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The Rules Of The Race – Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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October 30, 2023 1:00 am

The Rules Of The Race – Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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October 30, 2023 1:00 am

Christians can learn from athletes what winning is all about. What does it take to win, to get the prize of the high calling of God? In this message from 1 Corinthains 9, Pastor Lutzer emphasizes our personal assignment to run the race well. Athletes compete for a temporal crown, but Christians run for an imperishable prize.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. This is Running to Win, a broadcast from which we can learn how to run the race of life, and today we'll do just that. As the gun sounds, the runners leap from the blocks, and as we run the race of the Christian life, we can learn from athletes what winning is all about. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, not all of us can hit life's track at full speed due to disabilities. Can we still be winners in the end?

Dave, that's a very interesting question, and I will certainly comment on it. But I need to emphasize that this program, yes, is Running to Win, and it's really based on 1 Corinthians where the Apostle Paul talks about running the race, receiving the reward, and emphasizing that that which makes a good athlete, that kind of discipline, also makes a good Christian. And that's why in my book entitled Your Eternal Reward, I have a chapter entitled Run to Win, which is, of course, the emphasis on this broadcast. But in answer to your question, unlike a race that takes place in the Olympics, this is a race that everyone can win. It's not a matter of competing. It's not a matter of the person who has the most gifts.

It all has to do with faithfulness. And we're coming to the end of the opportunity for you to participate in receiving this book. But I hope that you will take advantage of it because for a gift of any amount, we're making available to you the book Your Eternal Reward, Triumph and Tears at the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ. Here's what you do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And now let us run to win. There is a story that comes to us from the sports world about a basketball coach by the name of Cotton Fitzsimmons, who apparently was the coach of the Atlanta Hawks. His team was in a slump and he decided to give them a pep talk before they went out onto the basketball court. And the pep talk centered around the word pretend.

He said, you guys go out there today. And instead of us being in last place, pretend we're in first place. He said, instead of us losing, pretend that we're in a winning streak.

And instead of this being an ordinary game, pretend it's a playoff game. Well, after the speech, they went out onto the basketball court and they were soundly beaten by the Boston Celtics. The coach was angry and upset.

One of the players came and slapped him on the back and said, cheer up coach, pretend we won. The question that is often asked is how much power does the human mind have anyway? Can it really reorder reality? Is it possible for us to talk ourselves into being winners when in point of fact, we are losers? The apostle Paul in the New Testament frequently used the imagery of games, particularly the Olympics, the Olympic games as an example actually of how to live the Christian life.

And he did it because he said they have a corruptible crown, but we have an incorruptible crown. And so he used it as an example of winning, of losing, of reward or lack of reward. As you know, this is the fifth in a series of messages entitled Your Eternal Reward, experiencing gain and loss at the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. We've learned that since Protestant theology, particularly since the time of the Reformation, since it excluded all human merit in salvation and correctly so, many theologians have therefore assumed that good works play no role in any kind of reward in heaven either. And therefore, theologians have said that either we are all going to receive the same reward or else they will be sovereignly granted by God quite independent of the way in which we lived here on this earth. Now, if you've been a part of this series, you know that I strongly disagree with that. It is true that all works prior to our conversion have no merit.

That's correct. But after our conversion, our good works are made acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And while we are not paid for what we do in the normal sense of understanding pay, there's nothing that we could do to merit the wonderful things that God is going to give us. But while we cannot be paid for them, these are tests of faithfulness and if we are faithful in that which is least, God says he will extend to us the true riches.

Now I want you to take your Bibles and turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 9. 1 Corinthians chapter 9 where the Apostle Paul uses the analogy of the games. The Olympics and the Isthmian games in Corinth.

A few words by introduction, we pick up the verse by the way in verse 24 of 1 Corinthians chapter 9. But you should know first of all that nobody could be in these games, in these races unless they were Greek citizens. Now obviously not all Greek citizens were in the race, but you had to be a citizen if you wanted to compete. In the very same way, the race that we are talking about is one in which you need to be a citizen of heaven.

It begins the moment you receive Christ as Savior. This is a race that is for those who are believers in Christ. If you are not a citizen of heaven, you may be in a race, but it's not this one. Also we should keep in mind that if you are running in the Olympics, there can be only one winner.

There can be a first, a second, and a third, but there can only be one person who really comes in first. In the race that we're talking about, everyone can win. Everyone can win because we are not competing among ourselves. The issue is not me comparing myself to you or you to me. We are running because God has given to us an assignment and we can fulfill that assignment completely as well as we are able.

