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Bible verses about Athlete Analogy
(From Forerunner Commentary)

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul uses runners in the Greek games as examples of how we are to live as Christians. The first thing to notice is the utmost tension, energy, and strenuous effort pictured by athletes straining for the finish line in hope of the glory of winning. "This is the way to run," says Paul, "if we want to attain our potential."

This requires steady, intense concentration or focus of the runners. They cannot afford to become distracted by things off to the side of their course. If they do, their effectiveness in running will surely diminish. Keeping focused requires control—not allowing distractions to interfere with the responsibility at hand. "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," says Jesus (Matthew 6:33). Here, the issue is single-mindedness. James writes, "[H]e who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. . . . [H]e is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (James 1:6, 8). Controlling our focus can go a long way toward making the run successful.

Paul then says the victorious runner sets Christians an example of rigid self-control: "Everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things." It is not only a matter of concentrating while he is racing, but in all areas of life because his whole life impacts on the race. The runner religiously follows a rigorous program within a rigid schedule each day: He rises at a certain hour, eats a breakfast of certain foods, fills his morning with exercises, and works on his technique. After a planned lunch, he continues training, eats a third planned meal, and goes to bed at a specified hour. Throughout, he not only avoids sensuous indulgences, he must also abstain from many perfectly legitimate things that simply do not fit into his program. An athlete who is serious about excelling in his chosen sport must live this way, or he will not succeed except against inferior competitors. He will suffer defeat by those who do follow them.

We can learn a great deal here about self-indulgence and self-control. It is not enough for us to say, "I draw the line there, at this or that vice, and I will have nothing to do with these." We will have a very difficult time growing under such an approach, as Paul shows in Hebrews 12:1:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Many unsinful things are "weights" simply because they are so time- and mind-consuming. Because we do not want to fail in accomplishing the highest purposes for which we were called, we must run light to endure the length of our course successfully.

On the surface, being a Christian appears easy to do, in as much as a Christian is basically a man that trusts in Jesus Christ. No one is more worthy of our trust, and He is fully able to bring us into the Kingdom of God. But this is a mere surface observation. The truth is that being a Christian can be very difficult because the real Christian is one who, because he trusts Christ, must set his heel upon human nature within him and subordinate the appetites of his flesh and the desires of his mind to the aim of pleasing Him. No wishy-washy, irresolute, vacillating, lukewarm, disorderly, and unrestrained Christian will please his Master and glorify our Father.

Jesus says, "[N]arrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:14). Paul writes, "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier" (II Timothy 2:3-4). The Christian is exhorted to control himself and run to win.

In I Corinthians 9, Paul illustrates self-control in its positive aspects by showing what it produces along the way and—most importantly—in the end. Jesus makes it clear in Revelation 2 and 3 that the overcomers (conquerors, victors) will go into the Kingdom of God. Self-control plays a major role in bringing victory through our trusting relationship with Jesus Christ. Andrew MacLaren, a Protestant commentator, states, "There are few things more lacking in the average Christian life of today than resolute, conscious concentration upon an aim which is clearly and always before us." Self-control is not the only factor we need to do this, but it is a very necessary one. Its fruit, good beyond measure, is worth every effort and sacrifice we must make.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control


 

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

We must not merely "shadow box," as he describes, but fight with our whole heart to please God and glorify Him with a proper witness before men.

However, our works do not admit us into the Father's presence and keep communication flowing. Jesus Christ's sacrifice does; the sin and trespass offerings precede us. If we could get into His presence by our works, who would need Christ? We would be sufficient to redeem and save ourselves. We need to thank God humbly for His gracious providence that enables us all along the way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Seven): The Sin and Trespass Offerings


 

2 Timothy 2:5

The apostle takes this metaphor from athletics. He advises Timothy that, if he is striving to win in his ministry, he will not be crowned unless he disciplines himself to follow the rules.

In games (whether it is a card game, croquet out in the backyard, basketball, or whatever), one is often confronted with the opportunity to bend or to break the rules. The player must discipline himself, or face the penalties - or even find himself disqualified. If one breaks the rules in football, he receives a 5-yard, 10-yard, or 15-yard penalty. In some games, the rule-breaker just gets thrown right out! The athlete, then, must discipline himself.

Yet, Paul is using this in regard to members of God's church. If we desire to be crowned, we will have to strive within the rules. We will have to discipline ourselves. In Timothy's case, the rules are scattered throughout Paul's epistle to him. In terms of the Sabbath and the annual feast days, they are the only days in the entire Bible that God designates as "holy." They are part of "the rules."

God never gives His approval to Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, but only the seventh day, the Sabbath. He never gives His approval to Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and all of the other manmade holidays, but only the ones He points out to us in Leviticus 23. If we are going to strive for the mastery within the rules, they are what we will have to live with and use in the proper way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 22)


 

Jude 1:3

Following his opening, he begins his letter by saying, "I really wanted to write something theological to you, something about our salvation, but this matter came up, and I feel that it is more necessary to write to you about this more pressing problem."

In the strongest possible terms, he tells them to fight, to strive, to struggle for the truth as it had been given to them by the apostles, who in turn had been taught by Christ Himself. The word translated "contend earnestly," epagonizomai, is very interesting and picturesque. We have a word in English that derives from its root: "agony." Epagonizomai means literally "to agonize about," thus "to contest" or "to contend." It describes the efforts of an athlete to win his particular competition in the midst of the games, whether it was running, javelin throwing, discus, or whatever the particular sport. An athlete who is truly devoted and focused on winning gives his every ounce of strength to come out on top. Jude uses epagonizomai to demonstrate how we should be exerting ourselves in keeping the truth pure and practicing it. It suggests a person straining for all he is worth to ensure the faith's purity in both its principles and practices. This struggle is hard and painful at times—sometimes even deadly—but the truth is that important to God and to our brethren, the church.

Jude also affirms in this verse that the truth we need for salvation has already been given once for all. This is a very important distinction because it lays the foundation for what he writes later. The truth was given—and that is that! There is no continuing revelation, no evolution of truth. It was closed by the passing of the apostles, specifically the Twelve.

We could paraphrase this with, "Beware of those who say they have 'new' truth." Refinements of or gleaning deeper meanings from an "old truth" are fine, but claims of new truth should raise red flags. They should sound sirens and flash lights in our mind. The truth, the faith, has been delivered once for all. We should cling for all we are worth to the Scriptures and should not listen to those who claim to have special revelation. The Bible should always be the basis of our belief in anything spiritual. If a teaching does not square with the Bible, we should reject it; anything contrary to the faith once delivered should be thrown out as soon as possible.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

 




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