"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it." (1 Corinthians 9:24)
Sports illustrations, especially track, were used often by the Apostle Paul as a teaching picture for preparation, endurance, and determination. Great runners prepare well and they possess a winning attitude. Even in those races where a runner may know there are faster runners he or she still runs to win.
The great blessing of salvation is the grace that comes by faith in Jesus Christ and with it a certain liberty in how we can live the Christian life. However, if we are to be an effective witness for the Lord, sometimes certain liberties must be set aside so that our liberty doesn’t become a stumbling block before an unsaved community. Paul’s discussion about the manner in which the Christian witness is best accomplished likens it to a competitive race. The race has rules that every runner must abide by if she expects to qualify as a winner. The runner must exercise discipline in order to stay within the boundaries of the track and endurance in order to complete the race. The runner can’t run aimlessly around the track – stopping, changing direction, or cutting across the field.
Therefore, we must act strategically when serving as a witness. We must maintain a conscious awareness of the unsaved in our presence. We cannot be careless. We maintain a disciplined life that is compelling and attractive in a society that has become more and more slummy, having a declining aesthetic beauty. Without disciplining our life against the indulgences of this world, we run the risk of disqualification in the race of Christian service.