24 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. 25 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. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24 – 27)
Theme: If not You, then Who?
For those among us who are not sports fans, let me apologize at the outset for the sports analogies in this post. I am blaming this on the Apostle Paul 😊.
One of the sad outcomes of Spiritual warfare is unfruitful labour on the part of Christians. As we saw yesterday, the devil doesn’t want to see believers win. In our passage for today, the Apostle Paul offers a winning approach that is not always popular – self-discipline.
We do not know exactly which games Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians 9, but from historical records we know a lot about the games at the time of Paul’s writing. Here is what one of the dignitaries of the day had to say about the games: “If you have worked hard enough to render yourself worthy of going to Olympia, if you have not been idle or ill-disciplined, then go with confidence; but those who have not trained in this fashion, let them go where they will.” It appears that training hard and being disciplined was a part of the sports culture during Paul’s era.
This provides some context for Paul’s passionate statements and highlights the importance of self-discipline for success in spiritual warfare. I must emphasize that being disciplined does not mean that you rely on your own strength. Reliance on God is essential, and we also have our part to play.
Please read the passage above and consider the question below.
What is Paul’s motivation for being so disciplined and why is his motivation important?
February 26, 2021 at 5:00 am
Paul is motivated to being disciplined because he knows the typical end result….a W, a crown, a prize. A person who is motivated to achieve a particular goal (or prize) is also usually determined to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. (Hearing how individuals train for the Olympics is mind-blowing).
Paul’s motivation is important for us, as it reminds us that whatever our goal, earthly (become the best employee, become the team’s fastest runner, become the most dependable friend, etc.), or heavenly (strive to become more like Christ each day), we should “train” in whatever ways necessary to win.
We may need to shrug off procrastination, self-doubt, laziness, convenience, mindless entertainment, etc., to have sufficient time and energy for optimal training and performance.
If we get tired of “training”, we should remind ourselves that whatever we do, should be done as working for the Lord. We might need to play that verse repeatedly in our minds. We’re human and sometimes we want to just give up and give in. Unfortunately, we won’t win the prize we want if we do.
We should use Paul’s motivation to help us make every day an uncompromising and intense training day.
February 26, 2021 at 8:13 am
Paul’s motivation was eternity. An eternal prize. His motivation might also have been a competitive nature 😊. He did his best when he persecuted the Believers and he wanted to do even better in his new passion of sharing Christ.
February 26, 2021 at 9:25 am
Paul’s motivation was very important for him to show his passion and sincerity to spread the gospel. For one thing, he used to persecute Christians and that may cause others to really question his faith. It is crucial for Paul to let the non believers see in his word and action, how God through his mercy and grace transformed the persecutor Saul to Paul who is truly a believer and motivated to spread God’s word to all the ends of the world.
February 26, 2021 at 9:33 am
Paul’s motivation in being very disciplined was to win the prize.
His motivation is important because it provides determination for the rigorous preparation training and competition itself.
February 26, 2021 at 11:52 am
The temptation exists to see Paul’s motivation as his salvation. This is not the case (per the counsel of all of Scripture), although he does clearly refer to an eternal reward. The reward here is that for faithful service, that which will be received along with the greeting of Matt 25:21,23, for a fight well fought, a race well run, for keeping the faith (2 Tim 4:7). But it is indeed eternal, and that is worth remembering! The prize is being of service in this life, and rewarded accordingly (whatever that looks like) in the next, forever more. These should be powerful motivators! We are told that even Jesus looked forward to “the joy set before him” (Heb 12:2).
The how is also important. Self-discipline speaks of the self(object) being disciplined by the self(subject). As a believer, the object-self is a new creation, and the subject-self is not alone in its efforts (as Norman points out). But of course we have a role to play. Graced by God with free-will, we must choose, sign up to the program (among other things, doing 40Days every year 😉
February 26, 2021 at 6:55 pm
Paul’s motivation to be so disciplined is because of a burning desire to win. He has likened what is sometimes called the “Christian walk” to a race. If you desire to win a race, you must be prepared to run with all your might, all your heart and all your strength. The singular goal of winning is important. An athlete who desires to win undergoes intensive training and disciplines his body so it can perform at the optimum level when called upon to do so. So to, Paul rids himself of all encumbrances that might hinder him in his race, in his calling to preach the Gospel. This includes lashing his body into submission which might want to shrink back from going into a city where he might have to endure more beatings for the sake of preaching the Gospel. He wills his body to go on, reminding it, that it will get a greater heavenly reward for the unjust beatings. This type of single minded focus is the call of all God’s people, and God will give us the strength to do His will, if we are willing. Render your vessel for useful service so you can run your race unhindered. Not half hearted or lukewarm, but holding the cross before you, fight the good fight, run the race of salvation like a Champion.
February 26, 2021 at 9:04 pm
Paul’s motivation for being so disciplined is that he would win the incorruptible/eternal crown of glory and that he would not be disqualified from the eternal prize, after having preached to others.
His motivation is important for him to win the prize as there is only one winner— the disciplined athlete who trains with dogged determination to the very end so that in confidence he can win the prize.