1 Corinthians 9:25
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
Just as the Lord Jesus used metaphors to help the people understand his teaching, so also did Paul. In this instance he used the concept of an athlete because this was something that the Corinthians could directly relate to. Apart from the Olympic games every four years they also had the Isthmian games which were held in Corinth the year before and the year after.
Paul uses the visual of the race because it was the main event of the games. The Corinthians would have been well aware of the rigorous training that was involved in the ten months prior to the games. Contestants would deny their bodies what it wanted in order to obtain what it needed to win the ultimate prize. The physical prize may have been a pine wreath but with that came fame, accolades and your name on everyone’s lips.
We may not all be athletes but we are all running the race and we need to exercise self-control over our bodies. It comes back down to the flesh and the Spirit. The earthly body wants all sorts of things that are not good for it and we can become slaves to its desires. This is why discipline is so important.
Our race is not about being in competition with others, it’s about witness. Watching a half-hearted, out of shape athlete inspires no-one. Likewise, a half-hearted, wishy-washy Christian will not win others for Christ. Live your life like the 100m final and don’t let up until you cross the finish line. The reward is beyond anything you can even imagine and it lasts for all eternity.