Running the Race
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I [a]discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
As we’ve looked at the fruit that’s produced in the believer who yields to the Holy Spirit, we’ve seen that this fruit should be readily evident in us, how we can practice them and how each fruit requires self awareness and intentional focus. Whether it’s the sacrifice of love, the endurance of patience, or the power with reserve that is gentleness, it is clear that self control is ultimately necessary. Ryan ended yesterday’s devotion praying that we join him “in strengthening that muscle” of self control. That’s the point that Paul is making here at the end of 1 Corinthians 9. He’s talking about the Isthmian Games, which were Olympic-style competitions held in Corinth every two years, the year before and the year after the Olympic Games. The people in Corinth would not only have been familiar with the competitions, but also the incredible work the athletes would put into training for them. Whether they were an Olympic or Isthmian athlete, they would have exercised incredible discipline. They’d push themselves to practice, doing what needs to be done no matter how they felt. Their time, energy and focus would be devoted to their sport.
They “exercise self-control in all things” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
That’s how Paul says we need to approach our faith. Intentionally–“run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air,” (9:26). Doing what needs to be done no matter how we feel–“I discipline my body and make it my slave,” (9:27). But just like athletic skills, it takes practice. Making mistakes is part of growing and getting better, and we have to practice to exercise those muscles of self control to get stronger–“in all things.”