Running Well, Fighting Hard
It might not feel it right now (following Scotland’s departure from the Euro’s) but it’s a great time to be a sports fan. Currently we have the Euro’s and the Copa America for football fans. Soon Wimbledon and the Tour de France, and then before we know it the Olympic Games will be broadcasting from Tokyo.
There are few things I like more than sitting back in the comfort of my own living room, eating a tasty calorific take-away whilst watching athletes perform on the TV and telling anyone who will listen where they’re going wrong!
The Bible often uses sporting metaphors to describe the Christian life. We are not called in Christ to sit on the sidelines, grumbling about the performance of others. Rather we are to “train ourselves to be godly” (1 Tim 4:7). Athletes in Paul’s day would have performed naked, free from every weight and hindrance that might hold them back. Thankfully our spiritual exertions don’t require this kind of disrobing, but we can certainly say with the Book of Hebrews:
‘Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.’Heb 12:1–2
Are there sins which are tying you up? Clutter which is holding you back? Rid yourself of the rubbish -the unhealthy and unwholesome- and fix your eyes on Jesus, as you run your race for (and with) him.
Paul also uses an athletic metaphor to remind us of the importance of living our Christian lives with a certain determination and drive. To the Church in Corinth he writes:
“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.”1 Cor 9:24-26
The apostle Paul doesn’t waste spiritual energy like a runner not aiming for the win, or a boxer who punches the air rather than his opponent. Does this mean that we all need theological training from Bible Colleges or Universities? No. But it does mean we should ask ourselves periodically if we’re living wisely and well for our Lord. And if we’re moving forward in our maturity and Christlikeness.
What is your favourite sport? What lessons could you apply from it to your spiritual life, that you might be able to say with the Apostle Paul when the time comes:
“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.”2 Timothy 4:7-8