Monday, 19 March 2007

Understanding Paul's race a little more...

1 Corinthians 9:25 - 27
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get 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.

Ok so maybe I didn’t run a race yesterday – but I did get a clearer idea of what Paul was talking about here…

At the start of the bike ride yesterday they were very clear… this was not a race – you weren’t competing against the other riders, we were out to finish this together. But you know what?? About 25ks into that ride I realised I was competing against someone, I was competing against Me.

I doubted I’d finish that 60ks, I doubted I’d make it up the next hill… at the 40k mark when I cramped and fell off my bike I doubted I’d be able to get back on.

But I knew something, that giving into that doubt would kill me – seriously, I would have felt so useless if I had not been able to finish that ride. I had to push hard to ignore that doubt. I hurt, my legs, my neck, my ankles, my chest and lungs – I was aching – each hill towards the end of that ride brought a new wave of tiredness and fatigue onto my body…

… and I wanted to give up, so badly I wanted to pull over and sit down – or as I passed the dock where the City Cat was just stopping, I wanted to go down there and hope on it, for a care free trip back to the start finish line.

But what would it have been worth to do that? What accomplishment would be made???

Finally at the 60k point – after 2 and a half hours sitting on my bike I won the prize… I wasn’t the first in… I didn’t finish in any grand style – but I beat my doubting self… I won over the pain, over the mental agony that had been pounding my head ever since that first big hill.

I won!

The sense of accomplishment I had when I crossed the finish line was so immense I laughed out loud as I coasted to a stop, my prize – the free T-shirt – and I tell you what; I’m gonna wear it with pride; cause I really felt I earned it.

The race Paul’s talking about in that above verse is just the same – we’re not competing against other Christians, fighting to be the first or the best when we reach the gates of Heaven – we’re fighting ourselves, our own doubts, our own selfish ambition and vain conceit. Our aim is to have the same attitude as Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:4 -5), and that incorporates everything else that it means to be a Christian.

There are times in this race where I feel I’m not going to make it through the next hour, let alone the day, week or year. How can I continue???

On my bike ride I had a friend. He rode with me – when I struggled up a hill he pulled up beside me and encouraged me. He was much fitter than I was – and he could have gone up the hill faster than me – but he stayed beside me, with an encouraging word.

Jesus is your friend… he’s so much more powerful than you – he was there when the world was created, yet he stands beside you, encouraging you. He gave his life so you might live, now he’s running the race with you.

When I fell off my bike I ended up on the grass beside the road, my leg cramping. As fellow riders passed me the majority asked if I was all right, and they were quite willing to stop and help me if I needed it. The church family are like those fellow riders. They are part of the race, they are tired too – but they are willing to help you up so you can finish your race. They aren’t competing against you, so they won’t leave you on the sidelines to fail… they will help you get back up, and you can finish the race together.

Paul was talking about so much more than winning a T-shirt, and if I can feel so much pride in this shirt, because of my physical achievement on a bike. Imagine how much pride and celebration there will be when I overcome my human self to let Jesus work through me, and I finish THAT race and receive a crown that will last forever…

… that’s the sort of race I long to win!

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