Win a Crown

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 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. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.


Have you ever run in marathon? Participants in marathon are impressive. Winners in marathon have been controversial or suspicious. Some runners were caught of using steroids or prohibited enhancement drugs illegally. In any sports tournament, referees are given authority to decide during the game. Referees interpret rules of the game according to their preferences. Oftentimes, decisions of referees are questionable. And so, not everyone could appreciate the winner.

Unfavorable situations happen when unscrupulous or dishonest officials are involved. We cannot control that but we can properly behave and react to unfavorable situations, if we prayerfully sought the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. At the Judgment Day, the Lord decides whether we receive or forfeit our reward.

Together, let us seriously reflect on what it declares in Psalm 96:9-10.

9Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. 10Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.

How do you interpret the term “equity?” What is your home equity? It is the difference between the market value of house and the amount left to pay on mortgage. For instance, if the market value of your house is $500,000 and the amount left to pay on your mortgage is $100,000; your home equity is $400,000.

In short, equity is what we deserve. When God judges with equity, he will reward what we deserve for obeying him. And the penalty for disobedience had been decreed. If we diligently obey him, we will receive rewards that we deserve.

1. Deserve

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 

According to experts, running is essential form of exercise; it increases stamina and endurance. In sport tournaments that involve running, participants run diligently. Running is fundamental discipline in sports that require running. Participants run to compete. They aim for the award as their practical motivation.

Apostle Paul challenged us to consider how runners compete and aim for the prize. Whether it is marathon or 100 meter dash, participants have to train.

Scholars suggest that Christian life is like a marathon in contrast to sprint. Why? Marathon runners train for longer hours and cover longer distance. Sprint or 100 meter dash runners train for shorter distance. Does it mean that sprint runners should train for few hours shorter than marathon runners? Competitors diligently train; they aim to be the first who reach the finish line and win the prize.

What does marathon as well as sprint teach us in relation to spiritual life?

If people heard the gospel and subsequently get involved in the ministry but after a short period of time they quit, do we call them sprinters? If people heard the good news and subsequently get involved in the ministry and they continue in their ministry involvement until Christ returns, do we call them marathoners?

Both marathon and sprint runners diligently train and aim to finish the race or win. Did Apostle Paul advise, “Run like marathoner; don’t run like sprinter?” No! He implored that we do our very best to run in such a way to win the prize. Whether we run like marathoner or sprinter, the Lord rewards what we deserve. 


The Lord Jesus Christ compared the kingdom of heaven to a landowner who hired workers. The minimum wage for 12 hours labor work was a denarius. A denarius was a Roman silver coin salary for unskilled workers at that time.

The workers agreed for one denarius salary to work in his vineyard for 12 hours. Later, the landowner found men at 9am, 12nn, 3pm and 5pm. He said, “Go! Work in my vineyard; I’ll pay you whatever is right!” They agreed and went!

Let us reflect on how the men were paid accordingly in Matthew 20:8-16:

8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.” 9The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Those who worked in the vineyard for 12 hours were fairly compensated. Before they went to work, they agreed to a denarius salary for 12 hour-work. The landowner paid one denarius they agreed as wage before they went to work.

In comparison, before the landowner found the men he hired later in the day, they were anxious. Why? If nobody had hired them, they’ve got nothing. No work, no pay. The landowner represents our gracious God; he compensates what we deserve, and he showers us his grace, even when we don’t deserve it.

Together, let’s reflect what it admonishes in Hebrews 12:1-2. 1Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Some interpreters translated “Run with perseverance” as “marathon.” Was it because marathon requires endurance? Some believers behave spiritually on Christmas and Holy Week. Many believers consistently persevere spiritually at any given day all year long, not just on Christmas and Holy Week. We should aim to win the race of life and persevere in our practice of Christian discipline.

2.  Discipline

25 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. 

There are basic regimens and fundamental routines that are essential to better performance in any sport. It should not be just one time practice. As long as we want to compete, we have to regularly exercise those necessary skills.

If you want to compete in a particular game, for example basketball, you practice the fundamentals of basketball regularly. Since basketball is team game, you have to practice how you play basketball with teammates. Individually, you have to strengthen your muscles, endurance and practice healthy lifestyle also.

