Running to Finish or Obtain?

Today I have been thinking on the race I am starting, the second of my life. First race seem to be filled with great accomplishments. I have wondered will I accomplish the same things in the second race. Will I traveled to more nations, the greater exploits, see God do the miraculous in greater power, or with the second leg of the journey of my life not be as productive as the first. I feel I am starting out slow and hope to pick up speed. I was reminded of Paul who said to run as to obtain.

1 Corinthians 9:24 (KJV 1900) — 24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

He never even thought about saying run as to finish.  I know that we are always telling people that they must run as if to win, but I believe we don’t really understand what Paul’s talking about.

The word prize strictly relates to character being built in person. Paul is referring to the race that was to be ran was not just something that we could see an accomplishment at the finish line, but realize there was character and things being built in our life and spirit in the process of running. This hidden prize was more important than any accomplishment that people could see. Most people want to cross the finish line, but many don’t want to run a race that requires a dealing in their life and character. The prize is something that is given to show that something has been attained. Paul did not say that when you finish you receive the prize, but was referring to something greater being obtained than trophy at the end of the race.

Paul goes on to say that you obtain. The word obtain means to apprehend or comprehend something. It means to literally be overtaken, seize upon and take possession of your own. It refers to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit influencing and laying hold of our mind and will in order that he could govern it. Paul both told us what the prize was and how the runner was to run the race that was set before him. As all runners run in a race many times it comes down to the will of the person if they will decide to finish strong. Of over 400 men in the Bible only 80 are recorded as finishing strong in the race they were given. We look at the three missionary journeys that Paul took in his life as great accomplishments of races that he has ran. We see churches birthed, converts, deliverances, and yet  what Paul is referring to is not his accomplishments of  traveling to nations, or confronting religious structures of the day. Paul was referring to a hidden work that was being accomplished in his heart as he was yielding his will to the will of the father. If we look at Paul’s journeys not so much as a journey of travel, but a journey of the dealings of God concerning Paul’s will being yielded to the fathers, we can see a deep work that was accomplished as Paul saw the prize that was laid before him and ran  in such a way to obtain!

Every athlete goes into intense training for years, and that training is lengthened based on the importance of the race that’s to be ran. It’s easy to run some simple short races, when they aren’t really that important to the overall scheme of life. Obtaining  requires a mindset of discipline, training, and understanding of the race you are on, the things that are competing against you, and a strategy of exactly how you will run that race.

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One thought on “Running to Finish or Obtain?

  1. I was just journaling before I read your article and I wrote, “it is not my place to evaluate the eternal perspective of my life. If I were to evaluate my life by my own standards, I would miss the mark, but God’s perspective is always eternally judged. I cannot give an opinion of my life for it matters nothing.” The eternal perspective of God and what He has done in my life far outweighs my puny attempts to judge anything by my own reasoning. Because I could easily see failure, where God sees eternally what He has formed internally from it. Good article.

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