Run the Race (1 Corinthians 9)
Run the Race Message Introduction
Today, we’re continuing our message series called “Bondservant.” Every believer is a bondservant of Jesus Christ, that’s what it means to call Jesus your Lord or master. A bondservant serves their master for life and a bondservant believes in their master for life. In other words a bondservant of Jesus perseveres once they’ve committed their lives to Him.
Romans 10:9 (NIV) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Lord in the Greek is kurios, which means the master of a slave. To be saved, you must confess that Jesus is your master. Secondly, you must believe in your heart the miracle of the resurrection. For if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then He’s still dead and unable to save anyone. But if you confess Jesus as the living Lord, raised from the dead, you will be saved.
Today, we’re going to look at another metaphor for how a bondservant of Jesus lives. My message today is called “Run the Race.” This metaphor is used repeatedly throughout Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. The life of a believer is like running in a race. It’s something that just about everyone can relate to. You’ve either run in some races yourself at some point in your life or you’ve watched others run races.
Real athletes in a race run to finish the race and receive a prize at the end. Nobody likes to run in a race and drop out. Why would someone drop out of a race? There could be a number of reasons. The person may not have trained properly and just didn’t have what it took to finish. The runner make have an injury that prevents them from running the race. Or the runner may not have the mental focus and just quits when it gets too hard. Or finally, the runner may be disqualified by breaking the race’s rules. Regardless of the reason, the runner who quits, does not finish and receive the prize at the end of the race.
2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing.
In these verses, the apostle Paul writes of his life as running the race. He says here, near the end of his life, that he has finished the race and kept the faith. He looks forward to the prize, the crown of righteousness, the Lord will award to him and to all believers. The crown of righteousness is the righteousness of Jesus Christ,that will be received in fullness at the Judgment Day. The crown symbolizes the eternal life that every believer who finishes the race will receive.
As true believers, we mustn’t just talk about running the race, we must do it. So, let’s see what the Bible says running the race is all about.
Win as many as possible
1 Corinthians 9:19 (NIV) Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
In this series, we are talking about being a slave or bondservant to Jesus Christ. Here, Paul says that not only is he a bondservant of Jesus, he also makes himself a slave to everyone. What does that mean? It means that Paul determined, in the freedom that he had in Christ, to serve others. Why did he do it? In order to win or save as many as possible.
Paul’s priorities in life were to win others for Jesus. Not everyone you witness to will become a believer. So, we don’t have an unrealistic goal of winning everyone. Our goal is to win as many as possible. To bring as many people to heaven with us as we can. As we’ll see, that is an important part of running the race for every believer.
In case you’re wondering if we have to do the same things as the apostle Paul, Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 11:1, follow my example as I follow Christ. So each of us should have the goal in our minds every day, God, help me to do whatever it takes today, to win as many as possible. How can we do that?
Deny yourself for other’s sake
1 Corinthians 9:20-22a (NIV) To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.
What is Paul really saying here? He is saying that he was denying what he wanted to do in order to help others. If you think about it, he was really following the example of Jesus. What did Jesus do? He came down from heaven to earth and became a human being. Why? To seek and to save the lost.
In the same way, without compromising his beliefs, Paul lived and presented the Gospel in a way that was understandable and appealing to different types of people. He summarizes his goal as …
Use all possible means to save others
1 Corinthians 9:22b-23 (NIV) I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Circle the word all in these verses, it occurs four times. We are to have an all-encompassing passion to save other people. To forgo our own comfort or pleasure in order to share the truth with those who are not yet believers.
Is there just one way to do this? No, God uses all kinds of means to bring people to salvation. We must be willing to let God use us in all kinds of ways to save others. Our efforts to save others are done for the sake of the gospel, which is what Jesus died for. To bring us the good news that we can be forgiven and saved through faith in Him.
Notice the last phrase in the verse “that I may share in its (the gospel’s) blessings. The blessings of the gospel are reserved for those who have embraced it for themselves and share it with others. The blessings of the gospel come to those whose goal in life is to win as many as possible.
In the 2012 London marathon, more than 37,000 runners competed. The winner was Wilson Kipsang, from Kenya, who finished in 2:04:44. There was another runner who finished the race in 6 ½ hours, who I want to talk about today.
Her name was Simone Clark. Simone was an epileptic who suffered about 4 seizures a day. Simone’s friend Tally Hall agreed to help train her and run the marathon with her. In the marathon, everything went well for the first seven miles, but at mile eight, Simone had her first seizure. Tally helped her and Simone woke and started running again.
