SERMON TITLE: "THE AMAZING RACE"
SERMON TEXT: "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives µthe prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified" (I Corinthians 9:24-27)
SERMON THESIS: Run to win.
INTRODUCTION: Perhaps some of you have watched The Amazing Race series on CBS. In this series, 10-12 couples are selected to participate and the ultimate prize is one-million dollars. Traveling around the world by plane, car, train, walking, running, etc., these contestants are required to participate in various stunts and life situations that are quite challenging for the faint at heart. At various stages of the competition, the last couple to arrive at a certain destination, somewhere in the world, is eliminated. Thus the race continues until all but one couple is eliminated at which time they arrive at the their final designated destination and receive the prize–one million dollars.
Like the ten contestants competing for the prize, did you know that you and I are in a race. It too is an Amazing Race. It is a race in which the stakes are high and the prize to be won is astonishing. This race is described by the Apostle Paul in the text that I have read in your hearing.
In the amazing race, described by the Apostle Paul, unlike the few participants who participate in CBS's Amazing Race, in this race...
I. EVERYONE GETS TO PARTICIPATE. That is to say, everyone who chooses to run in this race can become a participant. The race begins when a person decides to give their life to Christ. Thus, having already received the gift of eternal life, this is not a race with judgment in view for the runner, rather it has everything to do with service and rewards. Paul compared this race to a foot race in the arena. Thus he challenges the runner with this question...
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?"
He then challenges the runner with these words, "Run in such a way to get the prize" (I Cor. 9:24). The Apostle Paul was speaking from experience when he made this challenge for he too was going for the prize when he said ...
"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: µforgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained" (Philippians 3:13-16).
Paul kept his eyes fixed on the goal ahead in order to win the prize. Runners must be diligent to keep their eyes on the goal lest they come short of winning the prize.
In The Amazing Race all the contestants get to participate, but only one couple will receive the prize. Therefore...
II. EVERYONE MUST SUBMIT TO PROLONGED DISCIPLINE.
Paul wrote, "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training" (v. 25).
Most of the participants in the Amazing Race are young and seemingly in good physical condition. Good physical conditioning is necessary since the contestants are subjected to stunts that require physical stamina. In the last race I watched, the older couples were eliminated quite early in the race. They simply could not endure to the end. Arriving at the designated area, the MC would announce, "So and So, you are the last couple to arrive; therefore, you are eliminated from the race."
The race is important to those who participate because the stakes are so high. Therefore, everyone participating must submit to prolonged discipline and training. Concerning the prize that is to be won, Paul wrote...
"Everyone who µcompetes in the games exercises self-control in all things They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable" (I Cor. 9:25).
In order to win the race and receive the prize, certain rules must be kept. In The Amazing Race everyone has to abide by the same rules. When contestants fail to keep the rules, they are penalized. Some lose their money. Others have to wait for a certain period of time before they can continue the race and so on. Failure to keep the rules jeopardizes their possibilities of winning.
How true this is in the race of life, i.e., the Christian race, there are certain rules that must be kept. Hear these words of Scripture...
"Also if anyone µcompetes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules" (2 Timothy 2:5).
You see, my friends, in The Amazing Race, like the Greek Olympic games in Paul's day, the prize to be received pales in light of the prize the Christian runner is to receive. Their prize, in the words of Paul, "will not last." In ancient Greece, the Olympic runner who won received a crown of laurel that did not last. The couple who wins the Amazing Race and receives the prize of one-million dollars will, in time, learn that too did not last.
For the Christian runner who wins, according to the Apostle Paul, they will "get a crown that will last forever." This should give all of us the incentive to submit ourselves to the discipline and training that is required to win the crown. Hear Paul's own testimony in reference to the crown that awaited him...
"...in the future there µis laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8).
See also ...
"Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive µthe crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12).
"And when the Chief µShepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory" (I Peter 5:4).
"Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be µtested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10).
"I am coming quickly; µhold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown" (Rev. 3:11).
Why is discipline and training so important?...
III. NOT EVERYONE GETS THE PRIZE. Hear Paul's "Therefore" to this whole matter...
"Therefore I µrun in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified" (I Cor. 9:26-27).
My dear friends, as Paul points out, "running aimlessly," and "shadow boxing, i.e., beating the air" will not suffice. One who has received the gift of eternal life is never in jeopardy of losing their salvation, but there is much to lose if one is disqualified from the race. Contestants in The Amazing Race who are disqualified along the way will never receive the one-million dollar cash prize. That prize, however, pales in light of what the Christian runner stands to lose if they are disqualified. Go with me to Paul's writing earlier on in I Corinthians...
"Each man's work will become evident; for µthe day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (I Cor. 3:13-15).
The disqualified will not lose their salvation, but their prize, i.e., rewards to be received will go up in a puff of smoke.
CONCLUSION: Therefore, my dearly beloved, RUN TO WIN!! After all, you are in an AMAZING RACE! Oh! What rejoicing there will be in heaven for those who win. The other runners, like those who competed in the Amazing Race, but were disqualified, will be there, but only those who won the prize will be the recipients of the greatest joy.