It’s no secret the Apostle Paul was a sports nut. He loved sports, probably played them, and obviously understood them. By the time Paul was born the annual Greek, (and then Roman), Olympics had been taking place for centuries, and some have speculated that Paul, who was a tent-maker by trade, made tents for the visiting athletes who required them each year at the Games.
It is clear Paul loved and understood sports because of his frequent use of athletic metaphors. In 1 Corinthians 9:24 Paul challenges Christians to live the Christian life like a runner, running to win a prize. Then, in verse 25, he admires a successful athlete’s exercise of self-control. In verse 26 he uses a boxing metaphor. Over in Galatians 2:2 Paul compares himself to a long-distance runner, and in Ephesians 6:12 Paul likens the Christian life to a wrestling match.
Why the sports metaphor? Because it’s a good one. In order to succeed athletically, one must work hard. Concentrated and determined effort is absolutely essential. And, in order to succeed spiritually; that is, persevere in faith (2 Timothy 4:6-7), one must work hard. Concentrated and determined effort is absolutely essential.
This is why Paul says, in Philippians 3:12 and 14, right in the middle of one of his sports metaphors, that a Christian must “press on!” Christians should press on in the Christian life the way Jerry Rice pressed on in football; the way Larry Bird pressed on in Basketball; and the way Michael Phelps pressed on in swimming. The concentrated and determined effort of these men is an example of what is required of us spiritually.
Thank you Terry Flowers for giving me your artwork yesterday (pictured). It now sits in my office, reminding me, to run with endurance.