Author: Ron Graham
In Paul's lifetime athletic games such as the Olympics, were popular just as they are today. Paul himself seems to have taken an interest in them. As his "time of departure" (his death) drew near, he likened his life to a race that had been run (2Timothy 4:7-8).
This word is translated "race" in another passage, "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1). Top athletes in many events undergo an agonising struggle when they compete. They are not like occasional joggers who quit running as soon as it starts to hurt. True athletes struggle to win. So do true Christians. Their struggle is against...
This is the "-drome" on the end of some English words such as "velodrome" a race track for cyclists. A running track is meticulously laid out for the athletes at sporting events. Likewise, God has laid out a course for the Christian. Our lives are not without direction, and we cannot run down any path we wish.
It means to reach a goal or an end purpose. The whole point of a race course is that it has a finishing line. The course is designed to be completed. Nobody applauds an athlete who fails to finish when finishing was possible. Even the one running last is expected to complete the course.
In Paul's day, athletes took a pledge to keep the rules of the race. The gospel is a faith like that. The gospel may be regarded as the rules of the game laid down by the Lord. We have a choice either to pledge ourselves to abide by those rules or to be disqualified from the race (1Corinthians 9:24-27).
In Paul's time, a crown of laurel leaves was the prize bestowed on the winner of a race. That crown was worn as proudly as a gold medal is today.
There are of course other crowns, including those worn by kings and queens. The crown of Christ the King of kings is a strong image, because we have the "crown of thorns" (Matthew 27:29) inflicted on Christ at his death, contrasted with his resurrection and ascension when God "crowned him with glory and honour" (Hebrews 2:7,9).
By the way, if your name happens to be a name like Stephanie, Stephen, or Stephanus, it means "crown" so you can always encourage yourself by saying, "I will be true to my name and strive for my crown". If your do not have such a name, never mind, you still have your crown to strive for anyway.
Will those of us who may have a long way yet to run, be able one day to look back with satisfaction at the way we ran? That's the challenge Paul holds out to us. Successful runners are not so by accident. They are successful because they are devoted to running first and sacrifice other things. They also run with the best runner, and set their pace to that runner's pace. Are we devoted to our race? Are we running with Jesus? He will help us to struggle on to the finish, keeping the faith and looking forward to our crown.