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Go For The Gold!

I Cor. 9:24-27


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It's that time that rolls around every four years, when Olympians remind us all of just how out of shape we all are!


Eight badminton players were swatted from the Olympics this week for not trying to win.  They were trying to fix the bracket where they would not face tough opponents until the finals.  The crowds booed at the embarrassment and finally the officials put an end to it.


Our text says:

    Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. [25] And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. [26] I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: [27] But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection...


If I were to ask you “what is the mission of…
“the summer Olympians?...the Fighting Illini?...our Cub-pounding Cardinals?” What would you say?
(Answer) To Win.
How do you know if they are accomplishing their mission?
(Answer) Whether or not they are winning their games.
How do you know if they are winning their games?
(Answer) They keep the score.
I mean can you imagine what a game would be like if the teams just lined up and played each other going up and down the field but didn’t bother to keep the score? What would be the point? This isn’t tee ball! 


How about our Christian life in 2012?  What’s our mission?  To win!  How do we know if we’re winning?  We have to keep score!


I grew up in a church with an old oak board that hung on the wall just to the left of the platform. There were three ways that our church kept score and those three items were faithfully displayed every Sunday morning on the oak board. And they were:
• Worship Attendance
• Offering
• Decisions

Many churches are still keeping score this way. And while I don’t totally dismiss it, I am totally convinced that there are other ways to measure the church’s effectiveness.


Ill.—Special Olympics:  it’s not all about winning, but participating.  Not about being the best, but the best YOU can be.  Not about getting the gold, but crossing the finish line!  My boy got the gold however!

If anyone could ever be considered a gold medal Christian, Paul would undoubtedly qualify. And so in these short four verses Paul Personally Models Three Characteristics of a Genuine Winner.


Three Characteristics of Genuine Winners
The First Characteristic of a Winner is…

#1. Winners Are Contenders

[you coulda been a contendah Rock']

Run in such a way as to get the prize. v.24

If ever a word described the Apostle Paul, it would be Contender. He didn’t just live life, he attacked it. In Acts 14, Paul was preaching to a crowd in Lystra. Some of his enemies were able to turn the crowd against him, and they stoned him, dragged him outside the city and left him for dead. As soon as Paul came to, the Bible says "...he got up and went back into the city." He had such a burning desire to preach the gospel that even the threat of physical violence couldn’t keep him away. Talk about a Contender! No wonder Paul could say at the end of his life...
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.  2 Timothy 4:7
There is a huge difference between contenders and pretenders.


• Concerned about Image and Impressions.
              Concerned about Authenticity and Integrity

• Settles for Mediocrity
              Strives for Excellence

• Quits in Difficulty
              Grows Through Difficulty

What Paul was trying to say is that if you really want to “win” in the Christian Life and in the Church, then you must be a contender!
Two Characteristics of Contenders

• They Are Competitive
• They Are Goal-Oriented

(1) Contenders Are Competitive.
Contenders are competitive. And while athletes compete against one another, as Followers of Christ, and as the Church, our competition is much different. We compete with three influences:
Societal Influences
Satanic Influences
Selfish Influences

Spiritual Contenders are competitors. And they have come to realize that every day of their lives is a competition for their heart. Paul called it “The Good Fight of Faith”.  You are involved in a heated competition for your heart.  You may feel as though you’re anything but a contender. In fact, you may feel as though you’ve fallen completely out of the race. I have good news for you! You can get up and get back in the race! With God’s help you can be a contender again. With faith in Christ, you can not only compete, but you can win this race!
Contenders are not only Competitive, but…

(2) Contenders Are Goal-Oriented.
Winners are Contenders who reach for the prize.

Philip. 3:14

    I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

If our goal is to win the prize and if we’re to “run to get the prize”, then wouldn’t it be nice to know what “the prize” is? What is the prize in the Christian Life? What is the reward? I dare say that most of us would say heaven. And we would be partially correct. Because heaven is part of the prize, but it’s not the prize. You want to know what the prize is?
The prize is Christ, and a Changed Life.
And there are three dynamic changes or Transformations that God desires for each of our lives. And regardless of who you are, or where you are in your spiritual journey, you need one of these changes. What are they?
(1) Justification –(Salvation) – Darkness to Light
Saved from the Penalty of Sin.
(2) Sanctification – The Process of Becoming Like Christ.
Saved from the Power of Sin.
(3) Glorification – Ultimately Transformed into the Likeness of Christ.
Saved from the Presence of Sin.
That’s the first characteristic of a winner. Someone who “runs to win”; a contender who is competitive and goal-oriented. Someone who refuses to settle for less than God’s best in their lives.
The Second Characteristic of a Winner is found in verses 25-26 of our text.

The Second Characteristic of a Winner is that…

#2. Winners Are Always In Training

It never stops. It’s a continual process throughout everyday of our lives. I don’t know about you, but I find this to be one of the most exhilarating aspects of the Christian life. To think that there’s always room to grow … that no matter how much we age, we can still be learning and growing!  Toddlers wear training pants, their first bike had training wheels, every dad bemoans the day his female offspring has to start wearing a training undergarment…but as Christians we need to accept the fact that we are in training, and always will be!