Over the next 18 miles, Simone had 19 more seizures, each time collapsing and lsing consciousness for 30 seconds or more. Each time, her friend Tally caught her and helped her wake up again. At 6 ½ hours, Simone and Tally crossed the finish line together.
Tally could have finished the race with a far better time alone. But she denied her own desires, so that she could help Simone finish the race. Tally entered into Simone’s world and used all possible means to help her keep going and complete the course.
In the same way, you and I are called to enter into the lives of those who are not even in the race or who are struggling. Who are you working to get in the race for Jesus? Who are you helping stay in the race? Ask God to help you do whatever it takes to win as many as possible for Jesus.
Now let’s talk about running the race ourselves. We must …
Run to get the prize
1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV) 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.
In a race, there are a lot of runners, but there is only one first prize. The runner who wins ran with everything he had within him to finish and win. As believers, we are by faith in God’s race of life. We are to run the race of life to finish and with the intensity of one running to get the gold medal.
In the race of life, there are many who aren’t even in the race. Others have started the race, but have veered off course or dropped out. So, how can we run to get the prize?
Commit yourself to strict training
1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV) 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.
An athlete has a training regimen that they go through before they enter the race. They undergo strict training in order to do their very best to win the prize. Strict training necessitates self-control, eating right, undergoing various training disciplines to strengthen the appropriate muscles and increase endurance.
In the same way in the Christian life, as believers, we must be committed to strict training, so that we can finish the race and do our very best to get the prize. A marathon runner could list off for us the training practices that are necessary to prepare for the race and to finish well.
A believer, also has a set of training practices and disciplines that will enable them to run the spiritual race of life well. Strict training consists of things to avoid and things to practice.
For the believer, we must avoid the sins the Bible warns us about. Any sin persisted in, will take you off course and prevent you from finishing the race. When you become aware of a sin, repent and get back on track.
What are the spiritual disciplines that a believer should utilize? Some of the basic ones are well known, but not as well practiced.
- Work out with fellow believers on Sundays and in a Life Group.
- Work out by yourself by reading your Bible and praying daily.
- Practice the disciplines of regular giving and serving in ministry.
- Recruit new runners for the team by inviting others and sharing the Gospel.
There is much more, but those are some of the basics of committing yourself to strict training.
Make wise use of your time
1 Corinthians 9:26 (NIV) Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.
Some people just go through life aimlessly, wasting their time on nonsense and entertainment that is of no eternal use. God’s Word says that we are not to run or live aimlessly. It also speaks of a boxing metaphor. The boxer does not just punch the air, he directs his blows so that they have an effect.
As believers, our whole lives must be lived with purpose, making wise use of our time. Each of us only has so many years, days and minutes. Each minute that God gives us is a gift that is to be used for Him and His purposes. We are to make wise use of our time and run the race with purpose.
Exercise self-discipline to avoid disqualification
1 Corinthians 9:27 (NIV) No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Rather than running aimlessly, Paul says that he basically exercises self-discipline in the race of life. For those of you who run, do you ever, like me, start to run and after a while, just get tired and think it would be easier to just quit and walk? Rather than quitting, we must tell ourselves to keep on going and not quit until we finish the race.
A race has certain sets of rules. You must follow the rules or you will be disqualified and not have a chance to finish and receive a prize. Even Paul, knew that just because he had started the race well, didn’t mean that he could coast to the finish line. He needed to exercise self-discipline and resist the temptations that if given in to, could result in disqualification and not receiving the prize.
Run to get the prize.
A man named Charles Templeton became a believer at the age of 18. He was zealous for the Gospel and preached the gospel to large crowds. Many were saved through his ministry. He started a church that quickly grew to more than a thousand people. He became friends with Billy Graham and carried out great evangelistic crusades with Graham in Europe. Some thought that he would be a greater evangelist than Billy.
Yet, somehow, someway, Templeton began to doubt the Bible and his own faith. He spoke to Billy Graham at length and attempted to influence Billy with his doubts, but Billy resisted.
After many years, Templeton renounced his faith completely and wrote his final book a few years before he died “Farewell to God : my reasons for rejecting the Christian faith” Templeton was interviewed by Lee Strobel shortly before he died. He said that he believed Jesus lived, but he refused to believe Jesus was God.
He said “Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. He is the most important human being who has ever existed. And if I may put it this way, I miss Him.” and he began to weep. Charles Templeton is the sad story of someone who began the race but failed to finish and receive the prize.
We must run to get the prize and never give up.
Today, if you’re a believer, you’re in the race. Part of being in the race is to recruit as many other runners as you can. Win as many as possible. Then run to get the prize. Run hard, train well, exercise self-discipline and finish well. Only those who finish get the prize.