Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but only one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
— 1 Corinthians 9:24
When runners run in a race, they have one thing foremost in their mind — the finish line! It was with this thought in mind that the apostle Paul wrote and told the Corinthians, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but only one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
The word “run” is the Greek word trecho, which means to run and indicates a constant and continuous pace. This word trecho often depicted runners who ran a foot race in a huge stadium before crowds of adoring fans. In order for the runner to run successfully and finish triumphantly, every ounce of his strength and his complete attention were required. Paul had this example in mind as he wrote this verse.
Just as it takes full concentration and a stride that is paced for a runner to run a long distance, Paul now uses the word trecho to tell us that if we are going to run our race as God expects, it will require 100 percent of our attention and will mandate that we learn how to run at a constant and continuous pace. In other words, we can’t try today, stop tomorrow, and then give it another shot a week later. We must be constant and consistent. Once we are in the race, we must run ferociously. On the other hand, to stay in the race on a long-term basis, we must learn to pace ourselves so we can stay consistent and avoid wearing ourselves out!
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Paul tells us that we are to run until we “obtain.” The word “obtain” is the Greek word katalambano, which is a compound of the words kata and lambano. The word kata describes something that is coming downward, and the word lambano means to take or to seize something. When compounded together into one word, it becomes katalambano — a very powerful word indeed!
For example, the word katalambano can picture someone who has found something he has searched for his entire life. Rather than lose it or pass up the opportunity to possess it, he pounces on it with all his might, latching hold of it and seizing it with joy! Or once again, this word can portray a runner who runs fiercely, using every last ounce of his energy as he strains forward toward the finish line. At last he reaches the goal and crosses the finish line. The prize is now his! He won the reward because he put his whole heart, soul, and body into obtaining it!
In light of the words trecho and katalambano found in this verse, First Corinthians 9:24 carries this idea:
“Don’t you know that those who compete in a foot race run with all their might and strength against the other runners, but only one wins the competition and takes the prize? In light of this, run with all the might you can muster! Go the distance, and pace yourself to make sure you have enough energy to get to the finish line, where you will finally latch hold of and possess that which you have been so passionately pursuing!”
At the end of Paul’s own life, he wrote, “I have finished my course” (2 Timothy 4:7). He triumphantly exclaimed that he had done it! His race was finished! He had given his spiritual race all he had to give; he had run with all the might he could muster; and he had run so consistently over the years that he had finished a winner! All those years of being concentrated and focused finally paid off! If Paul had approached his race with an attitude of lazy complacency, the prize would have gone to another. But because he had “run to obtain,” he obtained!
Paul looked at his divine destiny that lay before him like a runner looks at the finish line. Rather than approach his spiritual race lazily and half-heartedly, Paul did everything within his power to preach the Gospel. If it meant getting a job on the side in order to be able to preach, that’s what Paul did (Acts 18:3). If it meant becoming as a Jew in order to able to preach to the Jews, that’s what Paul did (1 Corinthians 9:20). And if it meant becoming as those without law to win those who were without law, that’s what Paul did (1 Corinthians 9:21). He became all things to all men in order that he might win some to the Lord (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Paul suffered hardship, persecution, lack, cold, hunger, nakedness, homelessness, trouble from false brethren, trouble from true brethren — in the city, in the wilderness, and even at sea. He was beaten, afflicted by persecution, and troubled by religious people. Yet Paul never lost sight of the fact that he was called of God and that he would one day account for what he did with that calling. The finish line was always before him! He kept one thing foremost in his mind and preeminent in his thinking: I must obtain the prize. I must fulfill the purpose for which I was born. I must achieve the plan of God for my life.
Likewise, if you want to achieve God’s will for your life, there isn’t room for any other attitude than one of boldness and determination to keep running toward the goal with your eyes fixed on the finish line! This alone will take you through every obstacle and attack of the enemy and ultimately bring you to the place God desires for your life.
Like Paul, you must have resolve, strength of will, determination, backbone, high morale, courage, devotedness, persistence, tenacity, and an unrelenting mindset. You must put your foot down and take your stand as a no-nonsense kind of person who puts your whole heart into your calling. Sitting around hoping for something to happen isn’t going to produce anything! You have to jump in the race, fix your eyes on the goal, and run with all your might to the finish line so you can take the prize!
It’s time for you to “take the bull by the horns” and then hold on for dear life all the way to the goal! Make the decision that you are going to run the race, go the distance, and finish first place! Only you can make this choice, so why not get started today?
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I ask You to help me become more fixed and focused on the goal You have given for my life. I don’t want to allow distractions to pull me away from Your plan any longer. I want to shut my eyes and ears to the voices that beckon me to slow down and then set my face toward the purpose for which I was born. I can only do this with the help of Your Spirit, so today I turn to You to empower me to do this and to carry it all the way through to completion!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am fixed and focused on God’s plan for my life. I have set my face like flint; I am unflinching and unstoppable in my pursuit toward the goals God has set for me. I have strength of will, determination, a strong backbone, high morale, courage, devotedness, persistence, tenacity, and an unrelenting mindset. I have put my foot down and taken my stand. I am in the race; I have fixed my eyes on the goal; and I run with all my might so I can take the prize!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. How well are you running your race of faith right now? Are you consistent, or are you on-again, off-again in the way you are pursuing God’s plan for your life?
2. If you keep running at the pace you’re running right now, how long will it take you to get to where God wants you to be? Is it even possible to reach God’s destination for you at your present pace?
3. What do you need to do to become more focused and less distracted? What do you need to remove from your life to help you stay on track and keep your sight fixed on the goal before you?