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d.e. buffaloe

Running For The Prize

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.   I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:  But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. "

There is a reason it's called "The Rat Race". As humans we get up, go to work, race around, and "seek to gather" all the riches that seem to be around us. Some people are motivated by Power. Power over others, power over self. To control rather than being controlled is their hearts desire. Others seek Wealth above all else. Money, diamonds, precious metals, real estate: the more wealth they have, the more satisfied they become. It is impossible to be too rich, or so they think. Others run a race for beauty, to satisfy their pride. Others for fame, to be well known and loved. All of these things have one thing in common, though:  they do it to obtain a corruptible crown. Their riches are temporal, eventually they die and the wealth they labored so long for is passed on to children that felt little if any love for them. They stumble while seeking power, and another more powerful competitor overshadows them. All is lost. They age and their beauty fades away as they age. Their fame, once so heady, is now lost as the public forgets them in favor of a new television or movie star. Today I want you to ask yourself, "What race am I running? Will this race give me eternal happiness, or will it only lead to a corruptible crown?"

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly

It is never easy to run a race, especially if you do not have confidence in the track you're on. Olympic runners will often go to the racetrack a few days in advance of their big race. They get out on the track, test it's surface, look for dips and hollows that might cost them precious seconds later on when it counts. Being familiar with the track, knowing that the track has integrity, helps the runner to get ahead of his competitors. Are you on the right track in your life?

In 1 Samuel 17 we see the story of a little shepherd boy and a big unsaved bully. This little boy was the youngest child of a large family:

1 Samuel 17:14-15  "And David was the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul. But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem. "

David was not particularly strong, nor particularly big in frame. But he was patient, patient as all shepherds are. He spent long days and nights out in the fields tending the flock while his brothers all sought power, wealth, and fame. In those quiet times the shepherd had plenty of time to survey all that his Creator had made, the stars of the Heavens, the Sun hung perfectly in the sky, and he came to a full knowledge of God. You see, David was on the right track. He knew in whom he believed.

When Goliath, the Philistine stood forth and challenged the armies of Israel, no man present was willing to take up the challenge. In the ancient world opposing armies often sent their strongest warrior out to do battle, thus avoiding a major conflict that would cost lives on both sides. The Philistines were a warrior people. They knew the techniques of iron smelting, and used these techniques to build powerful war machines and weapons that struck fear in the hearts of their enemies. Among the Philistines Goliath was a giant. He stood around 9 feet tall, his armor alone weighed 150 pounds, and the spear he carried had a head that weighed 20 pounds. Goliath knew in whom he believed: he believed in himself, in power, in his own ability to control his fate and those around him.

1 Samuel 17:22-26 "And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren. [23]  And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them. [24]  And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid. [25]  And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel. [26]  And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? "

When Goliath challenged Israel, cursing God, the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him. Israel had followed King Saul for years, a King who gradually withdrew from their Creator and into seeking the corruptible crown. These people were off track, far away from the pathway of righteousness. They stood around trying to bribe one another into attacking Goliath:

  1. The king will enrich him with great riches: If one of us will go and defeat this heathen, the King will give us money.
  2. Will give him his daughter: We will receive power, for we will be part of the King's family.
  3. Make his father's house free in Israel : We will receive fame, for we will be known as special among all of Israel.
There's a problem with being on the wrong track, with running the wrong race: When the chips are down, you cannot depend on the world to help. These Israelites, all running the race under their own steam, had no response to give to Goliath but fear. You cannot count on riches, nor power, nor fame to help out in times of crisis. You need the resources of God Almighty.

David relied on these resources, he relied on the God in whom he believed. He didn't look at Goliath, all huge and frightening, and slink off in fear. Instead he said: who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?. David was concerned with the things of God, not the things of the world. He was unconcerned over Goliath's stature and strength, but concerned that he stay on the right path, stay on track in the Will of God.

1 Samuel 17:34-37 "And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: [35]  And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. [36]  Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. [37]  David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee. "

David trusted God alone. You see, as a shepherd David had many opportunities to call on God, and each time he called the Father answered. David believed in His Creator's power, not in himself. When David killed the lion and the bear that attacked his flock he realized that this power came from the mighty hand of God. He said, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. If you are counting on your own power today to live your life, when life's trials come against you, you will be as helpless as the children of Israel. But if you are on God's track, if you have accepted Christ as Savior and are following His Word in your life, you, too, have the Power that David had.

