Leadership: What If It Is All About the Prize…And You Can’t Run!

“Runners Take Your Mark.”

Stay loose.

“Get set.”

 Explode out of the blocks. Get your arms up.


Drive to the first hurdle. 1-2-3 Kick. 1-2-3 Kick. 1-2-3 Kick. Sprint through the finish line.


 …that was my mental preparation each time I settled into the starting blocks to run the 100 meter hurdle race after many hours of rigorous physical training. The 100 meter hurdles was my race and rarely was I defeated because I trained hard, followed through, and ran past the finish line ahead of everyone else. My dad was a tough trainer, which was okay because I did not like to be defeated. 

It is very easy for people to sit courtside or throw chips at the television when their team is not winning, all the while forgetting that the people playing in the game hate loosing as well. Nobody likes losing. My dad often told me, “Tasha, Second Place is the first looser.” (We wouldn’t dare say anything like that to the children of this day because everybody’s a winner, right? Of course not, there are winners and there are losers both in sports and in life.)

Success in a sport is normally contributed to hours of physical training: running, swimming, developing a technique, weight training, physical therapy, a proper diet, sleep, and exercise. Bottom line: Sports take discipline. Athletes need to be healthy enough to show up for a race, let alone be mentally confident and physically strong enough to win. We want our teams to win. We are passionate about our sports; we admire an athlete’s physical discipline, even though we know that the winner of a game will not amount to much in the grand scheme of things.

How much more important is spiritual discipline in our lives?

The Apostle Paul reminds us, “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 a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).”

In this passage, Paul provides strict instructions for leaders to cultivate spiritual discipline so that they can continue to run the race that Christ has for them, so that they are focused about what God has called them to do, so that they can lead with integrity and finish strong until the end. According to Paul, this is what it means to lead well.

How do you develop spiritual discipline in your life? How do you train for the work that God has for you?

 © Natasha S. Robinson 2011

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Published by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson

Servant of Jesus. Truth-teller. Leader. Mentor. Author of Books.

2 thoughts on “Leadership: What If It Is All About the Prize…And You Can’t Run!

  1. Natasha,

    I love this discussion! I too was a competitve runner in high school, so this brings back fun memories! My race was the 4K (2.4 miles).
    My best race was one in which I ran side-by-side with a fellow team member. She would push me when I faltered and vice versa. We would pick off our competitors who were ahead of us by flanking them – Meghan on the left and I on the right. This is a powerful picture of how Christians should support each other here on earth.

    Coincidentially, our pastor discussed the 5 types of crowns in the Bible: crown of glory, marter’s crown, crown of righteousness, and two others which are not quickly coming back to my memory…

    One poignant Biblical scripture describes the 12 elders who CAST their crowns at the feet of Jesus. So yes, we run the race to win everlasting crowns. However, the true purpose of the crowns are to glorify God and not ourselves.

    I try to develop spiritual discipline in my life by listening to Worship music and reading daily devotionals.

    I am still “in training” and am earnestly praying for God to use me on my mission field, which is currently in my home and my company.

    Gina V.

    1. Gina, I love the picture that you painted concerning running and also the reminder that we run the Christian race to God’s glory and not our own. Amen, sista. We are all in training to develop those spiritual muscles for the work of the kingdom.

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