Rules matter, guiding every area of life. Competitors must run according to the rules in order to win a prize. In far too many competitions, someone becomes exposed for breaking the rules in an attempt to reach the top of the podium. Why is twisting and bending any or all regulations so common — not just in athletics but in every aspect of life? Whether in sports, politics, business, or even ministry, people willingly risk disqualification or loss of reputation to attain perceived goals.
“Isn’t it obvious that all runners on the racetrack keep on running to win, but only one receives the victor’s prize? Yet each one of you must run the race to be victorious. A true athlete will be disciplined in every respect, practicing constant self-control in order to win a laurel wreath that quickly withers. But we run our race to win a victor’s crown that will last forever. For that reason, I don’t run just for exercise or box like one throwing aimless punches, but I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body and get it under my control, so that after preaching the good news to others I myself won’t be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Here, Paul lays out strategic guidelines for success for virtually any area of life. Rules matter!
Know Your Lane
Whether in baseball, motor sports, swimming or track events, each participant runs within an assigned position or designated lane. Lanes ensure safety for the competitors and fairness in the competition.
What lane has God called you to run in? Is it within business or finance? Maybe your lane focuses on caring for and loving your family or community well. Is it shepherding a church? Or perhaps teaching or writing? Are you running in your designated lane?
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
God calls each one of us according to His perfect purpose and design for us. He equips and empowers us to fulfill specific roles. When we know and intentionally run in the lane God has called us to, our lives become exciting and fulfilled.
Whether you a professional dragster or an elementary school sprinter, knowing your lane determines your starting position and the course ahead! If you are unsure which position God has called you to run, ask Him for clarity and allow Him to show you.
Rules matter. The most important rule is staying within the lane God provides.
“Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.”
2 Timothy 2:5
Discipline and Self-Control
We will all start the race at some point, but too few will complete it. Perhaps, a lack of self-discipline or self-control hinders us from staying the course. Whatever the goal or purpose, these qualities will help successfully carry us from start to finish.
A good start doesn’t guarantee a great finish! Sacrifice marks the road to victory. Just as rules matter, so does character.
“. . . we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.”
Though not a contest, entering God’s “race” comes with a physically, emotionally, and often financial cost. However, as we run our race, we experience many benefits. God brings out the best in us, deepening our character.
Titus lists qualifying characteristics of those who lead the pack:
“Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”
These attributes form the personal character needed for a great finish to any race we begin.
Oh, my fellow runners, let’s not slow our pace or deviate from our course. May we remain faithful to run with perseverance, character, and hope.
The race we run resembles a relay or a marathon more than a solo sprint. Others run with and beside us. Still more will follow in our footsteps.
As we devote ourselves to run our race, may we champion others — encouraging, training, and developing those co-laboring with us.
We have opportunity daily to choose whether to wear the mantle of encourager or that of a critic. May any encouragement be sincere and all critquing be given with humility, inspiring listeners to press beyond their expectations.
‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
May we refuse to look over our shoulders, judging others for running in a different manner than we would. Criticism inevitably causes us to lose personal momentum, veer off track, or even break godly guidelines of good stewardship of gifts and resources. Rules matter!
What strategies for success can we pass on? How can we help someone else meet and surpass their goals? What tools, resources, or influence can we share?
May we humbly and willingly both receive and pass on the baton of encouragement, creating a synergy of wins.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
God rewards those who diligently seek Him.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Through the days, weeks, and years of training, a competitor strains toward the goal, the highest prize possible— the top mark, the highest rank.
Every earthly award will eventually break or lose its luster. In a few short weeks or years, it will fade into insignificance.
As Christians, we run or compete, not for human recognition, but to finish the course God has set before us. Everything will pale in comparison to hearing the King of Glory say,
” . . . Well done, good and faithful servant! . . .”
Let us not become distracted. Rules matter! Staying the course matters! Character matters! Passing the baton and keeping focus matters, too. But maintaining sight of eternity guides us along a straight and purposeful path “heavenward.”
Maybe you feel like you have tripped up too badly to continue. Today, I encourage you to restart and refocus. No matter how tragic your fall, with God’s help, restart. Move back into your lane and step-by-step aim for the finish line.
None of us know how much time we have left to run. Today, God offers us a fresh start and a new opportunity to gain ground. He is the God of second chances.
“Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity . . . “
You can do it! God is on your side, while forerunners in heaven and on earth cheer you on!