Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.1 Corinthians 9:24-27
In the passage above, Paul expresses his desire to avoid the consequences of being disqualified and encourages us to follow his example.
Paul’s use of illustrations from the athletic world again tells us of his commitment to communicating with his audience. My study bible indicates that Corinth “was the location of the biennial Isthmian games, at that time second in fame only to the Olympic Games,” so the people in the church were aware of the descriptions.
Successful athletes today are also committed to their training.
Yesterday was opening day for Major League Baseball, so only a few weeks ago, professional baseball players began their training camps and their workouts have a primary purpose – preparation for success.
Christian leaders are to exercise self-control – always. It wasn’t that long ago when I learned of a man who had been recently exposed as someone who failed to practice what he preached and in my podcast library are several messages from a man who had also self-destructed in a very public way. While both had encouraged others to be disciplined in their lives as followers of Christ, each man’s life was one that lacked discipline and greatly harmed family, church, and anyone in their realm of influence.
Most of us have areas where we lack discipline, but to avoid just “beating the air” we must be purposeful in our approach. What steps can we take today to strengthen our lives?