Torchbearers for Christ
Tuesday, February 20, 2024
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In 1 Corinthians Chapter 9 Paul tells us that the passion of his life was to preach the gospel to those who did not know the Lord. He was willing to endure all manner of hardships and to deny himself in order to achieve this ambition.
He then urges the believers to make the Christian life their highest priority and to let nothing distract them from finishing well. Paul would have been familiar with the Grecian games which were held near Corinth every fourth year, and he illustrates his message to the believers by explaining how the runners in these races made every effort to win their race. The successful athlete was given a wreath of olive leaves.
In using the illustration from the Olympic Games, Paul leaves us is no doubt that the Christian life requires discipline, determination and self denial. He is explaining that just as these athletes made every effort to win first place in their race in order to receive a fading bunch of olive leaves, so we should make life’s top priority to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and ... run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). 
Paul explains that the athletes competing in these games do their utmost to win. He adds “They do it to obtain a crown that will not last, but we do it to obtain a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24-26 NIV).
We need to remember that the Christian “race” is not a sprint lasting for a short time; rather it could be described as a marathon race or even an obstacle race. But whether it is short or long, we have our Lord Jesus to provide all we need to finish well, and help us to “run and not be weary”. Regrettably we know of some who have started well, but for a variety of reasons have dropped out of the race. Such was the case of with King Solomon whom we have recently considered; he started well but abandoned his faith in God in senior years and died a worshipper of idols. The Lord Jesus, when teaching from the parable of the sower, told of some people who received the word of God gladly, but become choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures and give up their faith in God (Luke 8:14).
We may ask whether those who have “dropped out” of the race may realise their mistake and make a fresh start. The Bible makes it very clear that provided such a person is genuinely repentant, God will welcome them back into His family and into the Christian “race”. King David’s sad failure and restoration tell us of the greatness of God’s mercy, and that failure need not be final. Praise His Name.
Let us then endeavour, with God’s help, to live and act wholeheartedly for the Lord and for souls as did the apostle Paul, and to finish our course with joy (Acts 20:24).   RUN TO WIN!  
This article was written by Pastor Geoffrey Davies. He is a frequent contributor to this column. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he pastored a church for over twenty-five years.  Since 1983 he has traveled widely, continuing his ministry of encouragement and Bible teaching.