1 Corinthians 9:24-27 "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 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."
Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth, a place close to Greece, and a people very familiar with the Olympic games that first started there. He spoke in terms they could understand, a race. Paul implied that a Christian life is less like a sprint, short and fast, and more like a long distance marathon. Life is a long stretch that spans over hills and valleys. In order to endure this long distance race of life, we must do three things according to this scripture passage.
- We must go into "strict training". An Olympic marathon runner, even months before the race, will train everyday and be very particular about what they put into their bodies. Likewise, we need to train daily, ie. read the word and pray every day, and be careful of what we put into our bodies, not only what we eat, but what we watch, read, and hear.
- We are not to "run aimlessly". We are to run with a goal in mind; the end. Too many of us are living for today, and tomorrow, but not for eternity. Do you want to go to heaven? Do you want the ones you care about to go to heaven? Are you living like you do? We are to run discplined lives, ignoring distractions that will get us off course.
- We must "beat [our] body and make it [our] slave". To run a race, you must have discipline. Discipline is the process of training your body to do what it does not have a natural tendency to do. A body does not have the natural ability to run a 26 mile marathon. Even the greatest long distance runners could not run that far on their first try; likely not even close to it. In fact when you try, your body will do whatever it can to stop you. Your lungs will tighten, you'll have a pain in your side, and your feet will burn. Your body will scream out to you to STOOOOPPP! But, a determined athlete will keep going, beating its body into submission. So too, we do not have the natural ability to live up to the commandments of God. Our flesh has a tendency to pull us away from Him. Don't believe me? Just think about how sleepy you always get when you decide to read the bible; how hard it is to turn the other cheek; or how easy it is to covet material things others have. Nevertheless, a disciplined Christian learns to tell its flesh, No!