“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 someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 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.”
Sounds a little like an athlete training for the Olympics doesn’t it, but no, it is Paul writing in 1 Corinthian: 9.
He is talking about something that many people don’t want to discuss…
Today many Christians don’t seem to understand discipline. They associate it with punishment, hardship, suffering, grief and adversity. Discipline is often thought of as a disruption in our lifestyle. We should be pursuing happiness, peace and security. When we think about discipline, it is depressing and some may even consider discipline as God turning His back on us, making us do something we would rather not do.
Let’s explore the Biblical definition of discipline. The Hebrew and Greek term for discipline is most often associated with learning. W. Bingham Hunter says that over ninety percent of Biblical uses of discipline refer to teaching, instruction, training up, pointing out, making obvious or bringing conviction about. “The Bible never says learning is convenient or fun, but [it] is necessary and universal in the family of God” [Hunter, 122].
I think Hunter’s image of discipline is a good one. He says that discipline functions like warning signs or guard rails on a highway. God expects us to use His discipline in order to avoid “spiritual collisions.” He does not want us running off the road. He knows the disciplined and narrow way of life leads to the best fellowship with Him. A disciplined lifestyle furthers better prayer with God and an undisciplined lifestyle hinders prayer.
In my personal experience, when I know I am straying away from what God expects (maybe doing what I want to do and sinning in the process) I find it very had to pray. I am so self-centered that I do what I want and ignore what God expect of me. Why would He want to hear from me? I assume He wouldn’t want to listen to the prayer of a sinner. I feel so guilty praying anyhow. Prayer time diminishes and can even disappear.
Athletes have tangible goals for their training. The medal or the trophy or the recognition all motivate them to train so they can win. For the Christian, the goal is less “tangible.” The goal of the Christian is to be Christlike. We all know that this is impossible because Christ came to be with us on earth, faced temptations we face and yet He lived a sinless life. That does not mean that we have to throw up our hands in despair, give up on our training and say “what is the use!” We all fall short of the glory of God and as we fall short, we depend of His grace for help.
We know we will never be able to train hard enough, work hard enough and be good enough to get to heaven on our own. We depend on Him to get us to the finish line.
“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”.
Think about the words of Paul. Think about the reward.
Do you need to inject some discipline into your life because it shows a solid love commitment for God?
He certainly loves us; maybe we should work hard to show our love for Him.
As Nike says… “Just Do It!”