I’ve had the privilege of wearing the red, white, and blue on several occasions while representing the United States in international competitions. Each time it was a simultaneous mad rush of pride followed by this tremendous weight of representing a nation! Playing for yourself, if you win, YOU win and if you lose, YOU lose. Not so if you’re an Olympic athlete, if YOU win, your nation wins with you, but if YOU lose, your nation loses with you.
Paul challenges us to live life to win:
“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. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-25
The “prize” Paul speaks of is not salvation. The Bible is clear that salvation is not something “worked for or earned” – it’s the gift of God’s grace received by faith (Ephesians 2:8). Now, if we are to play in such a way as to win, Paul says we need to go into “strict training”. Training has a specific end in mind, in our case, the Glory of God.
Training demands specific things:
To compete at the highest level 18-time gold medalist, Michael Phelps, had a diet similar to this:
For breakfast, Phelps eats three fried-egg sandwiches with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions, and mayonnaise. Then he drinks two cups of coffee and consumes a five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast with powdered sugar, and three chocolate-chip pancakes. For Lunch, Phelps eats a pound of pasta and two large ham and cheese sandwiches on white bread with mayonnaise. Afterwards, he drinks about 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks. For Dinner, he eats another pound of pasta, then an entire pizza, and finishing off another 1,000 calories of energy drinks.
That’s insane! But, it’s absolutely necessary to compete at the highest level possible. How are you fueling your spirit to compete at the highest level possible? If we are honest most of us are fueling our spirits with the equivalent of a Granola bar and stick of celery and wondering why we aren’t winning. Look around you at the men and women winning in the Christian life and I promise you they have a “Michael Phelps” size appetite for the Word of God.
2. A Plan:
I promise you Michael Phelps doesn’t roll out of bed and think to himself, “What should I do today?” not a chance! Every minute is planned out in advance in order to position his life for optimal performance. Coaches and competition fill his life in order to pull out greatness. In fact, the word ‘train’ comes from the Latin word ‘trahere’ which means ‘to pull’ or ‘to draw out’. What’s your plan to win the race God has called you to? Do you have spiritual coaches in your life? Have you surrounded yourself with men and women that provoke you to Godliness?
If you’re not failing a lot, you’re not training. You may be exercising or working out, but it’s not training. Training, by its very definition means you’re going to fail, and fail A LOT! You’ll fall down and get up…. fall down and get up, over and over, until slowly the falling stops. Winning becomes the norm. It’s been my experience in life, sports and the Christian walk, whoever gets up the most wins.
The apostle Paul puts the same weight on the Christian walk. He refers to us as “ambassadors” for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are representing His kingdom, His people in the earth, and in a very real way, when you win, we win and when you lose, we lose. Once grace is received by faith, we put on Christ ‘like a garment’ or a jersey. Suddenly we represent the King and his glorious kingdom in the earth.
Now let the games begin!