Another condition for a successful race is self-control, and this condition is illustrated by the words Paul used in 1 Corinthians 9:24–25 to compare living the Christian life to competing in an athletic contest. This is an excellent parallel, and one that is still vivid for us today, because we are so often spectators of athletic contests in person and on television. The same principle still applies.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. (1 Corinthians 9:24 nasb)
That is the objective. Then, Paul went on to state the condition:
And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath [the prize], but we an imperishable. (verse 25 nasb)
If we are going to win the race, if we are going to win the prize, we must meet the condition of self-control. This truth is so obvious when we think in terms of athletics. Every athlete who succeeds as an athlete today has to exercise the most rigorous self-control. He has to go into training—controlling what he eats, how much sleep he gets, and the amount of exercise he has. He also has to control his psychology, building up the right kind of attitude. He cannot afford to give way to negative thoughts. He has to go into the competition with a positive attitude, believing he is going to achieve victory.
All this is equally true for us as Christians in our race. We cannot win the race without self-control.