Athlete, Win the Prize
2 Timothy 2:5 (Legacy Standard Bible)
And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
There is a unique rule in professional golf. Golfers are responsible for calling penalties on themselves from things like accidently moving a ball to signing an incorrect scorecard. It has been costly. Penalties have resulted in added strokes, diminished prize money, disqualifications and missed cuts.
In 2010, veteran PGA Tour player Brian Davis was in a playoff with Jim Furyk at the RBC Heritage Tournament. When preparing to hit out of a hazard, his club moved a loose reed near his golf ball. Probably no one would have seen the infraction, but Brian called the 2-stroke penalty on himself, effectively preventing him from winning his first and only PGA win.
That was a character move. Brian was praised coast to coast for his integrity.
Paul compares the Christian to the athlete, but applied it to life as a whole, not just a contest. Some might shout, “No, that expectation is too confining!” It is actually a blessing. God’s boundaries on our lives are meant for two reasons—to either provide for us or to protect us. Our obedience is a statement that we trust God with our lives.
God’s call to obedience can often be misunderstood. It is not “three strikes, you’re out!” We are imperfect, we fail, we deliberately rebel against Him. But, we can experience His endless grace as we admit our failings, seek His forgiveness and change course.
God never intended obedience to be accomplished by gutting out a regiment of burdensome rules. As believers, we have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit who will guide and convict and empower us to live as Christ intended.
So what is the crown we are promised? In Paul’s day, winners in the Greek games were crowned with a perishable wreath. The New Testament speaks of crowns that Christ-followers will receive in heaven for serving Him in this life. At a later ceremony in heaven we will cast our crowns before His throne in gratitude and worship.
Be an athlete in life!
Tom Petersburg, www.catapultministries.org