“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, NIV.
Have you ever thought about what drives a person to become a runner? You’ve seen those distance runners: pounding the pavement mile after mile after mile, enduring pain, fatigue, and everything else that might come with it.
What are the physical requirements for running? At first glance, it appears to be all about the legs. Strong legs are a real asset to a runner when it comes to speed and endurance. But then, there are the feet which require a million pounds of pressure to run! Running puts, the force of up to five times the body weight on the foot with every step.
Also important are the knees, the hips, the spine, the lungs, the heart, and so on. To run requires strenuous physical effort. To run a physical race is not easy; neither is a spiritual race. They both require stamina, fortitude, and determination. Paul tells us to “run in such a way as to gain the prize:” to run our spiritual race as if we were determined to finish in first place. And when we do so, we become one that is devoted to a Savior and Lord who teaches and guides us through the experiences of life.
And what is the prize? For those of us who have run in a physical race, the prize is a medallion or a plaque to recognize that we have finished first. The spiritual prize to which Paul alludes is “that I may share in its (gospel) blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:23, NIV). Taken in context, Paul is referring to the blessing believers receive when they witness the conversion of someone or hear of a friend or family member who has come to Christ. He says, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” Therefore, the spiritual prize is to learn of the difference the gospel makes for someone who has come to Christ because of the race you have run.