Audio and Text for the Third Sunday before Lent


24 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. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Cor. 9)

Do you remember the movie Forest Gump?  The line I remember most is, “Run, Forest, Run.”

He didn’t always know why. He didn’t always know where or know how long.    All he knew was that he was supposed to run – fast.

Like Forest, we Christians are called to run.  Unlike Forest, our Lord tells us why, where and how long.  There is a purpose to everything God calls us to, like self-control and discipline, and everything God gives to us in this life.

Run that you may obtain (the prize)….I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.

If you could summarize self-control and discipline and the like in one word, it would be “Repent.”  What happens when we hear God’s Word “Repent,” in the way that Forest heard “Run” – that is without a purpose?

“O.K., Gotcha God.  I’m a poor miserable sinner.  I can’t do anything right.  I’m a loser.  I’m just gonna walk around and bear with guilt and shame everywhere I go.  I don’t deserve Your love.  I know You’re always mad.  I know I always mess up.  I know You can destroy me and I probably should be.  I don’t deserve anyone to love me.  I don’t deserve this job, family, church, or anything, so I might as well just bury it all away.”

My vicarage year, our Sunday School was talking about Luther’s first theses in the 95 theses, “When our Lord and master Jesus Christ called us to repentance, He willed that the entire life of the Christian be one of the repentance.”

One member looked in despair and stayed quiet the entire time.  I praise  him because afterwards he had the courage to come talk to me afterwards.

“How does God expect me to live like that?  Repenting all the time, confessing my sin all the time, being weighed down with guilt all the time.”

He would hear the text like this: “Run harder!  Don’t you know what the prize is!  Come one, control yourself.  The goal is just up ahead if you just keep going, running harder, discipline yourself spiritually a little bit more.  Repent more.  Feel worse.  Do better.”


But our Lord is not waiting for you to grovel back to him, give you a good spiritual whipping, and accept you only with the condition that you’ll “stop it.”  That is not the His purpose.  His purpose is to love you, to welcome you.  His purpose is to forgive you and free you.

You run not aimlessly, not as a boxer beating the air.  You run with a purposeful recognition that your Jesus has raced after you before you could even stand up.

He has purchased and redeemed you with His most precious blood.  He has taken on the boxing fists of soldiers and received the wreath made out of thorns.  He has been disciplined severely under God’s wrath so that He might call You His own and you might call Him your Christ, your Rock, your hope, your Truth and Life.  And He does this all out of grace.  He is a generous master, giving us wages that we have not worked for.

If we have think we can run hard enough or work through enough heat, we should hear today’s parable again and believe Romans 4:5, And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness

We don’t run or work under the heat of His wrath, but under the joy of the master’s generosity.  We run in faith that we have His pleasure by grace alone.


We run in faith in the amazing objective love of God for us and we run the race He calls us to run – a disciplined and repentant life knowing that our sin hurts us and hurts others.

Run that you may obtain (the prize)….I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.

A running that doesn’t know where they’re going will easily choose their own.  However, we know where we’re going and we know that God wishes for us to grow in faith toward Him and love toward others as we’re getting there.

This helps us avoid the temptation to think of the suffering and people God has given us as an obstacle to our race to obtain the prize.

“Get out of my way annoying person.  Out of my way old person or young person that I have to selflessly care for.  Out of my way difficult co-worker, O child of mine, O spouse of mine, O friend of mine that keeps sinning against me.  You’re making it difficult to run and get where I’m going.  And these hurdles of sickness, making me spend my money on my church and family, work issues and tragedies among my family and friends is really slowing me down.”

But it is those whom God has placed in our lives for us to love as we love ourselves that help us live a disciplined life, keeping our desire of honor and glory and love of how awesome we’re doing, under control.  Our Lord exhorts us to humility and we don’t have to look far in our family and friends to see who and where He’s calling us to love.

And it is suffering that so often reminds us of our weakness so that we might fully rely on Lord’s gracious strength for and in us.

So, like Forest we run – do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain.  But unlike Forest, we run with a purpose, God’s purpose, God’s race – I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.

Most importantly, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12)


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