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.
-1 Corinthians 9:24-25
It’s almost time for those four glorious words to be said, “Pitchers and catchers report.”
I’m not going to lie. I enjoy watching baseball, whether it’s Major League on TV, or at the local city park where my kids have played little league. It’s America’s pastime. Time to relax and enjoy a soda and popcorn.
That is, of course, unless you’re a player. Then baseball season brings with it the rigorous schedule of spring training, physical training, practice, and a long 162-game schedule.
Regardless of the stereotypes of the pudgy ballplayer who earns his pay by knocking a ball over a fence, the modern game of baseball is a highly athletic event. Outfielders need the speed and endurance to chase down high-flying fly-balls that are more commonly being knocked into the outfield.
Infielders need the agility and athleticism to snatch line drives out of the air and make the throw to first. Batters need the quickness to run the bases, stretching singles to doubles, and doubles to triples.
The physical strength, speed and stamina it takes to compete in baseball today is developed through intense physical workouts, not just during spring training, but during the season, and especially the off-season.
Through intense workouts, athletes push themselves to their physical limit. One they hit that limit, they rest, then push themselves to the limit again to see if any progress has been made. The process is painful, trying, tiring and can be discouraging at times, especially if the athlete’s physical shape is not progressing as fast as he thinks it should be.
The athlete does not necessarily enjoy the training process, but he values it, because he knows after all the laps have been run, the weights lifted, the stairs climbed and the balls thrown, he will be a better ballplayer.
He endures the pain, because he values the transformation taking place within him.
In 1 Corinthians 9, the Apostle Paul likens our Spiritual transformation to sports training. Speaking to the church in Corinth in verses 24-25, Paul writes, “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.”
In those verses, Paul writes how an athlete trains hard, striving for the mastery of his race, being temperate in his consumption and diligent in his work. He endures much in order to run his race well, so that he can win a crown, which is a temporary thing. Likewise, athletes today work to win victories that will soon be forgotten.
On the other hand, Spiritual victories are eternal. Therefore, Paul instructs us to train and run well, that we may obtain an incorruptible crown, a crown of righteousness, that the Lord will give us when we finish our race. So, how do we train and strive for the mastery? That’s the good news! God is the ultimate personal trainer.
You see, you don’t go through Spiritual training and transformation alone. You don’t initiate it. You don’t “make it happen.” You only “submit to it and trust God through it.”
Romans 5:2-5 speaks to this:
we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
These verses can be summed up by saying, “We glory in troubles because those troubles build our endurance, which builds our experience, which builds our hope, which reassures us knowing that God will not leave us ashamed.”
We glory in tribulation, just as the athlete values physical training, because we know it makes us stronger.
Therefore, when hard times hit, pray. Pray that God delivers you and resolves the issue. However, if that does not happen, trust the Lord to go through that tribulation with you, because scripture teaches that He will use that tribulation to build you up, and not tear you down.
And just as that athlete trains hard, hoping that coach will put play him on game day, know that God is building you up to play a vital part in his overall plan.
May God bless you with peace and understanding today.