Last week we noticed that Paul compared Christians to soldiers. Later in that same passage Paul makes a comparison between a Christian and an athlete; "And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." (2 Timothy 2:5). The Hebrews writer states "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." (Hebrews 12:1). How is a Christian like an athlete?
First, Paul states that an athlete must compete according to the rules. Every game has a set of rules that must be obeyed by the participants in order for the competition to be fair. As Christians there is a set of rules as well; "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Furthermore, we must all live according to that rule; "Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." (Philippians 3:16).
Second, Paul states that the athlete will be crowned. Here is an instance in which being an athlete has similarities to being a Christian and also a difference. It is similar because the one who finishes the task is crowned. The Christian is crowned for a job well done; "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:6-8). However, there is a difference. In an athletic competition, there can only be one winner. Whereas, all Christians will be crowned if they live their life faithfully. "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." (Revelation 2:10).
Like an athlete, we too have to lay aside anything that will slow us down. Hebrews 12:1 says that we are to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us. You would never see a runner carrying a hundred pounds of weight with him when he was racing. But oftentimes as Christians, that is what we try to do. We hold on to certain things that we donít want to part with. Sin will only hurt us in the race we run as Christians. We need to lay it aside.
Finally, we need to run with endurance or patience. The race will not always be easy. We may not always be able to run at top speed. But good distance runners pace themselves. That is what we must do as well. Some days we will be able to "run" faster than others. We must have the endurance that it takes finish the race.
-- Ralph Price, December 2001 --