This week we have, once again, been bombarded with concerns from the world of athletics. The UK’s most decorated Olympian has been accused of drug abuse! Although he emphatically denies the allegation, this censure could potentially ruin his career and strip him of his medals. It is a reminder that those who compete for important goals and prestigious prizes must keep the rules! Such deception, however, is not restricted to the present, Paul mentions it in his letter to Timothy. “And if anyone enters competitive games,” he observes, “he is not crowned unless he competes lawfully (fairly, according to the rules laid down”. [2 Timothy 2:5 Classic Amplified]
Sadly, the world has witnessed athletes ignominiously stripped of Olympic medals for ‘breaking the rules’! But why would Paul use this illustration to his son, Timothy? What was so important? The apostle makes it abundantly clear in his writings that, as believers, we are not only in a race [1 Corinthians 9:24-27] but involved in warfare [Ephesians 6:11-17]. He is also confident that there is a prestigious reward for those who ‘keep the rules’ and ‘win the race’; he described it as a ‘crown of righteousness’ [2 Timothy 4:8].
The idea of an amazing reward is upheld by some of Yahshua’s contemporaries, too. James calls it ‘a crown of life’ [James 1:12]; Peter ‘a crown of glory’ [1 Peter 5:4]. Where do you suppose they learned that? Yahshua Himself said, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” [Revelation 2:10] Living for and working with Yahshua in our world is extremely challenging, but the rewards are, literally, out-of-this-world!
Because it so important, the life we live is under constant attack. Paul’s advice to his son was to be strong, and to find this strength in the grace of Yahshua; to endure hardship, as anyone in the military must; and to keep in good, spiritual shape! “No one” he states emphatically, ”serving as a soldier, gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” [see 2 Timothy 2:1-4]
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you…as though something strange were happening to you” [1 Peter 4:12] but stay focused, keep the rules, and keep the faith.
Image by Gellinger