Living the race of life
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 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 someone running aimlessly…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
Paul talked a great deal about perseverance and endurance, particularly as they relate to gaining strength from God to successfully live the life of faith. I was reminded of this every time I watched the beginning of Wide World of Sports Saturday afternoons on television when it was still on. It always started with fast-action scenes from sporting competition, with announcer Jim McKay’s voice in the background; “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” As he spoke of defeat, a ski jumper was shown losing control at the bottom of the ski jump, tumbling down hitting the guard rail. And the poor guy did it every Saturday afternoon! But there is also agony in victory. This does not come without a price. There are grueling hours of training and, quite often, your body works through pain as you approach the finish line or the end of the game. This is also true of Christian living. Christianity is not a life of complacency, but of commitment. In order to fellowship with people who have different life-styles from us and at the same time establish rapport with them, it will call for us to have strict training (1 Corinthians 9:25). That means we need to know where we stand, and be willing to say no when we have to say no, and be willing to say yes when we have to say yes! It also means that we have to run according to the rules that God has given to us. The athlete who does not do that becomes disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). While Paul relates to the people around him, he refuses to allow them to sway him to become a different person morally than he is. He recognizes that being with such people automatically brings temptations. So he keeps his body under control as an athlete. He knows that anyone can be tempted and fall into sin. However, he refuses to live a life of isolationism from other people in order to avoid that potential. Instead, he takes the more serviceable approach by relating to people who are different and at the same time engage in the most spiritual approach; strict training and putting his body as a slave under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Paul’s goal is not just temporary by relating to people in the now, but also for the eternal by winning God’s prize in the future. We have freedom to do as we please but our freedom should be tempered by the principles God gave us so we could be free to be the person He wants us to be. There is flexibility to please to do what is right in the sight of God in any given situation. That is what Paul lives by and should be true as well to every believer committed to please Christ.
Noel De Guzman