David refused to take the armor that Saul provided for the battle (verse 38-39). He didn't want to trust in the protection of man, but God Himself was David's armor. He went out with a staff, a sling, and five smooth stones (verse 40). David believed in God, trusted in God, and relied on God to give Him the victory. When Goliath started berating David for his small size, David said:

1 Samuel 17:45-47 "Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. [46]  This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. [47]  And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands."

With this armor, the armor of God, David ran to meet Goliath. He knew the track he was on. He had called on God many times, and knew Him to be dependable. Later David would write:

Psalms 18:2-3 "The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies."

David believed God, knew in whom he believed, and in so believing defeated Goliath with just one stone (verse 49). Do you know in whom you believe?

so fight I, not as one that beateth the air

Paul also uses the illustration of the prize fighter to describe a right relationship with God. Though prize fighting often looks like a street brawl, it is an exact science that requires endurance and concentration. A prize fighter is only as good as his trainer. Paul's trainer, and ours, must be the Lord. If you have the wrong trainer, if you're watching and imitating the world, then you're just "beating the air".

In our world today there are over 100,000 religions and religious sects that people have foolishly followed after. Not too long ago one group, "Heaven's Gate", committed suicide as a group because their deluded minister told them that they would all spiritually "take a ride" on the Helbot comet. Their bodies now lie in graves, and their souls have made an accounting to their Creator. I even saw a magazine the other day with "Designer God" written on the cover. It said, "We create other things, why not design your own religion?". How foolish.

In 1 Kings 18 we see that Elijah, God's prophet, had to contend with "Designer gods" back in his day. Israel had again begun to move farther and farther from their Lord, and began to worship the false god Baal. Baal worship was particularly despicable to God because it advocated child sacrifice. Children were placed, tied up, in the arms of a bronze bull-god for sacrifice. The worshippers then built a fire under the statue, and the children were burned to appease this demon from hell. Israel left the pathway of God and chose a demon to be their Trainer. How many in America have given up their children today to television violence, have sacrificed their children to the world while they pursued riches and fame? In many ways, as a nation, we're no better than those worshippers in Israel. We need to get our families back to the Bible.

Elijah stood before Israel and issued a challenge to those who worshipped Baal:

1 Kings 18:22-25 "Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. [23]  Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: [24]  And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. [25]  And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. "

The challenge was simple: "If your god is true, then prove it. Just take a bull, sacrifice it, and put it on wood. Call on your god and, if he's really god, then he will light a fire under the sacrifice. I will do the same." There were 450 prophets all leading the people in Baal worship, but only one true Prophet of God. The fight was between the world and righteousness, between sin and divine good.

And the world lost:

1 Kings 18:26-29 "And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. [27]  And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. [28]  And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. [29]  And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded."

If you have your faith in the world, your faith is grounded on emptiness. You're just "beating the air". As the prophets of Baal began to notice the hopelessness of their situation Elijah started mocking them, teasing them for their wasted efforts. When you stand on the Truth you can speak with certainty. Elijah knew that their god was just a Designer god, a little false god with no power. He relied on, believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and knew His Redeemer was in his corner.

As the false prophets lay exhausted Elijah quietly rebuilt God's altar that had been torn down in faithlessness (verse 30). He dug a trench around the altar that, if measured, would hold two wagon loads of seed (verse 32). And, to make sure that everyone understood the power of God as opposed to the power of the world, he had the people douse the sacrifice with twelve barrels of water so everything was soaking wet (verses 33-35). In contrast to the antics that the false prophets showed in appealing to their god, Elijah merely said:

1 Kings 18:36-37 "And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. "

God responded by:

1 Kings 18:38  "Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. "

The Father sent His holy fire down, and that fire consumed everything that was on the altar, and even licked up the water. Our God is an awesome God, a powerful God. He is true, all others a lie!

In Whom Do You Believe?

Where have you put your trust today? Have you put it in the world, in the power of your own hands, in the strength of technology? Have you put your trust in riches, power, or fame? If you have never met my Savior, let me suggest this: try Jesus.

John 6:29-35 "Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. [30]  They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? [31]  Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. [32]  Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. [33]  For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. [34]  Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. [35]  And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

I have seen His power, as have millions before me. Josh McDowell once said that if someone told him to put a tomato in his left shoe, that this would be the way to peace, then he'd think they were crazy. If fifty people told him the same thing, he'd think they were all members of a cult. But if thousands of people throughout history said that a tomato in the left shoe changed their lives, then he'd be foolish not to try it. Millions have come to Christ in the last two thousand years, and all have been blessed by meeting eternal God through Him. If you don't know Jesus, today is a great day to begin a new life in Him.


This sermon was preached to the Saints at Cecil Baptist Church on the morning of August 16, 1998

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