The Victor's Crown 1 Corinthians 9:25

Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.—1Co_9:25.

In the days of St. Paul there were held every second year near Corinth the famous Isthmian games. These games were national gatherings, and from near and far people came to view them. They were held in an amphitheater, a huge building like a circus, but open to the sky. In the middle of this building was the arena—a sanded space where the contests took place—and all round were tiers of seats for the onlookers.

The competitors for these games had to fulfill certain conditions. For ten months previous to the date of the contest they had to undergo a very severe training. They had many hardships to endure and much fatigue, and they were allowed only certain kinds of food. For the last thirty days they attended the exercises at the gymnasium. No competitor could enter the lists unless he could prove that he had fulfilled all these conditions.

There were many different forms of contest— running, wrestling, boxing, etc., but in each contest there could be only one victor. The victor was crowned with a garland of pine leaves, and this prize was very much coveted. Now perhaps you think that was a very poor reward, and yet these men were willing to undergo all the months of weary training just to have the chance of winning it. For the victor was greatly honored. Poets wrote songs about him. When he returned home the wall of his town was thrown down that he might walk over it as though he were a conqueror. Often his fellow-citizens erected a statue in his honor.

Now St. Paul is writing to the people of Corinth and he tells them that the Christian life is very much like one of these contests. We have to be just as much in earnest as these competitors. But we have entered a much grander contest, and we are striving for a much better reward. They do it to receive a “corruptible crown,” a garland of leaves that will soon wither away; but we are promised an incorruptible crown, a crown that will last for ever and ever.

And first St. Paul tells us that the Christian life is like a race. If we want to win the victor's crown, we must run straight ahead and never take our eyes off the goal. We must allow nothing to distract us from our aim.

Do you know the Arab story of the magic treasure which lay at the top of a mountain? All you had to do to win the treasure was to climb the mountain. That seemed simple enough, but there was one condition—whatever happened or whatever you heard, you must on no account look back. Whoever looked back was immediately turned into stone.

Well, a great many people tried to reach the treasure, but somehow or other they always failed, and the mountain was beginning to get quite decorated with stone statues.

At last a family of two boys and a girl resolved that they would try their luck. The eldest brother set out first and he was quite determined that nothing should make him look round. To begin with he got along splendidly. He heard voices calling to him but he took no notice. One voice told him to turn back instantly or he would be killed. Another cried out that he was mad to think of reaching the treasure. Still he held on his way. Then he heard someone sneering at him and calling him a coward. That was more than he could stand. He turned round in a rage to find the owner of the voice, and immediately he became a stone.

The second brother fared a little better. He managed to get about half-way up the mountain. Then he heard a sweet voice inviting him to rest. He turned round without thinking, and he, too, was changed to stone.

Last of all the sister set out to climb the mountain, but first she closed her ears to all sounds. In vain the voices praised, threatened, insulted, or invited. She held on her way unmoved. So at last she reached the top of the mountain and won the treasure.

Now the race we are running is very much like that pathway up the side of the mountain. Many voices try to distract us. Some may sneer at us, others flatter us, others threaten us. But if we want to win the victor’s crown we must close our ears to all these voices and hold straight on to our goal.
And then Paul tells us that the Christian life is like a boxing-match. He says there are many temptations, but if we want to overcome them we must hit them hard and straight, not just beat the air in a halfhearted sort of way.

Once upon a time a man came to a wise old king and asked him for a charm to overcome temptation. He complained that he had tried to do right, but again and again he had yielded to temptation.

The king ordered a bowl to be filled with oil to the very brim. The bowl was filled till it could not hold another drop. Then he sent for two soldiers. Next he commanded the man to take up the bowl of oil and carry it through the streets of the town without spilling a single drop. But the man objected. “I would willingly do it, your majesty,” he said, “but it would be impossible.” “That has still to be proved,” replied the king, “for these two soldiers will march behind you with drawn swords, and if you spill a single drop they have orders to cut off your head immediately.”

So the man took up the bowl of oil, and in fear and trembling set out on his journey through the city. There were many interesting things going on around him, but he had no eyes to see them. Many of his friends greeted him and some of them laughed at him, but he had no ears to listen to them. All his attention was fixed on preventing the oil from overflowing the bowl. At length he reached the palace again without having spilt a single drop.

When he returned, the king inquired how he had fared, what he had seen, and to how many people he had spoken. But the man replied that he had seen and heard nothing. He was thinking only of how to keep the oil from overflowing. “Then,” said the king, “you have discovered the charm for overcoming temptation. Fix your mind as firmly on overcoming as you fixed your eyes on the bowl, and you will win.”

Yes, boys and girls, that is the secret; but it is only half of it. Even St. Paul was in despair sometimes and complained that the good that he would he did not, and the evil which he would not, that he did. And then he remembered that only in one way could he be sure of victory—through Jesus Christ our Lord.

If you would wear the victor’s crown you must fight hard, but not alone. Keep firm hold of Jesus and He will lead you to victory at last. (The texts of the other sermons in this series are—Exo_39:30, 2Ki_11:12, Joh_19:2.)