I hate running. I would only run for three reasons: a bear behind me, a Krispy Kreme doughnut ahead of me, or hearing that Anthony Rizzo was signing autographs just down the street. Then my beautiful bride-to-be asked me to run a 5k at Wrigley Field with her. Now there are four reasons.
As we arrived, the fairly small group of serious runners were limbering up and preparing for a 3.1 mile sprint while the amateur runners, like myself, were eating McDonald’s breakfast and trying to figure out how to pin their bibs to their shirts. As I munched away on my hash brown, I realized that I was one of the “here for fun” runners and not one of the “here to win” runners.
To say I ran the 5k would be a lie. I power walked most of it, taking scenery breaks here and there, often being passed by moms with strollers and old folks with walkers), and then naturally, I sprinted across the finish line as the crowd applauded and handed me water for the hard work that they thought I had done.
Only a few days later I was reminded of Paul’s words to the church in Corinth about living the Christian life:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Just like the 5k at Wrigley Field, there are two basic ways to approach the Christian life. Of course everyone warms up, trains, and prepares differently, and while both groups of people are still living the Christian life, there are two distinct “levels”of commitment to the race.
First, there are the “here for fun” Christians. These people are not running to win the race, they are just running to finish. Some people live their whole Christian lives power walking at best, often dragging their feet, just hoping to finish. They don’t push themselves, they don’t train hard, they don’t spend their free time thinking about the race. Days, weeks, maybe even months go by where little serious effort has gone into their spiritual health.
Then, there are the “here to win” type of Christians. Those who are running “that [they] may obtain [the prize]. They practice self-control, they live their lives with purpose, disciplining their bodies, minds, and hearts to live godly lives. They train themselves in prayer, Scripture, service, and other spiritual disciplines. They give all of their strength and energy to running the race well so that they might receive a greater prize.
In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Paul writes:
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
The foundation upon which all Christians build their lives is Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone. But each person must decide how to build their lives upon Him. Some build with sturdy materials that will stand the test of fire while others build with fragile materials that will get burned up on judgment day. The “here for fun” Christians, who spent their lives not training, not working, munching on hash browns instead; who built their lives with poor materials “will be saved, but only as through fire”, while the “here to win” Christians, who worked hard, disciplined themselves, and built their lives with strong materials “will receive a reward”.
Which group of runners are you in? Are you a part of the small group of serious runners – those who discipline themselves spiritually, train hard, study and obey Scripture, and live strong, gospel-centered, God-loving lives? Or are you a part of the massive group of amateur runners, just hoping to tough it out and scrape by on judgment day?