Whether there are other people with the same assignments or different assignments, long lengths of life, or short lengths of life, we are judged individually in that sense by God. So I want to talk to you today about a race that you can win. You can win it because we're not in competition with each other. When the Apostle Paul uses the illustration of the games or the race, keep in mind he has a central point. And the central point is that whatever makes an athlete a winner, whatever it is that takes to win as an athlete, is what it takes to win as a Christian. And that's the point that connects the sports world and the world of the Christian life. Now when it comes to athletics, some of you have a much better background.

Many of you are interested in it. Some of you may be involved, seriously involved in some sport. I have never been that good at sports. People always ask me whether or not I golf.

Actually, I think I've been golfing twice, but let me tell you about the first time. Here I am, I think I get something like 135, everybody else comes in under 100, and yet I lose. I lose.

I mean, who's ever heard of that? I have more points than you. So when they told me, when they told me I had lost, I was really teed off. I was.

I've never, never been back again. That was 20 years ago, and two games 20 years ago is plenty. I do say that I do play some tennis. I kind of like that racket. But the point is that some of you are seriously into the games and into athletics, and so you can appreciate what the Apostle Paul has to say. Let me give you the rules for winners, the rules for winners. What does it take to win, to get the prize of the high calling of God? What does it take?

By God's grace, today we're going to find out. Number one, it takes discipline. It takes discipline.

Your Bibles are open to 1 Corinthians 9, and I want you to notice how the Apostle Paul emphasizes discipline. Verse 24, 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, and all can, actually.

Y'all can win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore, I run in such a way as not without aim.

I box in such a way as not beating the air, but I buffet my body and make it my slave. Lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I should be disqualified. Paul was about 50 or 55 years old when he wrote this, and he's saying, after establishing churches, after receiving these revelations from God, after writing scripture, which multitudes are going to read, I still could blow it at the end of the race. Years later, in Timothy, when he notices the executioner's axe hanging over his head, he knows then that he probably will not blow it anymore.

The possibility, at least, is gone. And so he says, I have fought a good fight. I have kept the faith. I finished my course.

I made it to the end of the race. But I want you to notice the way in which he emphasizes discipline. He says, verse 25, everyone who competes. The Greek word is agonizo. What does that word sound like? It's our word agonize. Everyone who agonizes.

And if you know anything about professional sports, you know that it is agony. He says, they do it, and they exercise self-control in all things. Rigid, rigid, unrelenting discipline. And then he says, I buffet my body. You've heard me say that we like to read it, I buffet my body. But he means I beat my body, black and blue. Why does Paul say that? It's because he knows that either he will master his body, or his body will master him.

It will be one or the other. And he says, I keep it under control and I buffet my body and keep it in subjection. That's discipline. You talk to athletes, you know the kind of discipline. They're disciplined in terms of what they eat.

Their taste buds have to take second place to building muscle and all the things that are needed to eat correctly. Their schedule, their schedule, regimented, rigorous, unrelenting. You know, sometimes in August you can drive past some of the football fields in high schools or colleges, and you can see these guys with these heavy uniforms and helmets. They are sweltering under the blistering sun. And they look as if they have been consigned to a concentration camp.

And the thing that I can't get over is this. This is the shocker. They are doing this voluntarily. Nobody held a gun to their head and said, you have to do this. They're doing it because they want to, because of a corruptible crown. They're going to get some kind of a trophy that people aren't going to remember and that will not help them one bit in a hundred years or a thousand. And yet they're disciplined.

Now, you take professional athletes. They will work together in the morning doing all of their exercises and running through all of their plays. In the afternoon, they may practice alone.

After dinner, there are those who would go into their basement and look at videos of the opposition and trying to see how that football team operates to know how they might gain some slight advantage. Now, don't miss Paul's point. What he's saying is translate that kind of discipline to the Christian life.

Translate that kind of commitment where you are up early in the morning. You are reading God's word until your soul is satisfied. You are involved in ministry.

You're reading about the opposition. You know what the world believes. You are taking evangelism explosion so that you can witness and share your faith. And you know how to gain an advantage in the lives of those whose ears are closed to the gospel because this is your consuming passion.

Think of it. Translate that discipline into something that's going to last. You know, I think that there are many people, good people, Christian people, Christian young people, they've made all the right decisions.

They know what is important in life and they've made a series of good choices, but they aren't going to amount to much. And I'll tell you why. It is because they are too easily satisfied and they don't want to pay the price that it's going to take to get from point A to point B. Paul says, if you intend to win, you must be disciplined. You must be disciplined. It can't happen without it. Now I've been preaching and now I'm going to, as they used to say, I'm going to meddle a little bit.

You know, this is just kind of an irritation that I have, so I'll just let it be known. You know, my wife and I, we have three children that we've sent to school. Those children, essentially apart from very, very rare occasions, they were never late. We always wanted them there on time. In fact, if you had three tardies, you were penalized. When people go to work today, they aren't late.

