Do you remember how, on a racing-track, every competitor runs, but only one wins the prize? Well, you ought to run with your minds fixed on winning the prize! Every competitor in athletic events goes into serious training. Athletes will take tremendous pains – for a fading crown of leaves. But our contest is for an eternal crown that will never fade. I run the race then with determination. I am no shadow-boxer, I really fight! I am my body's sternest master, for fear that when I have preached to others I should myself be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (PHILLIPS)
What Paul wrote here surprised me, because it doesn’t sound religious but more like a challenge to get into athletics, and we know Paul was not gripped by Olympics mania. Of course, I agree with these words, because a man needs to stay fit. Not necessarily to make a good impression, but at least to find some way to keep up with his own children.
It has been years since I gave up competitive sports, because there was only room for three people on the podium, and not one of them was me! Nevertheless, when everyone’s attention is drawn to the Olympics, I have to think of the thousands of athletes who slave after the mirage of a medal. They often dope themselves with steroids and who knows what else, and even then don’t win anything. What do they set their hopes on?
And what happens for the rest of the year in the lives of the winners, who have invested all their strength and energy in this climactic event? When the Olympic flame has been extinguished and the contracts have run out – what then?
In competition, all one's strength and energy is consumed within just a few minutes, often in a split second. Each decision is critical, and you take chances. But that short race is only a very small moment in the life of an athlete. He does not live in the stadium or on the television screen.
Life is short! Isn't Paul saying that our lives are also just a brief time on stage? During our time on earth there is a lot more at stake – more than just medals and television ratings.
What are we willing to sacrifice and what strengthening do we need to gain the real crown of victory?