For competitive football players, the upcoming game is the prize for all the hard work put into practice. It is the payoff for the sweat, the agony, the pain, the injuries, the monotony, the striving-to-get-better, and the time commitment on the practice field while your friends are relaxing and having fun.
My worst experience as a player was spring training. There was no game to be played the following weekend. During my college days, I played at Georgia Tech. To get to the practice fields, we had to walk from our locker room through fraternity row. Many of the frat boys were lounging around outside working on their tans with their girlfriends in scanty bathing suits drinking their favorite beverages as we walked past them. Practices were usually well over two-hours in the humid spring weather of Georgia in hot sweaty, smelly uniforms. Spring practices were drudgery, tediously developing better fundamentals, and working on schemes without the prize of a game to be played. Ugh! Often, I questioned why I was doing what I was doing!
Athletics intrigued Paul the Apostle who often used competition as a metaphor for Christian living. 1 Corinthians 9:24, 27 is a great example of this. “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. 27 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.” Paul challenges us to not get stuck in the pain of the moment and to keep our focus always towards the prize of eternal life. “Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
As Christ-followers, we cannot forget our prize of eternal life and get stuck in a mindset of spring training. Often, life is tedious with responsibilities jam-packing our day. Relationships can be ultra-hurtful. Forgiveness may seem impossible. Currently, you may be worn out physically, emotionally, and mentally. Always remember what’s ahead, continuously keeping our focus on the prize of Jesus and eternal life. Paul speaks to this powerfully, Brothers and sisters, “I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
You’re not in spring training. Keep your eyes on the prize!