Just recently, the 2012 Summer Olympic Games were held in London. People the world over love the Olympics. Athletes train their bodies for years in order to compete. They punish themselves physically and deprive themselves of comfort, to be the best they can be. And the sports fans are just as fanatical; they come from everywhere across the globe to watch these athletes "go for the gold."
I think the writers of the New Testament were sports fans, too. They were probably familiar with the ancient Olympic Games— which were still going on in the first century— because they often used the example of running a race to describe the Christian life. The apostle Paul in particular was fond of that comparison. He used it as he spoke (see Acts 20:24), and several times in the letters he wrote to the early believers (see 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, 2 Timothy 2:5, 4:7).
The writer of Hebrews gives an especially interesting example of the racing metaphor: "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). As you can see here, sin is portrayed as a weight that drags you down. Imagine trying to run in a race with barbells chained to your ankles. The picture is really funny. You certainly wouldn't win the race. You probably wouldn't even finish!
Also notice that we as Christians are to run with endurance. The Christian life isn't a 50-yard dash; it's more like a marathon. It takes great stamina. I remember the guys in my gym class in high school who were sprinters or short-distance runners. When we had to run five miles in class, they weren't able to finish unless they paced themselves.
And sin "easily" ensnares us. We have a difficult time if we try to live as Christians while holding onto sin. How do we handle sin? The Bible says to run from it. It tells us to flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14), from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18), from greed (1 Timothy 6:11), etc. Instead of being caught up in sin, we should concentrate on our goal. "Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14).
God promises His help in overcoming sin: "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).
At one Olympic opening ceremony, the International Olympic Committee president reminded the athletes that they are role models for the world's youth and urged them to "reject" cheating. In the same way, we as Christians should be roles models by rejecting sin. We should lay it aside and keep on running the race.
Remember, the Christian life is a marathon. Finish the race well.
Skip Heitzig is the founder and senior pastor at Calvary Albuquerque. His teachings are heard across the country and around the world on The Connection. Skip and his wife, Lenya, and son and daughter-in-law, Nathan and Jana?, live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Skip and Lenya are the proud grandparents of Seth Nathaniel and Kaydence Joy.