Winning the Prize

There’s a cutesy commercial that I’ve seen several times now. It depicts an elderly couple attempting, for whatever reason, to get into shape. They’re obviously concerned about their health. During the ad, you see them repeatedly walking up and down stairways in what appears to be their home. Very admirable…

I have to confess, I don’t remember what product is being promoted. I think it’s because the end of the advertisement always causes my mind to wander. The final few seconds shows the couple, each clad in their favorite home baseball team jersey, walking up the steps to the highest tier in the stadium. They were apparently getting into good enough shape to be able to make the climb to the spot where their seats were located. Like I said, cutesy.

“I’m not dead yet.”

My lovely Bride and I took a walk just last evening during which we climbed a rather steep hill. Having thankfully reached the top, breathless but without having a heart attack, I gained a new appreciation for the couple in the commercial. They did the right thing. My spouse looked at me and said, “We need to get into shape.” As much as I hated to hear those words, I had to agree with her. As the old saying goes, “I may be old, but I’m not dead yet.” I might add, “Nor do I want to be.”

Most of us tend to have an aversion to the things that keep us in shape. Once we’re out of shape, that aversion inclines to grow. It’s hard to keep in shape and much more fun falling out of it. Getting back into it is torture—particularly at my age. But if I want to see another birthday or two, it would behoove me to get after it.

Switching from the physical to the spiritual (you just had to know this was coming), there’s a common phenomenon in Scripture whereby the Biblical writers tend to use the physical to help us understand the spiritual. It makes sense to use something we can see and evaluate in our daily lives to help explain something that is a tad more ethereal. Preachers (and writers) use that tact to this day.

A Race of Endurance

The Apostle Paul was big on this sort of approach to spiritual matters. More than once, he compared his spiritual life to that of a big-time athlete. He spoke of buffeting his body to run the race of endurance. He was, of course, referring to running the spiritual race of life. He wrote about going into strict, disciplinary training so he could finish the marathon he was running.

He spoke of winning the prize, which to him was the goal of attaining eternal life and entrance to the place we like to call Heaven. He wanted to be in good shape—both physically and spiritually—so he could share the Gospel with everyone else. I’d say that would be a pretty good goal for all of us (despite our tendencies to the contrary).

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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