Passing the Torch . . . compete by the rules
If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.
2 Timothy 2:5
The rules, the rules? What is this ladies? We know an athlete must compete according to the rules or there would be unfair advantage, not to mention utter chaos. But the gospel is a gospel of grace and faith, not of rules. Why would Paul enter the athletic arena to illustrate his point? Apparently sporting events in that day were highly popular.
The questions come to mind: is this life an Olympic event? are we competing for a prize? what are the rules we live by?
If you’ve lived at all, you could easily imagine yourself at the Olympiad training to compete. The game of life is not easy. Endurance is key so you exercise your spiritual muscle daily—by reading your Bible. You overcome the hurdles created by the popular belief of the day—under the tutelage of godly teachers. Your coach, the Spirit of God, runs by your side—encouraging, advising. Your cheering friends keep you on the trail.
The rules? In the Old Testament, the rules were the thing: keep the rules so you may enjoy long life, God said to Moses (Deuteronomy 6:2). But then, Jesus did not negate the rules: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. ...but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). Later He hung all of the rules on these two: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-40). And then He said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (John 14:21).
The athlete hardened his body and worked his heart out, yet only one gets the prize. (We) run in such a way as to get the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24) by keeping the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). Thankfully we can gather up all the rules into the simplicity of the Law of Love. These are the rules we compete by, under grace. Whew!
And the prize? Ah yes, the victor’s crown. In the ancient Olympics the victory wreath was made of twisted branches from the sacred olive tree of Zeus (Olympic.org). Nothing fancy, perishable, but such an honor to wear.
Our crowns of grace will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:25). Thank you Jesus!