The Imperishable Prize

There may be no other simple six letter word that invokes so much stress and fear as change. Have you ever considered how much change you go through in a day, a week, a month or a year, let alone your life time? I was thinking about the changes that I have encountered in the last month. My daughter found a new job which changed her schedule, so that changed my grandson's schedule, which in turn, changed my schedule. Certain procedures at my place of employment changed, which changed how I did the schedule and changed the amount of time I had to spend working on the schedule. Changes are not always good. Sometimes, they are just excruciatingly frustrating. 

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Pixabay

In the last few months my daughter and son-in-law have had both cars in the shop, my nephew who was supposed to get married, didn't, another nephew had a daughter which no one was aware of until the mother went into labor and my hairdresser decided to give up being a hairdresser for a different full time job. All of these changes in some way affected my world. Wouldn't it be nice to just go a few hours, days, weeks or even months without changes?

And let's not forget the change, that wonderful time period that all women get to look forward to. Weight gain, hot flashes, abnormal periods, oh the joy! 

Don't get me wrong, many changes are good. Giving up smoking or excessive sugar is good for your health. Ending a toxic relationship is good for your well being. Starting to exercise can, not only help your heart, but improve your mood. Reading can open your mind and imagination to new worlds and learning something new can help delay memory loss. Much of change is good and necessary. 

God does not want us to be static. Webster defines static as showing little or no change, action or progress. Our lives are supposed to change and grow as we come to know Jesus more and as we learn to trust and obey Him.

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
— I Corinthians 9:19-27 (NASB)

The Apostle Paul was not only uniquely aware of change, he was an agent of change. Once a top shelf Pharisee, persecutor of Christ followers, he met the Lord Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus. You can see his conversion in Acts 9:1-19. This intellectual Jew, raised in the strict order of the Pharisees, became a Christian. He changed. He went from killing Christians to believing in Christ and becoming one of the greatest leaders in the early Christian church. 

Paul knew that change did not end the moment he became born again. He was aware that his faith was going to be an ever evolving and changing thing. His desire became, to become all things to all men, so that Christ might be preached. He wanted to do his best and he knew that meant working at his faith and his relationship with Jesus.

I am thoroughly convicted by the above passage.

1. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run - Really? Do I remember I am even in the race, let alone that I am supposed to be running. I am not a runner, but I am smart enough to understand that being in a marathon takes hard work, discipline and practice. What do marathon runners practice? Piano? Chess? Painting? No! They practice running. They run to build their endurance and then they run to increase their speed. So the first question I need to ask myself is, 

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Pixabay

Am I running in the race or am I sitting on the sidelines being a spectator? I believe there are times we are on the sidelines. Runners get injuries, after which they have to take time to heal. As Christ followers and as human beings we get injured. We feel pain. And often that means we have to sit out for a spell. However, the analogy goes deeper. Let's say I am one of those marathon runners. My goal may be to win or just to make it to the finish line. If I fall and get injured do I stop or do I keep going? That all depends on the extent of the injury. We live in a world of hurt and pain. Our churches are filled with hurting people. Once in a while we get hurt by one of those hurting people. Does that mean I'm out of the race? Not if God is on your side.

2. Run in such a way that you may win - Winning? Hmmm. I don't feel like I am winning when I keep getting knocked down over and over. But think about it. A soldier who goes into combat keeps getting up and firing back until he can't get up any more. He knows the prize - to win the war, to keep people safe and protect human dignity and freedom. He fights for that to his very death because he is focused on the prize. So my second question is,

Am I running to win? - I have been. I am answering that question honestly. There are times in the last few years where I feel like I have hunkered down in a trench to hide and hope I don't have to ever show my head in the race again. But, my heart says, I want to run and run to win. Jesus' Spirit in me, is not going to let me give up, not if I really believe in the prize.

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Pixabay

3. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things - Excuse me? What did you say? Self-control? What is that? You mean you want me to not eat that other donut? You mean you want me to take a walk when I would rather sit in front of the TV? You mean you want me to hold my tongue when that customer was extremely rude to me? You mean you want me to love, give and care even when there is nothing in return? So my third question (no, I don't know how to count) is, 

Do all things, really mean all things? - Uh, yeah! So true, but so hard to do! But what is the motivation? For the Olympians past and present it is to receive a perishable wreath, or gold medal. For a Christ follower it is to receive an imperishable wreath. To hear Jesus say, "Well, done." To me, that seems worth the effort. 

4. Therefore I run in such a way as not without aim. I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. - It seems to me we need to have a purpose for what we do...not without aim, not beating the air. Disciplining ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. My fourth question then is,

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Pixabay

For what purpose? - Paul says it is so that he might not be disqualified. Paul didn't want to mess up, not for his own pride and reputation, but for his Lord. Our goal as a follower of Christ should be to lift Him up; to glorify Him; to turn people toward Him. 

What does that all have to do with change? Everything. Every day we experience change we can either take it in stride and glorify Jesus, or we can whine and complain. I know I am not always going to run with the aim in mind and at times I may even be beating the air, but I want to keep running. I want to remember why I run...for the imperishable prize.