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.