Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Sport or Fitness (02/15/07)
TITLE: Are You a Spiritual Athlete?
By Charles Salmon
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Nearly everyone I know is excited by sporting events and the athletes who excel at them. Who among us has not been thrilled by the accomplishments of a Peyton Manning, Lance Armstrong, or Tiger Wood? Lately, I’ve been astounded by the skills of the agile young athletes who call skateboarding their sport. It’s not always professionals who capture our attention. Who can pass up the opportunity to watch a son, daughter, or grandchild compete in high school sports or Little League? The entire world is captivated by athletes and athletic events.
Athletic competition is nothing new. It was a powerful force in the Roman Empire of Jesus’ day. In First Corinthians 9:27, the Apostle Paul draws upon “The Games” to challenge Christians in their pursuit of spiritual excellence.
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.” 1 Cor 9:24 (NIV.) In a race, not everyone can win. But, in the Christian life, we are all winners. In the pursuit of spiritual excellence, we can all, by God’s grace, achieve wonderful results.
“They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Cor 9:25. In many professional sports, retirement age is around 30. One can hardly watch a pro football game without hearing the comments of some retired quarterback who is in the broadcast booth to provide “color commentary.” Every athlete knows, no matter how hard you work, you can’t keep winning forever.
Not so the Christian life. As the body gets weaker, the spirit grows stronger. The excellence and the prize for which we strive is eternal. We will enjoy victory not only in this life, but forever. What an incentive to live for Jesus!
Everyone knows you shouldn’t enter an athletic contest unless you are serious about it. To be a winning athlete demands rigorous training and rigid discipline. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.” Just as exercise and training strengthen the body, so the spirit must be guided, exercised, and fed properly to grow strong.
The disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and worship are essential to a strong spirit life. The race we run is sometimes quite strenuous, but the prize is more than worth the effort. So, “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.” Heb 12:1
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