“The Discipline of Self-Slavery” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Welcome today to the greatest passage in the Bible!  Obviously!  It is talking about running and racing – the very best and finest illustration available to describe the Christian life!  And obviously also, someone who was a runner, who bred champion runners in this family, coached runners galore to multiple championships, and was a coach (pastor) of spiritual runners is clearly the person closest to the center of God’s heart!

I jest! Well, maybe. I think I at least have an argument. Paul didn’t use any sport with balls or other accoutrements to make his point (and we can find running illustrations in other parts of the Scriptures – Galatians 2:2, Philippians 2:16, Hebrews 12:1).

So, to those who teasingly think I need some new speaking and illustrative material (I’m talking to you Jeff Brown) I say, “Back off, and take it up with God!”

But seriously, it is a wonderful illustration, even in the current broader context (chapters 8-10) of giving up one’s rights to serve and help others. That doesn’t always feel good and is not what you want to always do. And let me tell you that training to run is not something you always want to do and enjoy doing. But, to be serious about it and succeed like the person does who is a winner in races, you discipline yourself and make it happen.

Those who discipline themselves toward athletic excellence gain a reward that will only last so long as this world remains. But the reward for those who preach the gospel to others, as difficult as it is at times with people who are so different, yields rewards that last forever.

The word used in verse 27 of having “preached to others” is a term used in Greek culture of a herald – a person with a formal message that must be listened to and followed. In the context of a race or a boxing match, it is the official in charge – the one who calls the participants to the starting line or into the ring, boldly stating the rules. Paul wanted to run/box in such a way as to be a success, having done it the proper way.

Maybe y’all reading this didn’t need this passage today. But I sure did. There is a part of the current ministry (in the extended realm beyond our church walls) about which I’m very discouraged. I am not seeing any fruit from it right now, and frankly, I’d like to quit. I’m thinking I’m just not someone who can reach these people, apparently. But, no, I’ve got to keep straining and working toward the prize. God will have to give the victory in His own time and place.

1 Cor. 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 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.

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

3 thoughts on ““The Discipline of Self-Slavery” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

  1. Thanks for your openness about your discouragement in regards to evangelizing. A thought popped in my head. It is an analogy and it doesn’t have to do with running but with wrestling and fighting. These analogies or sports events or contents are also referred to in scripture.

    Well, I’m not a follower of things like Mixed Martial Arts, but I remember a while back hearing from someone who did follow the sport (or something like it at the time). He told me (decades ago) that there was a fighter who dominated in this sport. His secret was that he had studied all the martial arts and therefore was skilled in dealing with any fighting opponent.

    How does that pertain to where we are today? I’ve been slowly and occasionally pecking away (reading very slowly) a book called FOOL’S TALK by Os Guinness. He wrote about the interplay or balance between evangelism and apologetics. I think he argued that you can’t have one without the other. That both are necessary.

    I’m really not that great with evangelism. However I find that I can usually blunt or quell attacks on Christianity. This is just a matter of my training, growing up in a non-Christian household and getting familiar with handling attacks on Christianity.

    My second thought about what you wrote is that training for racing is often done in an organized fashion. People set aside time to train. They set aside finances. Even long distance or cross-country running may include a variety of different workouts. Some days might feature training by running longer than a normal race will be. Other days training might involve some rather moderate paced running with some fast pace intervals mixed-in.

    What does this have to do with training for evangelism? Variety of approaches are needed. Variety of skills … a variety of training. You can’t do it all by yourself. I can’t do it all by myself.

    However, just the fact you are bringing up evangelizing is getting me thinking… perhaps it will push me to engage in some. I find it very hard to talk to people. Maybe writing I might have better success with.

  2. FINALLY GOT “WE GOT ISSUES” TODAY.  THANK YOU.  ALSO,  TELL RANDY I AGREE WITH JEFF BROWN  !!! hahaha  Nancy— comment-reply@wordpress.com wrote:From: We Got Issues <comment-reply@wordpress.com>To: ncmyers77@myactv.netSubject: [New post] “The Discipline of Self-Slavery” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2019 11:16:42 +0000

    Randy Buchman posted: “Welcome today to the greatest passage in the Bible!  Obviously!  It is talking about running and racing – the very best and finest illustration available to describe the Christian life!  And obviously also, someone who was a runner, who bred champion runn”

    • I have no idea why it began working again, but, as Tim says, “Well, amen!” And knowing of the weariness of running illustrations, that’s why I’ve moved on to those about long-distance cycling. Like with running, they exalt me and my prowess on so many fronts, and I’m all about that. It’s just not my fault that God makes it possible for me to do things that most 20-somethings can’t! So my boasting is in the Lord!

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