‘Do you not know that those who run in a RACE all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it’, 1 Corinthians chapter 9 verse 24.
Next to the Olympian Games, the Isthmian Games, held at Corinth every three years, was the most prestigious athletic contest of the 1st century. If you wished to compete in it, you had to have Greek citizenship. Paul, the apostle, saw similarities in the various events to the Christian life; indeed, he saw the Christian life as a race. To participate in this ‘race’, a person has to be a born again believer, i.e. they must have turned in repentance towards God and placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation from sin.
In the Olympic and Isthmian Games there can only be one winner among the many participants in any given race. However, in the Christian ‘race’, all believers are participants and all can be winners. In the Olympics, participants compete against each other; whereas, in the Christian life, each one of us competes against ourself by seeking to obey the will of God for our life. The former participants compete to win a corruptible crown (e.g. a wreath; a medal) that does not last, even for a life-time, let alone for eternity; whereas, as far as Christians are concerned, the Bible speaks of spiritual crowns or rewards that last for eternity:
(a) the crown of rejoicing for faithful witnessing, 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 19.
(b) the crown of righteousness for loving and looking for the second coming of Christ, 2 Timothy chapter 4 verse 8.
(c) the crown of life for enduring trials, James chapter 1 verse 12.
(d) the crown of glory for caring for the local church, 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 4.
Christianity is not a spectator sport; nevertheless, it is a ‘race’ that will bring incorruptible and spiritual rewards, 1 Corinthians chapter 3 verses 14-15. How many of these crowns will you gain?