Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on August 24, 2018
The start of a new school year means the start of a new football season. The Crosstown Clash between Norman High and Norman North kicks things off next Thursday at Owen field and the Sooners begin their quest to return to the College Football Playoffs next Saturday at Owen field as well. The excitement and energy for these athletic competitions grows each day as we approach these opening kick-offs.
Athletics also were an important part of the culture around which the scriptures were written. So, it was quite natural for the Apostle Paul to draw on athletics for insights into the new and challenging spiritual life that was found in Jesus. The same is true today; athletics are a focal point of our society and they still offer metaphors that bring perspective to life and to spiritual things. And while these games have some value, ultimately, Paul reminds us that life and meaning are not found in games; they are found in Jesus. How foolish we are to pursue only perishable wreaths and to neglect the imperishable ones. Paul writes that he considers all the “trophies” of this world to be “rubbish” in comparison to what he has gained in Christ.
What about you? Is your trophy case full, yet your life empty? Have you crossed the finish line only to discover you ran the wrong race? How many of us practice self-control, focus, and discipline in the games we play, but neglect them when it comes to life and faith. We never miss a kick-off, but haven’t been to church in weeks. We have money for tickets, but not to feed the poor. We read the sport’s page religiously, but can’t remember the last time we read the Bible. We talk about last night’s game to strangers, but refuse to talk with God (pray) about anything of substance. These are all symptoms of running the wrong race.
Toward the end of his life and ministry, the Paul declared that he had fought the good fight and finished the race. He was at peace with himself and with God because he had kept the faith. With great hope and expectation he believed that a crown of righteousness awaited him.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul challenged all who run in a race to run in such a way that they may win. Paul was a winner and he wanted his friends to be winners. He called them to compete with self-control, focus, and discipline, so that they would not be disqualified. To the Philippians, Paul wrote to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Isn’t it time to start running the right race? What if self-control, focus, and discipline characterized our faith and relationship with God? Paul says to practice godliness in all things. We practice godliness when we choose faith over doubt. We practice godliness when we offer love instead of hate. We practice godliness when we forgive instead of seek revenge. We practice godliness when we give away instead of keep for ourselves. We practice godliness when we choose to be faithful to our spouse. We practice godliness when we choose purity over immorality. We practice godliness when we use our liberty to serve others not as license to do whatever we want.
And when we practice these things, we discover the blessing and grace of not being disqualified. There is a crown of righteousness laid up for all who believe. Let us press on for the prize!
Dr. Wade Smith