Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (NIV)
I included the NIV there because I prefer the use of crown rather than wreath, but still like the work imperishable. Read the verse again. At the time Paul wrote this verse, it is thought that he may have been been in Corinth during the biennial Isthmian games- a public athletic contest, similar to what we know as the Olympic Games. Spiritually, we are all running the race of sharing the gospel to all who don't believe. In order to be fruitful in this, it is important to keep self-control. It is important to keep your eyes on the prize- which will not wither away like the wreath possibly given at the Isthmian games, but the crown of eternal life, that lasts forever.
Sometimes I think we get so busy with life- we get so consumed with what the world is offering that we lose our focus on the race. Instead we get off the track and become distracted with something outside of the race. Sometimes we end up checking out a different race going on, one where the prize is only of imperishable things- sometimes we even participate! It sometimes takes us awhile before we realize we forgot where we were at, and we mosey back over to the race we are signed up for.
What are some things outside the race that we can get distracted by? Getting the promotion or the new job, getting the bigger house, getting a new or improved wardrobe, losing weight, becoming successful, making more money... things we might even put before God.
I challenge you to see what race you are running. Did you check out the race going on somewhere else? Keep your eyes focused on the prize, given by the best Judge ever.