitary sport. It may seem lonely. But as someone who has run a half marathon, let me tell you running is not a solitary sport. In order to run long distances it requires support from family and friends. People to hold you accountable, people to run alongside you, people that you are doing this for.

Running the race of the gospel is also not a solitary thing. We need community. I couldn’t find who originally said this, but I heard a good analogy about it. Christianity is swimming up against a river. If we do it by ourselves, we will get tired and eventually fall, and flow with the river. But we don’t do it alone. We have a community, a church family, who swims the river with us. And when we get tired and can’t swim anymore, they help push you forward, they help carry you when you can’t anymore. And when they struggle and need help, you do the same for them!

But when all we think of is our freedoms and our right to do whatever we want, we’re not thinking about our team mates. We might actually be actively hurting them with what we do. That damages our relationships with each other and with God. So self control is a relational thing.

So, yes, this text of self control and self discipline isn’t easy. It’s hard and requires work. But it’s worth it to win the prize of winning people over to Jesus. It’s worth it to become closer to God and better love God and love others. And best of all, we aren’t in this alone. God is with us, our church family is with us. So run the race! Win the prize! It might be the best thing you ever do.

Have a blessed day!

~Jillian

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