Who’s to know if Paul was an athlete (unlikely?) or a wanna be or had he been an observer to the Roman Olympics? When you read the descriptions of this man we don’t really find our mind wandering to pictures of a buff, athletic form of a man. On the contrary, we read stuff like that he was a tent maker (Acts 18:3). So he sat and sewed tents and people who sit a lot…well you get my drift. No real physical prep going on there. He was raised at the feet of the famous Jewish teacher, Gamaliel which meant hours of pouring over the Pentateuch, learning all of the Scriptures. Paul was particularly known for his knowledge and obedience of the Mosaic law. I see a picture of a man who did much reading and reciting. Now you can recite on the run but…highly improbable in his day with no ipods and such with the recorded Word drumming in his ear either. In 1 Corinthians 2:1,3 we see mentioned that Paul’s inadequacies include not being an excellent orator and being weakened in his flesh. So how interesting it is that he draws a spiritual parallel of the life of faith to one of a physical race.
Let’s look at a few verses from 1 Corinthians 9
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? :24
The exhortation is to run in such a way as you would as if you were in a competition. He has compared this journey to a marathon! Life can surely be a long one at that. Then he continues on to tell us that we have to exercise self-control throughout this marathon.
Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. :25
Wow, now he is really hitting home. Oh how I struggle with the speaking before thinking it through thing. Or the doing before praying thing. Yet I know that this is where the Lord completely shows me that I can save many steps by checking in with Him first! Okay, I am seeing the picture here. (How we need our coach!) Now on to the prize thing. We are not running this race to add a trophy or another trophy to our display case. No, this one is a forever, in full living color kind of a trophy that is too big for my little pea-sized brain to imagine. For an eternity with my Father is just too big to put to words, but this is it, this is the goal. And I just can’t afford to get sidetracked with the minuscule issues of life (that see overwhelmingly large at the time) that the enemy of my soul uses to pull me off course. You know, sidetracked by disappointments (in myself or others), relationship issues or every little stinky thing that comes along to persuade me to stop for just a while till I get this thing ironed out. (That one just cost me three miles!)
Now Paul gets into the ring and he really puts purpose to each swing, jab and punch:
I run is such a way as not without aim, I box in such a way as not beating the air; :26
So I can then ask myself, why am I doing this anyway? What is it all about that I should go through all the rigorous training, denying and pushing myself beyond my capabilities anyway? Have I really got the end in mind? This is a good time to reflect and make sure I fully comprehend what it is all about. And is it really all about me and my goals anyway? Or is there a bigger picture here than me getting to the finish line. I think we all would adamantly agree that it is! I was brought to the Scripture in 2 Peter 3:9 that tells us that God desires that no man would perish and that all would come to repentance. I know that I repeat this a lot but here we go again. We get saved and on our way but then it is about those out there who also need to know the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ before it is too late. The hurting out there need to know that there is a God who is big enough to heal their pain and wipe their tears and bring peace to their calamity. To bring salvation to their souls!
So here we go with the last verse that is going to really drive it home as I wrap my brain around the fact that Paul was a spiritual athlete!
but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. :27
True confession time. I have failed miserably at times when it comes to doing the right thing. Whether it’s denying my appetite or exercising, I am not a very disciplined person. I want to be but…being human and on this side of glory I will be prone to fail at making my goals. I am however a bit better than I was if that counts for anything. But this is the verse that really bites. “…so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” Ouch! In consideration of being a Christian life coach, you know, you attempt to tell others how to walk the walk and then you model the way…and my biggest fear is in failing to be the example. However, there is a viable solution to “down time”. We do not have to be caught in the devils snare dwelling on thoughts that tell us that we will never be good enough to serve the King because we keep messing up!
Bob Carlisle sings a song called “We Fall Down” that really brings this struggle to light. I hope you will take the opportunity to listen and let me know how you receive what he sings. Friends, we are going to stumble and it may throw us off course for a time (hopefully not too long) but the thing is we must get back up and continue on pursuing the race set before us. My life verse really solidifies the entire message here.
I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead; I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13,14
And that’s it. I am not disqualified if I press on. When I see the winners of those marathon races as they hit the finish ribbons, they ain’t very pretty and they look like they are in mega pain to boot but they made it. I too will get weary and worn but…it is going to be well worth it at the end when I hear my Abba say “Well done!”
Friend, whatever you do, don’t loose heart. Let’s keep pressing on, you see over there, up ahead, we are getting closer!
Father, I see that it is all for You that I am even alive. Thank you for loving me and making a way for me to be reconcile to You through Your Son, Jesus. I just ask that You help me up when I stumble and my knees are pretty scuffed up from tripping but I will not give up. You have called me to dance for You and I am going to give You my best. Use me Lord as You see fit for I am excited to see that the fields are white unto harvest and that Your return is very soon. Let me be part of the the homecoming in Jesus’ Name!