1 Corinthians 9:23-17: “23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. 24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
Our society is so very repetitive. Christmas is over. Now it’s straightway to the New Year. Time for resolutions, weight loss, healthier clean eating, life goals, exercise, and an overall sense of renewed purpose. The fasts commence and a heightened awareness is placed on greater things for a clean slate with wide open spaces for development.
There is something to be said for physical discipline. The rigors of setting aside time to exercise and determining to abstain from certain foods and to eat healthier choices comes only by the fiercest of determination. Mark my words: as soon as you determine to improve your health, a slew of birthday celebrations filled with indulgent foods or take-out menus will show up and you will be tested! Your schedule will become inundated with additional tasks that keep you from the gym.
Paul compared such physical discipline to the rigors of spiritual discipline. In so many words the apostle was saying to the Corinthian believers in verse 26, “Listen, I know what I’m up against here. I know what your culture says is ‘ok’. I know how you lived in your past. And it’s not easy for me to live according to God’s ways all the time either!” But then he issued the challenge in verse 27. I love the Amplified translation: “But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit].”
If you are a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, there are some spiritual disciplines that must be in place. And there are means by which you can spiritually “buffet your body” in order to grow deeper in your walk with God. (Does anyone else find it ironic that the word ‘buffet’ Paul references here, defining a physical beating or blow, also is used to define a free-range feast when pronounced differently?) The process leads to spiritual maturity and, just as Paul, can not only grow you up but also lend credibility to those around you for the Cause of Christ. Surrendering everything in your life to Scriptural scrutiny and testing is a New Year’s resolution that will truly impact eternity, not just the next 90 days as you flounder to keep your word.
Come back next week for some more practical elements of spiritual discipline. In the meantime, ask God for clarity on some areas in your life where you need to tighten up and move forward this new year toward the ultimate prize. There’s no greater payoff than pleasing God.
Pursuing the prize,