THE WORD: Life is a race 

The Panathenaic Amphora is terracotta amphora from the Archaic Period depicting a running race by the Euphiletos Painter. It was presented as a victory prize for the Panathenaic Games in Athens in 530 BC and depicts runners on one side and the Athena Promachos on the opposite. The amphora is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. (CC0 1.0 | Public Domain). 

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 

True religion is a business of the greatest importance. The soul, which is the more noble and divine part, is concerned in it; and, as we act our part here—so we shall be forever happy—or miserable. The advice of Solomon in this case is most seasonable: “Whatever your hand finds to do—do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” Ecclesiastes 9:10. The business of true religion, requires our utmost zeal and intensity, Matthew 11:12. 

Sometimes the work we are to do for heaven is set out by striving. Luke 13:24, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” Sometimes the work is compared to wrestling. Ephesians 6:12, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood—but against principalities and powers.” Sometimes the life of a Christian is compared to fighting. 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith.”  

Sometimes a Christian’s work for heaven is compared to the running of a race; so in the text, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” In which words the Apostle seems to allude either to the Olympic games, which were kept every fifth year in honor of Jupiter, or to the Isthmian games celebrated near Corinth in the honor of Neptune, in which games they put forth all their strength to win the prize. Just so, said the Apostle, run the race of Christianity which is set before you with a winged swiftness that you may obtain the prize of salvation! 

The words fall into two general parts: There is a race to be run, “so run” and at the end of running, “that you may obtain.” The observations out of the text are these two: Christianity is a race and wise Christians should labor so to run as to win the prize: “that you may obtain.” 

Christianity is a race. The life of a Christian is a race. Hebrews 12:1, “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” We must be travelers, before we are possessors. Heaven is a place of rest. Hebrews 4:9, “There remains a rest for the people of God.” No more wrestling there, for then we have overcome the enemy. The saints in glory are set forth with palms in their hands, Revelation 7:9, in tokens of victory. No more running there for the prize being obtained, the saints have thrones to sit and rest themselves upon, Revelation 3:21. But this present life is a race, and it must be run—so run. 

Thomas Watson (1620-1686) was an English preacher and author.