Those who win are those who love. Did you know the word “amateur” comes from a Latin word that means “a lover”? The amateur athlete participates in a sport because he loves the sport. The Christian who wins the spiritual race loves the Lord and His Word.
Those who win are those who are disciplined. I Timothy 4:7-8 “…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness, for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (NASV) The Greek word for “discipline” gives us our English word “gymnasium”. Paul was making a contrast between physical and spiritual exercise. Notice that he does not condemn physical exercise. He only pointed out that spiritual discipline pays dividends in this life AND in the life to come. As far as going to the gym and working out, it is ok, but not to the neglect of the spiritual.
Those who win are those who obey the rules. II Timothy 2:5 says, “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” The Greeks not only had rules for the game, but they had rules for the contestants as they trained for the games. Any violation during training was grounds for immediate disqualification. Paul wrote “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (I Corinthians. 9:26-27)