Play to Win
He reminded them that all the runners run but only one gets the crown. He urged them to run in such a way as to get the prize. He reminded them that everyone who wants to compete goes into strict training. Those competitors did it to get a crown that would not last. The church should be in training to get a crown that will last forever. (from 1 Corinthians 9:24)
This scripture has been on my mind, which is strange because I've never been a runner or an athlete. The scripture speaks of winning the crown. I've never cared about prizes. The one competitive sport I played was racquetball. While learning that sport, I realized I didn't have a winning strategy. You may know that in racquetball you gain points by hitting the ball so that your opponent is unable to hit it back. When I played, I enjoyed the volley, hitting the ball back and forth. I enjoyed it so much that I hit the ball in such a way that it was easy for the other player to return it. Needless to say, I wasn't winning any games. I had to learn to play the game with winning in mind. It took work, and discipline, and wasn't as much fun – until I won a game. This gave me a new perspective.
So, in view of the Scripture, it seems that I treat my Spiritual life in the same way I played racquetball. I play at it, enjoying the game. I am faithful with the disciplines that are fun. I faithfully attend church every week. I pray in church and quick prayers at home. I tithe. I read an inspirational reading every day or at least a few times a week. To everyone else, I play a good game. But am I playing to get the crown?
The crown Paul was writing about wasn't salvation. His readers were already saved, but they had become lazy. He wanted them to press on toward intimacy with God. Paul’s crown was the reward for service that produced eternal fruit. 1 Peter 5:4 says that when Jesus returns, the faithful will receive the crown of glory. Ephesians 2:10 says we were created for good works, put in place, in advance, by God.
So, I have to wonder what the crown is to me. Winning to me, is to draw closer to God–developing an intimate relationship with my Lord and Savior- until I realize he is as close as my heart beat. I want a relationship that is so close that I am guided by his Spirit to the works created for me. His will may be out of my comfort zone but there will be joy in the service. I won’t be playing the game to look good to others. I’ll be playing to get an eternal crown.
- I have to ask myself, am I satisfied with just playing the easy game?
- What am I willing to do to win? What disciplines do I need to put into practice? Am I willing to spend more time in God’s word – every day? Am I willing to spend enough time in His word that I gain insight into God’s character? Will I study all the scriptures, not just the feel-good parts? Will I ask God’s Holy Spirit to make the meaning clear?
- Am I willing to make changes in the way I live because of what I read in God’s word? Will I make those changes when my friends aren't doing it that way and when I don’t see the logical reason?
- How much time am I willing to spend on my knees praying and then quietly waiting for a word from God? He is faithful to honor that effort.
We are encouraged ask God for the wisdom we need. He gives it generously, without reproach. (James 1;5)
Jesus promises to answer prayer. (Matthew 7:7)
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