One of the regrets I have is not playing high school football. I love football, and I know playing the game would give a greater appreciation for the game. Even though I played basketball through college, if given the choice today, I would watch a football game over a basketball game any day of the week.
The reason I didn't play football in high school is because I ran cross country. When I was a freshman in high school it was expected that I run cross country. During my eighth grade year I won all but one of the 1,600 meter races that I ran. When our school decided to add cross country my freshman year there was an expectation that I would be part of the team.
To be honest I did not mind cross country my freshman year. This was mainly because my coach that year was very good, and he expected a lot out of me. My fastest times in cross country came my freshman year.
The next three years I had two different coaches, and neither of them pushed me as hard as Coach Clayberg did my freshman year. In fact, I began to hate cross country. During the meets my goal was to finish, I wasn't out to win. As a result my cross country career ended up not being very distinguished.
My track career in high school is a different story. I loved track, and even though my coaches didn't always push us, I would do extra running after practice. As a result I was able to run at the Iowa State Track meet. The difference was in my attitude. During cross country I just put in my time, but during track I was seeking to be successful. I was running to win.
I believe we have a similar problem with our lives that I had with cross country. Often we become satisfied with just getting by, just looking to finish, rather than living to win. Rather than allowing Jesus to push us, we allow religion to guide us in doing just enough to get by.
Jesus does not want us to live lives that are mediocre. He is not interested in us living like the world so we can blend in with the world around us. It is Jesus' desire that we stand out, living lives that are radically different than the people that we know. He wants us to be winners, rather than to be satisfied with finishing.
When I talk about living our lives to win, I don't mean that we have to be perfect, or even the best. If that was the case than we would all be in trouble. None of us can be the best at everything, and none of us will be perfect at everything we do.
To live to win simply means to give our best. This is what God wants from us. If all we ever do is just enough to get by, then we will miss out on all that God has for us. If all we ever do is just what we are comfortable with, then we will not know what it is like to live out our potential.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians to remind them to give their best. This is found in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:
Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (NLT)
We are to run to win. We are to give our best effort. Paul gives us two disciplines we need in order to give our best effort.
- We need to have purpose. Paul says that he runs to the goal with purpose. We need a direction to go in and reason for going there. God gives us this purpose, and ultimately that purpose is to have a relationship with Him. When we give our best, we experience God like we have never experienced Him before.
- We need to train. An athlete trains to prepare his/her body for the challenge of competition. In the same way we need to train our bodies to prepare for the struggles and trials we will face. To live as a Christian is not easy, so we need to be prepared to defend our beliefs, to say no to temptation, and to stand tall when bad times come.
Run to win is what God wants us to do. An athlete seeking victory will give his/her best effort. They will have purpose in the playing and they will train to in order to be prepared.
If we are going to live according to God's standard we need to give our best effort, and that requires having a purpose in our lives, and training to prepare for what lies ahead. Let's quit being satisfied with just finishing, let us live to win. Let us run for Jesus.