If we’re going to know what things count as a success before God, we’re going to have to figure out what He values compared to what we value. To that end, what does He reward?
One way to accomplish this is by looking at the things that are considered crowns that believers can earn. Let’s look at some of these to see what God values.
The Imperishable Crown
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 Corinthians 9:24-27
The first crown is the Imperishable Crown, known for its comparison with the wreath given in the first century Olympics that would perish. Nowadays we give Gold, Silver and Bronze medals out, but back then all you got was a fetching wreath of holly to wear on your head until the leaves withered and your wife made you throw it away.
Paul tells us that instead of training for that kind of wreath, we should be faithful in order that we might obtain the imperishable wreath. How do we do this? By keeping a pure testimony before others.
The entire passage of 1 Corinthians 9 stresses that Paul does all that he does to be a servant to the believers and that his life may not cause issues for the body of Christ; therefore, the endurance race that he is talking about is a consistently Christ-honoring life lived in front of believers and unbelievers alike.