We will consider some of the essential teachings from these passages, and then we will look at the biblical means of successfully winning our competition. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul uses both the concept of running a race and boxing to support his case. First, he emphasized the need for one to give their all for the prize (vs. 24; cf. Phil. 3:14). Second, he made sure they understood the self-control necessary to win the prize (vs. 25). Third, he assured them the nature of the prize for which they strove was greater than what the athlete worked so diligently to obtain (vs. 25). One must properly understand how valuable something is if they are to give the necessary effort to gain it. Fourth, he stressed the need to be purposeful in the competition (vs. 26). Finally, he drove home the reality that a lack of discipline would lead to one’s disqualification (vs. 27). The reason is one cannot receive the crown unless they compete according to the rules (cf. 2 Tim. 2:5). All this requires a drive to never give up on the goal (2 Tim. 4:7-8; Gal. 5:7; Phil. 3:14).
The key to all of the above is to focus our attention on the true objective of our race, Jesus. The Hebrews writer urged his readers to “…lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). He then revealed the secret to winning this race: “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb. 12:2). The term translated “looking” here means “To turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something” (Thayer). The point is, we must not let the peripheral things in the arena in which we run distract us from the goal. This is easier said than done, but if God demands it, it must be something we can do.
The motivation to never give up is the combination of the faithful from the past (Heb. 11), and of even greater significance the willingness of the Christ to suffer and die for us. He endured the shame and the pain “for the joy that was set before Him” (Heb. 12:2). That joy was being able to free us from the fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15), save us from our sin (Heb. 7:25), and grant us bold access to God (Heb. 4:14-16; 10:19-22). With such a lofty price having already been paid on our behalf, what could this world offer that could overshadow Him? Those who work so hard to earn bragging rights in some sporting event know they may get injured or even die in pursuit of a prize which will only last a little while. Yet, this risk does not deter them in the least. If they can endure for such menial things as this, why can we not endure for an imperishable crown which no one can ever take from us? If we are God’s children, we mustn’t take our eyes off Jesus for even a split second. If we blink, we could lose everything. On what are your eyes fixed?