Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:1-27
Observation: Paul speaks about giving up his own rights to be able to better relate to others and therefore have the opportunity to share the Good News with them. He considers himself a “slave to all people” to bring others into a relationship with Jesus. He compares his role to disciplining himself like an athlete.
Application: Internet friends, I need you to help me settle an eternal argument I have in my household about running. As an avid runner myself (or, at least I was an avid runner before I got pregnant and started carrying around another human who seems determined to make me slower than molasses), I firmly believe that runners are athletes. My husband, on the other hand, firmly believes that while runners may be in shape, they’re not truly athletes. (His definition of an athlete = someone who participates in a sport with a ball.)
So, who’s right?! Please vote in the comments below and help settle my marital dispute. (Also, the correct answer is YES – runners are athletes! If you vote no, then we cannot be friends. Just kidding! #kindofnotreally)
Anyways, as an athlete (because runners are athletes and I’m a runner – okay, okay, I’ll stop!), I’m used to being a slave to my sport. When I’m training for a big race, I’m extremely disciplined -- I follow a very specific training plan and diet, wake up at 5 a.m. on Saturday mornings to get in a 19-mile run before the heat of the day sets in, drink recovery drinks, take ice baths, stretch, wear compression socks all hours of the day, and so on. (I’ll spare you some of the grosser details that involve popping blisters and black toenails. You’re welcome.) I’m focused and I’m purposeful, unwilling to let anything deter me from my ultimate goal of crossing the finish line.
While I love the thrill of racing and the process of training, it eventually comes to an end, leaving me with a feeling of success that eventually fades over time.
However, when we carry that same focus and purpose into our faith, we start to see the eternal rewards. Here’s how Paul puts it in verses 25-27:
“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”
Paul’s unwavering commitment to the Lord and the people he served was incredibly purposeful. He tells us he made himself a “slave to all people” so he could accomplish the ultimate purpose – eternal life with Christ Jesus. Just like an athlete, he had to wake up everyday with the discipline and focus to carry out the plan his Father in heaven had set forth for him. He ran with purpose in every step.
When we run with purpose in every step, we trade in the temporary for the eternal. We align our own desires with the will of our Father. We see people as our mission. We seek opportunity in every interaction. We take our eyes off of ourselves and put them on God and on others. We hope bigger. We love harder. We experience deep fulfillment, peace, and joy.
And we do it all for the only thing that really matters: eternal life with Christ.
Prayer: God, thank you for Paul’s words and the model he consistently provides for our own lives. I pray we can live with purpose, that we can forgo anything that threatens our focus and fully submit ourselves to you. Amen.