Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 2 Timothy 2:5 (NIV).
My wife and I have an ongoing rib about rule-following. She’s a dedicated rule-follower. I’m more of a rebel. It wasn’t always this way; over the years we’ve switched roles. That happens in relationships. But, overall, one of her more admirable character traits is her devotion to following rules, staying in-between the guidelines.
This character gift stems from the years she grew up playing in competitive sports. Basketball, volleyball, and especially softball: my wife played on numerous teams over the years. She has a box full of trophies that testify how she was good at it, too. I never played organized sports. My parents were anti-athletic, discouraging me from team athletics I never took the time to learn how to compete by the rules, or train for the race, or run a victory lap. It’s one of the things I would do over if I could.
Still, that doesn’t negate what Paul says here in verse 5. In Paul’s day, the Greeks still conducted the Olympic Games. Thus, his verse here would have meant something to the people of that day who were familiar with the athletic culture that surrounded the games. They would have understood what it meant to prepare for competition, to race against the best in the sport, and to do so within the confines of rules that made competition fair. And they would have understood that the competition was for a trophy and the glory that comes with it, both of which don’t last. If they last, then tell me who were the great champions in the ancient Olympic Games that ran for over a thousand years?
Jesus does that same thing, you know.
Jesus says that human glory dies but He doesn’t. Jesus knows that the trophy for which we strive – the cross – was already won by Him for us. Jesus understands that we prepare every day for competition, to race our races, and that He lives within us to encourage us to strive for what is best, competition or otherwise. And Jesus knows that so much of our life is made up of living in a culture that requires we abide by rules, how His rules – love God and love your neighbor – supersede all human rules while helping us to still live within them.
More and more, I think that’s why my wife is such a rule-follower. She is constantly improving her outlook, her behavior to live more like Jesus, to share His Spirit with others in how she conducts herself. THAT is the race she sets out to run every day, and she’s much better at it than I am. That’s the race that matters.
For further reading: 1 Corinthians 9:25, Mark 12:30-31, 2 Timothy 2:6.
Lord, help me run my race today! Thank You for running with me.