In the award-winning film Chariots of Fire, one of the characters is legendary British sprinter Harold Abrahams. He is obsessed with winning, but in a preliminary 100-meter dash leading up to the 1924 Olympics, he is soundly beaten by his rival, Eric Liddell. Abrahams’ response is deep despair. When his girlfriend, Sybil, tries to encourage him, Harold angrily declares, “I run to win. If I can’t win, I won’t run!” Sybil responds wisely, “If you don’t run, you can’t win.”

Life is full of reversals, and we as Christians are not excluded from disappointments that make us want to give up. But in the race that is the Christian life, Paul challenges us to keep running. He told the Corinthians, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it” (1 Cor. 9:24). We are to run faithfully, Paul is saying, spurred on by the knowledge that we run to honor our King and to receive from Him an eternal crown.

If we falter in our running—if we quit serving God or give in to sin because of our difficulties—we risk losing a rich reward we could have received had we run our best.

Sybil was right. “If you don’t run, you can’t win.”