In his first letter to the church that met in Corinth, the apostle Paul challenged them saying, "Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win" (1 Corinthians 9:24). The imagery he employs reveals that life with Christ involves the discipline, commitment, purpose and intentionality of a world class athlete.
The thing about a race is that only one individual can bring home first prize. So is the apostle encouraging the Corinthian Christians to focus on their own personal journey with Jesus at the expense of their brothers and sisters in Christ? Not at all.
I am ignoring an inconsistency, you say?
Well, in another letter - to the church that met in Ephesus- Paul articulated more of his perspective: "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places"
To be clear, the race Paul is encouraging followers of Jesus to run is not against other people. We aren't trying to "win" at the expense of other Christians. Each and every one of us is in a race against "evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." And friends? These forces do not want us to succeed.
So we each run a personal race against unseen forces. Forces that never run fair.
Time and again through Paul's letter he reminds us that though we run, we are not alone in our efforts. We have a whole community of training partners available to come alongside. Let us commit to encourage each other, training together for the race before each of us. Let us move forward as a church family with discipline, commitment, purpose and intentionality. Let us run to win.
So friends, run!