The Incredible Prize

Did you watch the Olympics?  I watched them with mixed emotions.  I admire those finely honed athletes.  At the same time I am jealous, not merely for their skills, but jealous of the incredible self-discipline needed to be what they are. 
I heard one of the divers say he started working on a new dive 18 months ago and that was a mistake because it wasn’t enough time to have it honed to perfection.  I found that overwhelming.  
In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul speaks of the discipline needed both by athletes and Christians.  “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. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
This is a wonderful passage but has sometimes been misread and used to harass us into doubting our salvation because we are not trying hard enough.  Jesus is very clear in John 3 and 5 regarding our salvation.  When we accept it is a done deal.   Paul calls it a gift. What Paul is talking about here in I Corinthians is the development of a Christ-like character – that is the prize of which he speaks.  I strive as hard as I can – not to be saved – but because I am saved.  Once saved we go into serious training and the prize is incredible.