On Tuesday, April 22, the track and field team I am privileged to help coach, Elkin High School, competed in the Mountain Valley Athelctic Conference Championships. It is an eight team conference consisting of both 1A and 2A schools. The competition is usually fierce and if one is not prepared physically and mentally the results will not be what one hopes for.
Preparation for championship competition doesn’t began a week before the day of the scheduled meet. Preparation begins months before. I had runners this year that have been focused on being conference champions in their respected events since last year and worked to see that become a reality. It goes without saying those that approached Tuesday’s meet with such an attitude and a dedicated work ethic did extremely well, even reaching their goal of winning. No matter how gifted an athlete may be, unless they are willing to work a much less talented runner who has worked will beat them. I have seen that happen many times over the years. My philosophy has always been, work so hard that if you get beat make someone have to run very fast or jump very far to beat you.
It amazes me that there are always athletes who are not willing to work and who don’t adopt a winning mentality, who are surprised when they don’t do well when the competition becomes heated. When one becomes lackadaisical I their training or tries to take shortcuts to get to the top they soon discover there are no shortcuts outside of a good work ethic and proper mental attitude. One can’t expect to win the race when they have sought to take a shortcut to the victory stand.
Unfortunately, the same attitude that some athletes adopt in attempting to win without proper preparation can creep into our Christian lives if we don’t keep our eyes on the prize. There are no shortcuts in athletics or in the Christian life. Paul, in comparing the Christian life to that of a runner, tells us that if anyone competes as an athlete, he will not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:5).
What are our goals as Christians? Are we following the “rules” to achieve those goals? We want to enjoy His blessings without obedience; to claim His promises without surrender; to experience His presence without worship and fellowship, to know His will without following Him; to say we believe His Word without ever reading it; to have an intimate relationship with Him without a prayer life. Such thinking runs against the scriptural path to victory in every way. Are we trying to take shortcuts and still hoping to win the prize?
Sadly, we adopt wrong methods seeking to achieve abundant spiritual results. Too often we want a God who pours out His best upon us but makes no demands upon our lives. It doesn’t work like that in the athletic arena or in the spiritual realm. There can be no true blessing without obedience, no claiming His promises without surrender, no sensing His presence without daily communion, no knowing His will without following Him, and the Bible can’t guide our steps if we don’t hide the Word in our hearts. Trying to take spiritual shortcuts in hopes of achieving God’s best for our lives will not work.
Like Paul we need to faithfully “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). The word “press” is the picture of a runner straining and focusing on the victory that awaits them at the finishline. Attempting to take shortcuts will not result in receiving His “prize” for our lives. Only faithful obedience will win the prize of knowing Him and reaping the rewards of such a relationship.
Let’s keep pressing toward the finishline!