1 Corinthians 9:24
Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain.
I. WHAT ARE WE TO RUN FOR?
1. Some think they must be religious in order to be respectable. Verily, if this be what you seek after, you shall get it; for the Pharisees who sought the praise of men "had their reward." But is it worth the drudgery?
2. Others go a little farther and desire to be considered saints. We have a considerable admixture of persons in our churches who only come for the mere sake of obtaining a religious status. "They have their reward," and they shall never have any but what they obtain here.
3. Another set take up with religious life for what they can get by it. I have known tradespeople attend church for the mere sake of getting custom. Loaves and fishes drew some of Christ's followers, and they are very attracting baits, even to this day. They have their reward; but at what a price they buy it!
4. Another class take up with religion for the sake of quieting their conscience; and it is astonishing how little of religion will sometimes do that. I have known a man who was drunk in the week, and who got his money dishonestly, and yet he always had an easy conscience by going to church on Sunday.
5. If you run for anything else than salvation, should you win, what you have won is not worth the running for.
II. THE RULES OF THE RACE.
1. Some never will obtain the prize, because they are not even entered. These will tell you, "We make no profession." It is quite as well, perhaps, that you do not; because it is better to make no profession at all than to be hypocrites. Yet it is strange that men should be so ready to confess this. People are not so fast about telling their faults: and yet you hear people confess the greatest fault. God has made them, and yet they won't serve Him; Christ hath come into the world to save them, and yet they will not regard Him.
2. There is another class whose names are down, but they never started right. A bad start is a sad thing. There are some who on a sudden leap into religion. They get it quickly, and they keep it for a time, and at last they lose it because they did not get their religion the right way. They have heard that before a man can be saved, it is necessary to feel the weight of sin, make a confession of it, renounce all hope in his own works, and look to Jesus alone. But they look upon all these things as unpleasant preliminaries and therefore, before they have attended to repentance, &c., they make a profession of religion. This is just setting up in business without a stock-in-trade, and there must be a failure.
3. Some cannot win because they carry too much weight. "How hardly shall a rich man enter into the kingdom of heaven!" Carry the weight of this world's cares about you, and it will be as much as you can do to stand upright under them, but as to running a race with such burdens, it is just impossible.
4. We have known people who stopped on their way to kick their fellows. Such things sometimes occur in a race. The horse, instead of speeding onwards to the mark, is of an angry disposition, and sets about kicking those that are running beside him — there is not much probability of his coming in first. "Now they that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize." There is one, however, who never gets it, and that is the man who always attends to his fellow-creatures instead of himself. It is a mysterious thing that I never yet saw a man with a hoe on his shoulder, going to hoe his neighbour's garden; but every day I meet with persons who are attending to other people's character. They have so few virtues of their own that they do not like anybody else to have any.
5. Those will not win the race who, although they seem to start very fair, very soon loiter. At the first starting they fly away as if they had wings to their heels; but a little further on it is with difficulty that with whip and spur they are to be kept going at all.
6. Another class start well too, and they run very fast at first, but at last they leap over the rails and go quite out of the course altogether. They are like the dog that returned to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. "The last end of that man shall be worse than the first."
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
WEB: Don't you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win.