The basketball team that wins the championship brings home the trophy. But there are also individual awards given to best player of the game. Awards in sports won’t last forever. Another championship game will happen next year. And another team might be champion. Another player might be selected as valuable.

Are you fascinated or intrigued that players practice discipline just to win a crown that won’t last forever? Likewise, we’ve got to aim for eternal awards that the Lord had already prepared for us; we’ve got to be disciplined spiritually.


Basketball players do their best to showcase their basketball talents. The one who is presumed to be the most valuable player is elected. One player may dominate one game, and another player may dominate many games. Most often, teams that have diligent players who prepared individually reach the final games.

Many strong teams lost basketball games due to injury. Injury can happen unexpectedly to any player. So, personal training is very essential to lessen their injuries, if not to prevent it. Food and rest are also vital to endurance and health.

Apostle Paul had testified in Philippians 3:12-14, 12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Basketball teams compete for the championship. Some players may aim for individual awards. As Christians, we aim for the award Christ prepared for us.

Players who are injured try their best to recover and compete again when they are healthy. Likewise, it’s possible that problems may affect us spiritually. We’ve got to do our best to recover and aim for a prize that God will award us one day.

Can you honestly accept that the Lord uses struggles to discipline us spiritually?

Together, let us reflect on Hebrews 12:6-11, 6The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. 7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 

9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Certainly, it is practical proof of faith in God to trust that he disciplines us for our own good. The Lord disciplines us to behave as worthy children of God.

Basketball players train diligently and hope to win the award. Likewise, as spiritual discipline that the Lord approves, we persevere in godly righteousness. As example to imitate, Apostle Paul illustrated his perseverance just like a runner who aims for the prize. He practiced spiritual discipline like a boxer who honestly follows the stipulated regulations so that he won’t be disqualified for the prize.

3.  Disqualify

26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Endurance requires consistent practice. Runners persevere all year long. Likewise, we persevere and continue to practice our faith despite struggles in life. Apostle Paul testified that he enslaved himself, he made his body as his slave,  he voluntarily preached the gospel of Christ, and he didn’t ask for compensation from any church. He wanted to be sure that he will not be disqualified for the prize.

It’s also practical proof of faith to aim for the prize of obedience to Christ. We trust that God rewards obedience. He compensates what we deserve.

Have you pondered upon what was in the mind of Apostle Paul when he entertained the idea of being disqualified for the prize? What was he thinking of?

Is it possible that when we obey the Lord, we don’t receive any reward?

Christ warned in Matthew 6:2, 2When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

In Matthew 6:5, 5And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

Christ also warned in Matthew 6:16, 16When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

Praying, fasting and giving are spiritual disciplines that we should practice.

When the Holy Spirit inspires us, we pray, fast and are generous to others. Rewards from the Lord are given to anyone who deserves them. They’re not just for temporary accolade. God prepared rewards for eternal rejoicing in heaven.

Do you think Christian life is difficult? Many people have thought about it. Indeed, it’s impossible to be genuine Christian on our own effort. We should rely upon the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces joy, peace, patience in us, so that, we persevere. Difficulty is not fruit of the Holy Spirit. But when we sense difficulty in Christian life, it should signal us to realize that we just relied upon our efforts.

Reflect on what it admonishes in James 1:2-4, 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   

Ben Johnson

          In any sport, there are champions. And there are participants who thought that they did their best to win the game but later they were stripped off their awards. Have you heard of the name of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson?

          Ben Johnson was considered as the fastest man alive in his prime time until he was tested using prohibited enhancement drugs. He was disqualified.

There are numerous stories about sports competitions where runners and participants were disqualified for violation of rules and regulations in sports.

Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 2:5-7, 5Anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

We don’t know when Christ returns. It could be anytime sooner than we may assume. When he comes, he takes us into heaven and awards us what we deserve. Both Christ and Apostle Paul preached about the prize or reward for obedience to the Lord. There are preachers who downplay and suggest rewards should not be our motivation for obedience to the Lord. What do you think?

To aim for the prize from the Lord is also a practice of faith in Jesus Christ.

We seek inspiration of the Holy Spirit; the Lord gives insight to reflect upon whether to downplay rewards or aim for the prize of obedience to him.

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