Paul often uses athletic metaphors to communicate important truths of what it means to live as a Christian. He chose these metaphors so that it is easier for his audience to understand. This passage is no different as the Corinthians were great lovers of sports and Corinth was the location of the biennial Isthmian games, an event that was second only to the Olympic Games in importance.
Paul was emphasizing our goal as Christian is to work to advance the gospel (see v.19). For us to advance the gospel, we need to run towards the imperishable crown. When we are in a race, we do not just standstill. Paul says in Philippians to work out our salvation which means we must continue to obey and abide in Christ. Being a Christian means we must be spiritually productive and press on to achieve the purpose God has called us to.
Paul also reminds us everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training (v.25). Just like an athlete who prepares for his competition, we must be determined, intentional and focused. Translating this to our walk with God, we too must be intentional in our walk with God. We set aside our time to read his Word, in prayer and worship. We must be determined to grow deeper in our relationship with God by joining bible study and by gathering with other believers to worship.
We must also be focused and fix our eyes on Jesus. Just as Jesus was focused on His ministry on earth to the point of his death on the cross. Paul followed the footsteps of our Lord and towards the end of his earthly life and ministry and said “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. (2 Timothy 4:7).
Our Christian life is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Runners or sportsmen will understand that there will be days in which you are not at the optimum level to race, but they do not give up and they will still finish the race. In our journey of faith, there will be times when we become discouraged. That is where we must not give up and remember God’s promises to us. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak… those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength… they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31).
Heavenly Father, I pray that you strengthen our faith, strengthen our walk with you for we want to abide in You until we finish this race you called us to. Empower us so that we will not be tired and not grow weary for your plans and purposes in our lives. We live to glorify your Holy name. Amen.