Shelby G. Floyd
A few years ago the Summer Olympics were held in China. Athletes from all over the world were competing for the top prize—a gold medal of honor and glory. The New Testament abounds with allusions to the ancient games conducted in Greece, Asia and Rome. A few examples will suffice:
• “Run in a way as to get the prize.”—1 Corinthians 9:24
• “…Exercise yourself to be godly…”—1 Timothy 4:7
• “…run with patience the race marked out before us…”—Hebrews 12:1
• “…if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”—2 Timothy 2:5
Compete to Win the Prize
The Christian life is a marathon. In the same way Christ and the apostles admonish Christians to compete with ourselves to win the prize of heaven. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). The word “press” reveals that there will be opposition to each one of us. Therefore, it will require great effort and training to win the heavenly prize.
The writer of Hebrews admonishes: “Therefore…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” (Hebrews 12:1). Many of us are weighted down with so many worldly pursuits that we cannot “run with patience” the race ahead of us. For most people the race marked out for us is not a walk, but a marathon that we must run for many years. This means that stamina and patience will be required to sustain us for the length of life.
The Longest Marathon
Greece proper was attacked in 490 B.C. with a Persian sea attack upon Athens. The fleet landed near Marathon in Attica. Athens was betrayed by Hippias, who was to rule Athens if the Persians won. The crisis was so great, that the runner Pheidippides ran over a hundred miles from Athens to Sparta under forty eight hours. His message to the Spartans was,
Lacedemonians, the Athenians make request of you to come to their help, and not allow a city most anciently established among the Hellenes to fall into slavery by the means of the Barbarians…” (Outline of History, H. G. Wells, 1961, pp. 250-251).
The Christian Marathon
In like manner, the Christian race is not a brief sprint, but a long marathon that will require all the courage and steadfastness that we can muster. The prize will be worth it. “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Like some who have done mean and wicked things in order to win in sports, Satan will do everything he can to throw up roadblocks to trip us up when we are struggling. “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 Corinthians 9:24). Let us like Pheidippides, finish our marathon race for Christ and then sprint to the finish line.
Copyright © 2015 Shelby G. Floyd All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142