There is a lot of great information in this chapter. Please take time to read the chapter because reading it will do you much more good than reading this post. That being said, I want to look at a few ways to run a good race.
1) Realize that God doesn't need to use you.
Paul writes in this chapter about his compulsion to preach the Gospel. He also talks about the rights he had as an apostle that he chose not to use. These rights include things like being paid and having a wife. Why does Paul not use these rights? I think the answer is in verse 18.
"What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the Gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it."
He says his reward for preaching without using his given rights is getting to preach without using his given rights. Why is this? I think it is because Paul intimately knows that God doesn't need him. Remember who witnessed to Paul? Jesus Christ Himself came to Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul knows that the Lord could do this with anyone, yet God chose to use the Apostle Paul. Paul knew that this honor was his reward.
When we realize that God doesn't need us we learn to enjoy the privilege of getting to be part of God's work on earth. God could do it without out us like a father taking his child to work He lets us participate in His wonderful work.
2) Be adaptable.
"I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings." verses 22-2
We should not be so full of pride that we can't adapt to meet the needs and expectations of others. We should think of the joy of sharing the Gospel as being greater than the joy of serving ourselves. We should keep our eye on the reward of getting to participate in eternal glory.
Does this mean that we compromise our beliefs and therefore sin? By no means. This means that we compromise our own preferences to serve others and Jesus. If you are one to wear a t-shirt and flip-flops, you may need dress nicer if you want to serve and reach others. If you are ministering in the inner city, you might not want to wear a three-piece suit. Become all things to all men to save some.
3) Run with a purpose.
"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. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." verses 24-27
Keep your eye on the prize, the knowledge of the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ and the ability to participate in His work on earth. Remember that you are running a race to win, so run with purpose. Train daily for this race with disciplines. Disciplines like prayer, scripture reading, meditation, worship, fasting, etc.
Running a good race is worth it. We all want to receive a crown that will last forever. We all want to hear, "Well done good and faithful servant... Come share in your master's happiness." In order to run a good race we need to remember: that God choses to use us, He doesn't need us; to be adaptable in order to serve God and not our selfish desires; and to run with purpose.