1 Corinthians 9:24 NASB - Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
In a running race, not everyone who runs and gets to the finish line wins the prize. The prize is reserved for the one who runs with a purpose of reaching the finish line in the shortest possible time.
So, what does Paul mean here when he says, “Run in such a way to win the prize?” Is he asking Corinthians to compete with each other to get the prize? Definitely not. I believe this is what Paul is trying to say to Corinthians through this verse: he is urging them NOT to be satisfied by merely running the Christian race. Instead, he is encouraging them to run with a purpose so that they can get to the finish line in the shortest possible time. So, the question is NOT whether we are running or not. The question is whether we are running with a purpose or not. Paul is once again emphasizing the point of running with an aim in the below verse.
1 Corinthians 9:26 NASB - Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air
How do these verses apply to us? The goal of our Christian lives is to become like Christ (Romans 8:29). While we are on this earth, we are being transformed into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to another degree of glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Looking at my own life, I have found that this progress from glory to glory has taken a long time. The primary reason why it took so long is because I was very casual in pursuing this goal of becoming like Christ. I was running indeed, but I wasn’t running with the purpose of winning the prize. I wasn’t running with an aim to go from one degree of glory to another degree of glory in the “shortest possible time”. As a result, it took several years for me to progress spiritually.
Israelites took 40 years to reach the promised land. But their journey should have taken only 11 days (Deuteronomy 1:2)!!! If you asked an Israelite anytime during those 40 years about where they were going, they would have said without a second thought that they were heading to the promised land. But, year after year they circled around the same mountain (Deuteronomy 2:3) and they were absolutely content with that. Israelites were happy that they were “running” the race and they were heading towards the promised land. But, the problem with them was that they did not run the race to win the prize. They were not eager to get to the promised land in the shortest possible time. As a result, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years instead of reaching the promised land in 11 days. What happened with Israelites can happen with us too, if we don’t run the race to win the prize. We will deceive ourselves if we say that our goal in our Christian life is to know Christ and to become like Him, but don’t pursue this goal passionately.
Matthew 11:12 NASB - From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.
The Lord is reminding me again and again these days that anything in the kingdom of God needs to be taken by “force”. In other words, I should have a desperate longing to know God or to see His Glory or to have victory over sin or to build the body of Christ. If I merely “want” or “wish” for something in the kingdom of God, I can be sure that I will never get it. I am only as Holy as I have truly longed to be Holy. I am only as spiritual as I have truly longed to be spiritual. God’s eyes are moving throughout the earth looking for those who are hungry and desperate for Him. He satisfies such people with good things (Luke 1:53). May the Lord help each one of us to not just run the race, but to run with a purpose so that we can all win the prize.