Since July 4, 1982, the NBCC Youth Department has been observing Youth Prayer Day where young people come together and pray with creative worship on Sunday morning. This year, the Youth Department has launched a new ministry called Sports and Scripture Engagement (SSE) with the Vision to disciple and build up young committed Christians through sports activities and engage in Small Group Bible Study. The purpose of SSE is to create and mobilize a vibrant community of young people among the Baptist churches and also to reach out to both the unchurched and church going young people and engage them in Small Group Bible Study and in Sports Activities in order to help them think deeper in their faith and role as Christians. For this purpose a small Bible study material is published by the NBCC Youth department and has come out with a size one ball in collaboration with J316 ministry. The colourful ball has the message according to its colours which can be used as an illustration in the sermons like the one given below.
Youth Sunday Theme: LIFE RACE (1 Cor. 9:24-27)
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 in a nutshell
a. Paul introduces an athletic metaphor to illustrate when he writes “Don’t you know that those who run in a race all compete”!
b. In an athletic contest, the goal of the runner is to win the top prize. So Paul encourages us to train and compete as athletes who really want to win. Without effort nothing can be won.
c. To be an athlete, one must have self control or be temperate. Without self control it is impossible even to think about being an athlete, let alone win the prize!
d. In a sporting event, the winner receives wreath which is perishable in nature. However, for us it is a spiritual race with an aim to win the imperishable crown of glory.
e. Therefore run with proper aim and purpose. Here, Paul cites his own example as an apostle whom God had called to proclaim the Gospel. He does that faithfully and tirelessly so that he does not lose out in winning the spiritual prize that he is pursuing. He is focused and not shadow-boxing his way through life. He is not running aimlessly and without purpose.
f. But by subduing his mundane passion and disciplining himself, he is determined to win the spiritual prize. And as one who sees himself as a herald of the games (as proclaiming the gospel) and participant, Paul talks about the necessity of self control and discipline so that he should not lose out the reward/win the race through disqualification.
In this fast paced generation of knowledge and virtual lifestyle, we are pushed into a competitive mode of existence like athletes competing in racing track. As athletes train hard to win the race by constantly pushing their body beyond the limit, Paul challenges us to view Christian life though the lens of an athlete competing for a prize. The call to train and discipline our life towards Godly living, as athletes trains, is necessitated by the existence of forces that disturb our life’s purpose. More than ever before, today we are at a crossroad of perplexity and confusion where the concept of good and evil no longer seems to matter. Long held life’s values and religious morality are being challenged by the wave of mediocre popular culture. This is the race of our generation, and as Paul puts it, disqualification is not an option for Christians.
As Paul succinctly puts it here, Christian living is compared with the metaphor of race, which is intense in nature and competitive in value and spirit (good & evil!) As World’s fastest runner and 8 times Olympic winner Usain Bolt once said, “Dreams are free. Goals have a cost. While you can daydream for free, goals don’t come without a price. Time, effort, sacrifice, and sweat. How will you pay for your goals?”
Even in our life’s race we must be willing to pay for our goals. As Jesus paid the price for each us, we must work for our salvation with fear and trembling as Paul writes in Philippians 2:12. The Kingdom of God welcomes everyone. Therefore our goal and purpose must also align with the purpose of God in order to win the race and the imperishable crown. The above passages has a message for all of us today.
Firstly, Christian life is a Race
A race has a starting and finishing point. Similarly, from the moment we are born our life’s race begins and finishes on the day we die. Christian life begins our race in earthly existence and ends heavenly in nature though the grace of God. (This is represented by GOLD colour in the BALL). Paul reiterates this very plainly in Philippians 3:20 by writing that "our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." So then, our earthly existence is temporal in nature because we are permanent citizens of heaven and we belong there. Our race here on earth is a preparation for eternal glory. Moreover, just as there are obstacles and challenges in the race course, our life is filled with obstacles all along the way. Challenges may come in different form, drawing us away from reaching the end. This can be in the form of different worldviews about life’s purpose; alternate goals and ideals of counter culture movements on faith, gender; the idea of materialistic comfort and easy life; surrendering our life to worldly pleasure and ideals. These can distract us from reaching heavenward. These make it important for us to focus on our goals and the prize. If we are distracted in the course of our race, we might not reach the end.
Secondly, the Goal and purpose is to win the spiritual prize
Paul clearly outlines that an athlete competes for prize (a wreath which is perishable in the context of the passage). Scholars write that Corinthian society was highly competitive and the city was the centre for the Isthmian Games, prestigious games only next to ancient Olympics. In these games winner were given olive wreath as their victory prize which they can wear like a crown. However, Paul says that this crown is just temporal no matter how beautiful they may look at that moment of glory. Don’t we often go for that kind of glory? We get so obsessed with trends and popular culture of our times that we think that we have achieved the ultimate glory, honour, happiness and popularity. We cannot be more wrong because as Paul writes, just like the glory of the wreath, this popular achievements is just temporal. It ends itself in DEATH which is represented as BLACK in the BALL.
However, for those who run the race purposefully, Paul also talks about something that is imperishable – an eternal place in the kingdom of God. However, we must know that no amount of good work by ourselves will earn our own salvation because we are simply incapable. The Bible clearly says this in Ephesians 2: 8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.” Only Jesus can do that and he has done that by sacrificing his precious blood in the cross. This is represented by RED in the BALL. We receive and eternal crown of glory: if we are able to work for the kingdom; by being faithful to the word and; by living a life which is willing to surrender one’s freedom for the purpose of love and witness; it is a rewarding life willing to live for something bigger than oneself. These values are able produce a life of transformation and newness represented by WHITE colour in the ball.
Thirdly, we must exercise self control & discipline
The third lesson concerns with the matters on self control and discipline. Just as it was during the games in Corinthians, even today athletes go through strict discipline and self control in order to compete in the race. Paul reiterates this discipline as an example that we as Christians must follow. We must practice this self control and discipline as part of our Christian race continuously. Self –control and discipline is the denial of things that our body or emotions may naturally desire. It is to exercise restraint and to create a routine that allows us to pursue something greater. Self control remains Paul’s focal point. The Christian athlete trains with a purpose in mind not aimlessly or in vain as a boxer looking to strike empty air. As a way of advancing the gospel for Christ, Paul encourages us through his life example as we see in verse 27, “I punish my body and enslave it.” The ability to endure this discipline comes through training, which is also the main ingredient for athlete’s success. However, random and aimless training will not yield desired result. To win a race requires dedication, sacrifice, transformation and growth by transcending from our present state of decay to a new self in spirit and purpose. This will give us a regenerated life of joy and freedom that enables us to see the meaning of our life differently. This is represented by GREEN colour in the Ball.
Life is colourful and beautiful. It is worth running the race towards the ultimate goal. We are individually responsible to see that our race ends well. No one can win the race for you. You decided whether to crown yourself with the perishable reward or the imperishable gift of God. Therefore run with perseverance. Do not be distracted by the noises of the world around you. Do not be discouraged if you trip and fall in the course of your race. Set goals for your spiritual growth and focus on the spiritual prize. Be discipline and train hard through prayer, fellowship and abstaining from things that breaks relationship with Jesus. Connect with people that will help you win the race of life. There is no greater victory in life than the victory of overcoming our own weakness. That is one price we must be willing to pay. May the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit help us, encourage us and motivate us to finish our life’s race triumphantly. Amen
Issued from NBCC Youth Department