Run in such a way as to get the prize. 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 someone running aimlessly. (1 Corinthians 9:24 – 26, NIV)
Sometimes, as Christians, we believe that once we have come to faith in Jesus that we have reached our goal. But nothing could be further from the truth. Just as there are levels of athleticism, there are levels of growing in faith and intimacy with God.
We might describe a person’s activity level in life in a range from couch potato, to weekend athlete, to athletic, to semi-professional, professional, and Olympic. Each of these levels of physical activity require a different commitment. A person cannot achieve Olympic performance by living a couch potato life or any of the other levels of commitment either. Olympic performance requires Olympic commitment and training.
We structure our lives to get the lifestyle that we have. How we spend our time and energy determines the level of performance we achieve. An Olympic athlete organizes her life differently than a casual athlete. Her life is defined by her goals and training schedule. What she eats, whom she interacts with, how she spends her day, all are focused on achieving the next level of performance.
Likewise, as Christians, we determine the level of maturity that we reach in Jesus by how we run our lives. Do we organize our lives around going deeper in God? Or do we do just enough to hold our place? Do we have a diet that feeds the flesh or feeds the Spirit? Do we train our hearts and minds to God’s standards or to the world’s standards?
One cannot go from couch potato Christian to Olympic believer overnight. Developing our spiritual muscles and the skills of faith expressed in love take consistent coaching from the Holy Spirit. Peter was with Jesus three years and then had much training left to do (see Acts 10:9 – 19). Paul, after his conversion, spent three years before engaging in ministry (Galatians 1:15 – 18).
God loves us regardless of the level we set for ourselves. We are saved by the gift of grace and not by works. But God longs to draw us closer and to take us to higher levels in Christ Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, be my coach today. Train me in godly living and righteousness that I might win the race and gain the crown that lasts forever. Amen.