Today’s devotion builds on the thoughts from Sunday’s Sermon – Week 10 of “Fan or Follower – Finish Strong!” (CLICK HERE).
“The thrill of victory…the agony of defeat.”
You may be old enough to remember this slogan from the opening of ABC’s Wide world of sports. The words played over images of the victorious carrying of a boxer to the agony of a ski jumper spiraling off the ski jump to a hard landing below.
Sports are full of celebrations…and also defeats. We have all watched as one team celebrated to the falling of confetti and the raising of the trophy and the tears and dejection of the other team heading back to their locker room, coming up just short of the championship.
Victory is thrilling.
Defeat is agonizing.
Sports is temporary, but there is a bigger victory or defeat to be had.
Will we “win” the eternal victor’s crown or lose it?
1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 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.
If you are not playing to win, why are you playing?
Athletes at all levels play to win. Whether middle school volleyball or professional football, athletes train and play to win. In essence Paul is saying, “If you are not playing to win, why are you playing?” Yet he also calls our attention to the amount of time, energy and effort that individuals put forward to win a temporary crown. In Paul’s day, the winner of an Olympic event would receive a real laurel of flowers as a championship crown. We all know flowers last about 5-7 days once cut. Yet, athletes would train, struggle and compete at their bets to win that temporary crown.
How much more the crown that will last forever.
The effort Paul is talking about is not in connection to “earning eternal life” but doing all that is necessary to stay connected to the Gospel and help others do the same. He says it this way:
1 Corinthians 9:19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
The stakes are too high. Paul knew that the power of God was the Gospel and that every person needed the Gospel. So he practiced his faith and the sharing of the Gospel with purpose and intensity to ensure others would hear the Gospel message.
The stakes are high for us as well. Satan is working his hardest to get us to give up and desert our Savior. The challenges to our faith our real and not easy. So, we have no other choice than to engage in the competition. So we exercise our faith daily. Take input from our Coach regularly. We “eat” the food of the Word often. All to keep the Gospel at the center of our lives and the threat of Satan at bay.
Why? To receive the crown that will last.
Apply: What spiritual struggles lead you to want to give up?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for connecting my heart to yours by grace. Empower me with your Spirit to daily engage in the training and competition to fend of the attacks of Satan and stay faithful to you. Amen.