“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.” — 1 Corinthians 9:25
Michael Phelps learned how to swim when he was 7 years old. Experts say Phelps’ big feet acted like fins — he wears a size 14 shoe and has very flexible ankles. His 6-foot-4 frame and long arms pushed him through the water faster. His family saw potential for him to be a competitive swimmer and hired a trainer. For many years, Phelps swam, lifted weights and did stretching exercises for five to six hours a day, six days per week. In peak training phases, he swam about 50 miles a day and ate 10,000 calories daily to have enough energy to keep up his routine. During the course of five Olympic Games, he won 23 gold medals, three silver medals and two bronzes.
In ancient times, Olympic athletes were awarded laurel wreaths on their heads rather than gold medals, but the prizes were treasured and represented tremendous effort by the competitors. As the apostle Paul worked to establish churches in Greece and elsewhere, he used athletic competition as an illustration for putting forth our best efforts in serving the Lord. Though 1 Corinthians was originally written to a specific group (the Corinthian church), it applies to all people in all times and places.
The Holy Spirit led Paul to speak about stretching forward with every ounce of our strength — like a runner in a race — when we pray, read our Bibles, worship, share our faith and live for Jesus on a daily basis. Paul saw some people giving half-hearted effort and it disappointed him. He challenged us to reach a higher level of commitment to the Lord in our minds and in our way of life: “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” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
Though we are saved through God’s grace, the Lord wants us to put forth effort like a champion. As athletes follow rules to stay on the active roster and avoid being disqualified, the Lord expects Christians to live according to His standards, like Jesus. “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” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
We should try to live within the boundaries set by God, as He set them for our own good and His glory. He wants us to learn self-control and Godliness by letting the Holy Spirit guide us daily.
— Bill Kent, Pastor of Memorial Baptist Church, Sylvania, Georgia
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