Have you ever watched a highlight reel of a race where there is clearly a leader in front of the pack?
All is going good, just the final straightaway to go. The unthinkable happens. In a foot race the runner trips or cramps up. In a car race the leader blows a tire or runs out of gas. They spent the entire race leading the pack only to fail to finish at the very end of a long race. It’s disheartening and very discouraging.
In Corinthians Paul tells us a similar story:
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
I read this in my devotion time the other day. I’ve read this analogy many times. This day it hit me in a whole new light.
Paul, regarded by many, as one of the greatest church leaders of all time. He was responsible for leading many to Christ, helping churches become great, and writing a big part of the New Testament. This was a guy that was running the race to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.” What struck me this day was his closing words in this chapter. “Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”
After preaching to others, encouraging others and all the stuff that Paul did, he recognized that there was a chance after all of that, he could be disqualified. He, Paul, author, teacher, preacher, the list of credentials are endless, still feared at the end he could be disqualified.
As I pondered this verse, the light bulb turned on. Sometimes, we get so busy doing good things for God we forget to be with God. We “preach” to others, maybe not in front of a crowd, but in the home, at work, and at school, but we forget to take care of ourselves. We work and strive doing good things, but at the last straightaway we tire and wear down. We grow weary in doing good because we haven’t disciplined ourselves along the way.
This lesson was so timely for me. I had been running at a pace I couldn’t keep up. The Lord was trying to teach me, much like an athlete places discipline in their life to accomplish their earthly goal, how much more important it was to create discipline in my life to accomplish a heavenly one.
These disciplines included time in the Word and in prayer, eating, resting, spending time with my family, and making wise financial decisions. As simple as they sounded, I found myself neglecting basic disciplines in the name of busyness. Busyness doing good things. but busyness nonetheless. If we aren’t careful and place boundaries around us, we might find ourselves at the end of the race, having pushed too far that we run out of gas or cramp up.
If Paul was concerned about it, I definitely should be. The pace at which our society operates now is staggering. Thank God for the reminder in His word to form good habits before it’s too late.
Father thank you for providing wisdom in your Word. May we truly set habits in place that will help us finish the race strong and hear “well done” when our time on earth is through. Amen