Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV)

lebronjames23Last night the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in an overtime thriller. It is quite an accomplishment to beat the Warriors in their own house, especially without the assistance (or literally assists) of Kyrie Irving. It was an impressive win. James had 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. The Cavs won game 18 of their last 20. What a game!

When we watch games we’re only privy to a sliver of the action–what we don’t see is the daily regimen athletes endure. Paul, writing here of the Greek games in his day, says every athlete exercises self-control in all things. Athletes in the ancient games were required to practice 10 months (and no nothing else but practice) before the games. Today, athletes prepare four years before the Olympics. Sometimes that preparation is for a 10 second sprint in the 100 meter. At other times it is for the best attempt at the triple jump. Four years is condensed into 18 feet!

They do it to obtain a perishable wreath. In Paul’s day the “medal” was a wreath made of leaves. It withered and died. Today it is a gold, silver, or bronze medallion. It will one day melt when the earth is consumed in fire. It is perishable too. Lebron is playing for another championship ring–two are not enough. How serious is he? Recently he shared his daily diet routine:

  • Meal 1 (6.25am): Whole wheat bagel with 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1/2 cup of strawberries, 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • Meal 2 (9.30 am): 1-cup orange juice, 1 banana, 1 scoop protein power with 1 cup of milk (low fat).
  • Meal 3 (12 noon): Lean roast beef with whole-wheat bun. Lettuce, tomato, 2 tablespoons of mustard, low fat cheddar cheese, and a 1-cup milk (low fat).
  • Meal 4 (2.30 pm): 1/2 cup blueberries, 1-cup low fat natural yogurt, 1/2 glass milk, and one granola bar.
  • Meal 5 (5.00 pm): 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup milk, 1 cup orange juice, an 1 cup low fat strawberry yoghurt (with or without 1.2 tablespoon of honey)
  • Meal 6 (8.30 pm): 11/2 cup small broccoli, 1/2 cup rice, 1/3 cup orange juice, 3 oz chicken breasts, sliced water chestnuts (4 ounces) and 1.2 tablespoon virgin oil

Now you’re feeling bad about that doughnut you just finished eating.

Paul says that we compete for an imperishable wreath. Our wreath is not our entry into heaven. It isn’t even hearing God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It is others. Don’t miss this. He says, “lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” In verse one Paul called the Corinthian believers his workmanship and the seal of his apostleship.

If you’re a parent of teenagers, they are your imperishable wreath. If you’re an employer, your employees are your imperishable wreath. Teachers…students. Coaches…athletes. Doctors…patients.  Neighbors…neighbors. You get the picture.

Do they matter to you as much as a third championship ring to Lebron?