You always are there on time. And yet somehow that is so difficult, isn't it, to translate it to Sunday morning, to translate it for being on time for church, being on time for Sunday school. Somehow we think that's an entirely different category.

It doesn't matter because there's no penalties involved. What the apostle Paul is saying is look. And by the way, those of you who are really athletes, let me talk to you for a moment. You know, those of you who subscribe, can you imagine this? There are people who subscribe to magazines on golf, for example. People who get up at five o'clock in the morning and go play.

People who I am told are perfectly normal in other ways do these sorts of things. Now you just think, you just think of translating that kind of focused interest to the things of God and think of the implications. Number one, you want to win? First rule to win for winners is discipline. Secondly, the second rule is direction. Direction.

Notice what the text says. Verse 26, therefore I run in such a way as not without aim. I box in such a way as not beating the air. What Paul is using here is two important well-known sports, running and boxing. He says I run in such a way but not without aim.

I'm keeping my eyes in the right place. Now let's suppose that we had a race. The Greeks had a race and it would begin. They would not have a gun go off, but there would be some noise that would signal the beginning of the race and everybody started to go in his own direction. Somebody said I like the mountains over here. Somebody else says I want to run to the sea, which is to my left, and somebody else said I'm a sun lover.

I'm going to just run in the direction of the sun. Now they might be expending the kind of energy with which they could win, but they will lose because they run without aim. Let's take, for example, the sport of boxing. The imagery here is of someone who's boxing and he can never land a blow to his opponent. Every time he wants to do so and he takes his fist and he uses it to hit, nothing is there. All that expended energy. Why? Directionlessness.

No focus. Now there are many people whose lives are like that. I'm not talking about you don't know what your vocation is when you're growing up.

Sometimes you switch vocations a number of times and that's understandable. I'm saying there's so many people that have no real centrifugal force to their life. They have no hub for all the spokes. There is very little deeply felt conviction and direction. And so their lives are lived that way and they may not win the prize.

They won't win the prize. As many of you know, I was born and reared on a farm and as farmers we used to plant various things out in the field and sometimes you had to begin a new field. Here you have this large one mile area of land and if you wanted to have one grain on one side and another on another and you wanted to begin a new field, you would begin and then take that tractor and look off into the distance and keep your eyes fixed on that target and you could scarcely look back because you wanted that furrow to be as straight as it possibly could be.

That's the way it's done. You fix your eyes on the target. Now there is a story which I believe is true about a farmer who did that, who chose an object about a half mile away and just kept his eyes on that object and never looked back. But when he got to the end of the field and looked back, he noticed that there was some curvature in the furrow that he had made. What he had done is the object that he had chosen to look at was a cow.

And as she wandered off in the pasture, he was following her. Listen, you write this down. You see whether or not this isn't right.

You look at a crooked life, a crooked life and see whether or not it is because there was no credible fixed point to which the person was aiming. You know what the Apostle Paul says? He says that I want to be apprehended. I want to have my hands laid on that for which Jesus Christ laid his hands on me. And he says I strive toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

That is my life. It is my breath. It is my inner being. I strive for the prize of the high calling of God. Now that's direction.

So let me ask you a question. Do you have direction in your life? As you know, this program is titled Running to Win. We like to emphasize that we are running toward the finish line. We have clear direction. I trust that our lives have that kind of clear direction.

This all, of course, is based on 1 Corinthians chapter 9 where the Apostle Paul teaches that that which makes a good athlete also makes a good Christian, namely discipline. Well, this of course occupies a chapter in my book entitled Your Eternal Reward, Triumph and Tears at the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ. Did you know that there are going to be tears in heaven? Have you ever thought of why there would be tears in heaven? Now thankfully God will wipe away all tears, but why tears in heaven? Well, in my book I emphasize that it is my belief that there will be tears of regret.

Thinking about how we lived when we had the opportunity to live very differently. Now for a gift of any amount we are making this resource available to you. Here's what you can do. Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

Now I'm going to be giving you that contact info again because this is the last week that we are making this resource available to you. The title of the book Your Eternal Reward, Triumph and Tears at the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ. You can go to Of course, rtwoffer is all one word. or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. If we want to have a specific goal and run like Christ who ran the race, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame because his eye was on the prize. And you and I should have our eye on that prize.

The name of the book, Your Eternal Reward. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 N. LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. You've heard Pastor Erwin Lutzer with part one of The Rules of the Race, the fifth of six messages in his series, Your Eternal Reward. Next time, join us for more lessons on how to win in the race of life. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-30 02:17:51 / 2023-10-30 02:26:25 / 9

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