Christians Run to Win

Competition creates self-discipline and discipline is vital for accomplishing goals

My brother taught me how to compete. We’d play one-on-one in the driveway for hours on end. In the winter we’d scoop the snow off the court and keep an extra ball inside. When one got cold and flat, we’d switch. I’m the younger brother by two years, but that didn’t elicit any mercy.

He would stand on my right side and dare me to go left, which was my weak hand. It didn’t seem like he was trying to make me better. No, he wanted to beat me…badly. By the time it mattered in high school if a defender gave me a two way go, I’d go left. My weakness had become my strength.

That competition sharpened me. It kept me on my toes and never let me become complacent. Competition, when unchecked, can result in destroyed relationships, but the right about of competition can develop you into a stronger person. I quickly learned that if I wanted to compete to win, I had to become self-disciplined. Practice. Practice. Practice. That is how we work toward accomplishing goals. 

 Self-discipline is part of the Christian life and key to sharing God’s love. That might seem surprising because we often prefer to cast the Christian life in an “it’s-all-good-all-the-time” light. That’s rarely the case, but we fake like it is. We get afraid that prospective disciples might realize that following Jesus isn’t always easy and requires something of them. They might not come back! The result: our churches are closer to empty than full. 

Remember, competition creates self-discipline and discipline is vital for accomplishing goals.

Truth is, as followers of Jesus, self-discipline is central to who we are. For example, we have to discipline the desire to gossip, or the tendency to brag, or the unchecked ego that longs to be a know-it-all. (Just look at 1 Corinthians 8) And that discipline helps us toward the goal of growing in holiness or Christ-likeness. 

But this discipline isn’t without help and isn’t without a purpose. The Holy Spirit coaches us along the way and brings us aid when we get tired. Our successes are made possible by the death and resurrection of Christ, whose Spirit is our strength. 

Our self-discipline may not accomplish the goals we set out to achieve, but we will see God at work in powerful ways. 

You might be thinking, “Isn’t this a horrible message to new Christians? No one wants to join something that takes effort and discipline!”

Wrong. Ask a person who has walked away from organized faith (commonly referred to as a “done”) why they left the church and they’ll probably say something about how the church was full of hypocrites or was unwilling to live the message Jesus preached. That should remind us that discipline isn’t a turnoff and competition isn’t unhealthy. We can’t forget that we are called to die to our selfish desires and live for Christ (Galatians 2:20). That truth actually doesn’t scare people away. It helps people realize the power found in Christ! 

When we avoid training/discipline/an all-in faith, we aren’t helping others feel welcome but we actually water down the Good News. 

The love of Christ transforms.

 Don’t be afraid of a healthy dose of competition! It helps us be disciplined and ready to be used by God. My brother taught me how to compete, and Jesus taught me how to love. Come to think of it, maybe those two things work together. Let’s compete against hate and a complacent faith so that love and our purpose of living for Jesus win the day. 

I never hated my brother for being hard on me. Sure, there were some bloody noses, but that competition can serve a greater purpose; unity and love found in self-discipline. Maybe destroying me in one-on-one had a purpose. The competition and self-discipline had prepared me for the years we would play together in high school. And that same self-discipline helps me in being a disciple of Jesus today. 

 I will always remember the look on my brother’s face when we won the sub-state final to secure a birth in the state tournament. I hope to see a similar look on Jesus’ face when I finish this race and arrive in eternity. So let’s be unafraid to compete, be disciplined in our attempts to love, and “run to win.” (1 Corinthians 9:24b)

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