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.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
– 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
I enjoy preparing for long-distances races. The training has its share of hardships, but I am always motivated by how the process makes me better: faster, stronger, more efficient, etc. There are peaks and valleys, successes and failures, elation and misery. Yet at the end, many of my best experiences have come from these training times — sometimes even better than the races themselves.
Yet every race demands personal sacrifice. I am frequently not careful about what I eat, and the junk food leaves me overweight and sluggish on my next run. A close friend repeatedly attempts training, yet he is not careful about his other activities. As a result he pays the price with frequent injuries — many of which have caused him to cancel his race plans.
The list can go on. We strive to better ourselves in the physical world and to attain to a form of greatness. In the passage above, God tells us to approach our spiritual life with the same level of intensity and sacrifice that is expected of an athlete as they prepare for a big race.
Let us pursue greatness in our physical lives, but especially in our spiritual lives!