Let’s look at two aspects of Spiritual Training according to Paul in this passage.
First of all there is…

(1) The Motivation for Training

First of all, there’s a great crowd cheering you on!

Hebrews 12:1
1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us...

Back to our text...
v. 25 . . .
“They do it to get a crown that will not last;
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Internal Motives – Pride
External Motives – Monetary Rewards, Popularity, Prestige
Eternal Motives – Life is a test and there will be a final exam

1 Tim. 4:7-8

    …exercise thyself rather unto godliness. [8] For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

(2) The Method of Training

v. 26
So far Paul’s model of a winning Christian is that they are
• A Contender – they run to win
• Always in Training – they never stop growing.
But there’s one more characteristic…
#3. Winners Are Self-Controlled
v. 27

Some may say “Bro. Jerry, no offense, but, win?  I’m just trying to survive. I haven’t won in so long that I ashamed to admit it. Winning for me has become impossible.”

Believe me when I say, I know. I’ve been there. But I’ve also been to Matthew’s Gospel which tells me,
Matthew 19:26

    With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.


Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning is a habit and so is losing.”

Jeremiah 29:11

    For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. [win]

Proverbs 22:29

    Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand [on the gold medal platform!] before kings...

Winners say: I have a plan.
Losers say: I have an excuse.

Winners say: Let me do it for you.
Losers say: It’s not my job.

Winners: See a solution for every problem.
Losers: See a problem for every solution.

Winners: See a green close to every sand trap.
Losers: See 2 or 3 sand traps around every green.

Winners: See a difficult situation, but the possibility.
Losers: See a possible situation, but the difficulty.

Losers say: Oh God, look how big my problem is.

Winners say: Hey Problem, look how big my God is.

Winning does not make the attitude - the attitude makes you a winner.


Winners have a positive attitude.
Winners learn from their mistakes:

Set goals in your personal life, your business, your marriage, your ministry. Better yourself. If someone looks at you today, they should be able to see improvement over last year / month

Winners will always pay the price:
The value of your dream is determined by how much you are willing to pay for it. Michelangelo was not the best painter of his time. He had a bad back and a sinus condition. No one else was willing to do whatever it took to succeed. He laid on his back painting a ceiling for nearly 2 years and completed the Sistine Chapel. All the other “great” painters of his day are forgotten in obscurity.

In 1949, Jonas Salk wanted a cure for polio. He worked 16 hours a day, six days a week for five years and gave us the now-famous Salk Vaccine against polio. Jonas played to win.

Lou Gehrig played 2,130 consecutive games. Every finger in both hands was broken as well as him having 17 additional fractures in his body. But he played nonetheless. Of all the players in baseball history, none possessed as much talent and humility as Lou Gehrig. His accomplishments on the field made him an authentic American hero. He played to win.

Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players in history, played the 1997 Championship Game against the Utah Jazz with the flu even when he could have stayed at home. 40 million dollars is not what kept him on the floor. Michael played to win.

The principle: Pay now or pay later. If you pay now, you can play later. Losers play now and end up paying later. Winners pay now, so they can play later.  You must determine what you value and the price you are willing to pay. To get something you want you must give up something else.  You can’t sacrifice unless you have a choice.

Everyone wants authority without responsibility. The church is filled with people who want the benefits, the titles, the perks, but who don’t want responsibility. In God’s economy, there is no authority without responsibility. If you don’t take responsibility for your family, you don’t have authority over your family. In fact, the first mark of sin was failure to take responsibility. Adam said, “It’s not my fault ... you gave me the woman” (Gen. 3:12).  Our sin nature always wants to blame others. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY! If your marriage is failing, take responsibility and get help. If your business is failing, take responsibility and get help. If your ministry is failing, take responsibility and get help. You have a choice. You’re not a victim.

Winners make hard decisions no one wants to make:
Most people don’t want to make tough decisions because they are afraid other people won’t like them anymore. So what? What made Esther great was her ability to make tough decisions. A whole nation survived because of her decisions. She risked it all and she did not have to.  


If you’re waiting for the perfect church, the perfect marriage, the perfect business, you’ll be waiting a long, long time. Work with what’s in your hand today.

Be faithful in the little.  Some of God’s greatest gifts came in small packages and changed the world forever.

Evaluate your life in terms of giving. Don’t ever base your life on what you accumulate. Leave behind a legacy of principles and character not just money and resource.  What you give is what you really keep.  Be a winner by giving God your best in all!  We run this race for the true prize, the gold, which we lay at Jesus' feet in heaven, for He is worthy!


This is a timely message shared for your benefit.  Please take 10 seconds and help it to go much further by recommending it now.  [A new window will open.  Rate this sermon from 1 to 5 'stars' with just a click, then close.]   Thank you!

Some material courtesy Harley Nickless Jr., and Doug Morrell, contributors to



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All Sermons and PowerPoint Slideshow Presentations ©Copyright Jerry Shirley and Grace Notes Ministries® unless otherwise credited.  These resources are yours to use freely, but only in public worship services or private study groups and devotions.  They may not be sold, republished or retransmitted in any form without written permission.