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After watching the Winter Olympics in Russia I marveled at the superb efforts of hundreds of athletes from around the world. Not all of them won medals, but the participants will be set apart for years to come as Olympic athletes.

It is a badge of honor that will follow them for the rest of their lives. That moment in history cost them years of sacrifice, but they were motivated and driven by their deep belief that the ultimate prize could be theirs.

Think of the hours of sacrifice and training to develop their skills. They focused their habits not on “having fun” but on “going for the gold” because of what the prize of an Olympic medal would mean for their lives and their legacy.

Paul the Apostle used this example in 1 Corinthians 9 as an illustration of living the Christian life. He knew that he had only a limited amount of time on this earth, and as a Christian, how he lived and what he lived for were his ultimate priorities.

To be a follower of Jesus and not just a fan of Jesus involves being driven by a single purpose—the drive of “running well” and “training daily to win the prize.” Paul was energized in this purpose by God’s promise.

"I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." –1 Corinthians 9:23

Paul was also totally confident that whatever discipline, hardships, and sacrifices he made in running the race that God had laid out for him would be well worth the pain, sorrow, rejection, and suffering.

Why? Because he knew what the prize would be … and it demanded his all. 

"For my light and momentary afflictions is not worth to be compared because it is achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." –1 Corinthians 4:17

It’s called a life of faith. That means I give up that which I can see for that which God has promised me … even if I can’t see it right now. That was Paul’s daily race and it involved daily choices—all based on who God is and what He has spoken.

Growing in Christ for you and me means choosing God’s ways over our culture’s ways and our individual wants. It means that our driving agenda becomes pleasing God rather than pleasing myself.

Why? Because I see the prize that our Lord wishes to give at the end of our race … and it’s so very worth it.

Paul had scars all over his body because in this life he chose God’s prize over the crowd’s prize. But he continued on because God's promise was bigger than the pain.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." –2 Timothy 4:7-8

Today let’s live our lives for what Jesus died for and be willing to die for what Jesus lived for. Continue reading with the next post in the series here.