The Olympics are now officially over. I’ve always loved the Olympics because it’s the majority of the world coming together. This Olympiad was hosted in Rio de Janeiro with 207 nations participating and 11,303 athletes competing. Most of the games were exciting and fun to watch, like the 100 meters, most swimming events, and even gymnastics, but there’s always one sport that’s hard to watch. Let me preface this before I go any further: I love running—I love everything about the sport, but I will admit that it gets pretty boring, especially on long runs. If running gets boring for the runner at times, I could hardly imagine how boring it must be to watch. Perhaps the most boring event at the Olympics is the marathon. Golf was added to this year’s Olympics after years of being out, but I’ll leave that sport alone since it’s new to the scene. A marathon is 26.2 miles in length and usually spans more than 2 hours total and the ending is usually not neck and neck like sprinting and swimming. The time between the top two male marathon runners this year was over a minute while the difference between the top two male 100 meter sprinters was 0.08. While the marathon is the most boring to watch, it’s perhaps the most spiritual sport out there.
An article I read around this subject said that “Even Forrest Gump required a montage of the infamous running scene because seeing Tom Hanks travel on foot across the country in real time is not something people would pay to see.” I love running and even I think it’s boring to watch on TV. The apostle Paul likens the Christian life to a runner when he says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24). I have never personally ran a marathon, but I can tell you that if and when I do train for a marathon, I will not be training to win. I say that not because I lack confidence, but because I know I’m not an Olympic athlete. The apostle Paul just told me to run to win, but how can I win when I know I can’t?
When Paul talks about winning, he’s not talking about beating the competition literally, he’s talking figuratively. Paul is talking about winning against the course of life and to finish well. There’s several analogies for running a race and living your life—I want to focus on two things: exercising self-control and disciplining your body.
In 1 Corinthians 9:25 Paul says “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things” and we too ought to exercise this same control in the Christian life. I ran cross country in high school and college, and can tell you that everything you do is training for the next race, and I mean everything. Our team used the idea of “holistic training” which basically meant that everything you did was a part of your training. I couldn’t eat a bunch of junk food, not practice, get little sleep and expect to do well at the meet. If I wanted to do the best that I knew I could do, I had to situate my life in a way that would allow every part to be a part of my training. This is the same concept when exercising self-control. If we as Christians trying to live a Christian life want to do the best of our ability, we need to have a holistic training method so that everything we do allows us to focus on winning the race. If you can’t exercise self-control because you have figurative junk food stopping you, then cut it out of your diet and focus on what will help you fix your attention more so on living the Christ-like life.
In 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul says “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” Too many followers of Jesus believe that they can’t conquer a particular sin because they’re not strong enough or they “just can’t help it.” This is one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves and it hinders our walk with Christ. While training for cross country meets, I experienced a lot of pains. I rolled my ankle on rocks and roots a few times, I got blisters and shin splints, I slid down a wet hill and hyper extended my knee once; training was never easy, but I did it because I wanted to get better. This is the same concept in disciplining your body so that you can get better at living the Christian life. Our bodies do not control us, we control our bodies. We all have the choice to live in sin or choose the new life Christ died to give us. Disciplining your body is just choosing to not do things that will lead you down a dark path. You know you better than anyone else and you know what causes you to stumble. Intentionally choose things that will lead you toward Christ and not toward who you used to be.
Getting to this point is not an overnight thing and getting to this point is worthless without Christ. Surrendering to Christ is the first step in living this new life. Paul says in Philippians 3:12 “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Living the Christian life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Conditioning for this life will be difficult and require all you have but it’s the most worthwhile thing you will ever do.
1 Corinthians 9 / Philippians 3:12 / Hebrews 12:1-2 / Colossians 3:1-4 / 2 Corinthians 5:17
Hampton, Blake. “Top 10 Sports That Are Somehow More Boring Than Golf.” TheSportster. N.p., 25 Dec. 2015. Web 23 Aug. 2016.