Think about your life for a moment. Actually don’t think about your life. You probably do that all the time. Think about how you think about your life.
What stories do you tell yourself about yourself? What helps you make sense of your ambitions, your failures, your loves and passions?
Maybe your life is about the pursuit of happiness. Perhaps it’s about the experience of beauty, maybe it’s about the development of relationships. Maybe your life is meaningless, a coming together of random influences.
We all have stories we tell ourselves to help make sense of our lives. I’d like to offer you another one, and it comes from something St Paul says:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
Paul viewed his life through the metaphor of a race: he was running to win a prize. Now in one sense you could say this is about the whole ‘life with God’ thing. Maybe that’s what Paul meant, maybe it’s like the jokes Jesus told about merchants and pearls (Matthew 13) or camels and needles (Mark 10). You can have life with God for free, but it will cost you everything. I think you can push the metaphor a bit more though and make it more specific.
I’ve coached quite a few young adults over my short life and I’ve heard lots of talk about the future. There’s the materialist: “I just want to be rich, find a partner, have babies, or get a nice car.” There’s the dreamer: “I just want to change the world, see life get better, make, you know, a real difference.” There’s the servant: “I don’t make plans, I just do whatever He tells me.”
I don’t hear from many runners. People who have spent time weighing up what it is they feel called to do – their prize. That’s a shame, because it’s a great way of processing ambition.
Having a prize implies that you know there will be a cost to what you are doing and have come to terms with that fact. You’re willing to put up with temporary pain, because you know it will be worth it.
I have a few friends who are running for a prize. For one it’s to run a godly business that leads to community transformation. For another it’s to tell the good news of Jesus to as many people who don’t already know it as possible. For another it’s to see the people in his office come to know God, to experience what he calls “office block revival”, for another it is to build an amazing family where others are welcomed and experience God’s love.
So are you running for a prize? What do you want your life to count for? What do you and God want to do together?
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