In Training

For the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Scripture Reference: 1 Cor. 9:24-27

Preparation: Bring or wear a pair of running shoes.

I brought along a pair of running shoes to help remind me to get some exercise today. (Show your shoes.) How many of you exercise most days? What do you do for exercise? (Children may answer.) Exercise is good for you, isn’t it? (Here you may share an example of a fitness regimen. My example follows.) I try to exercise at least every other day. I do some jogging, some sit-ups, and some pull-ups. Sometimes if I exercise a lot, I feel really tired.

Let’s say I wanted to run in a marathon. That’s a very long race, more than twenty miles. A marathon takes hours to run. If the race was tomorrow and I had never run twenty miles in my life, do you think I would win the race? (Children may respond.) If I haven’t trained for the race, there’s not a very good chance of me winning, is there? If I really wanted to win that marathon, what do you suppose I would have to do? (Let children respond.) I would have to run almost every day and for a long time. If I trained hard and made that race the most important thing in my life, then I might have a chance at winning.

Did you know that all of you are in a race? You should be training hard. I don’t mean that you should be running many miles every day, but you should be practicing listening to God and doing the right thing.

When you are a Christian, the most important thing in your life is following God—and this is like a race, something that takes a lot of effort and strength. Sometimes it’s hard to say, “No!” when a friend wants you to do a bad thing. At times, the right thing to do is also the toughest thing to do. But the more you do the right thing, the stronger you become.

The apostle Paul did not have an easy time following Jesus. People threw him in jail and hurt him because he believed in God. It was not easy, but he didn’t give up. He was in training, and he was determined to win. First Corinthians is a letter he wrote to encourage other Christians to keep following God’s way. He wrote, “Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. So run to win! All athletes train hard. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize” (1 Cor. 9:24-25 NLT, author’s paraphrase in italics).

At the end of our race, our eternal prize will be that Jesus will be waiting to welcome us into heaven. So the next time you have a tough time doing what God wants you to do, remember that we are all in training, and we need the exercise. Train hard! God has promised to help us get better and better.

Dear Jesus, help us to keep on doing the right thing, even when it’s difficult and we want to give up. Make us strong in your love.

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