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.
What is Paul suggesting he could be disqualified from? What is the prize he is disciplining himself for?
I love to watch the Olympic Games. The stories of the athletes are inspiring. These athletes are so dedicated to their goal of winning a medal in the games that they are intensely self-disciplined. Many are on strict diet and exercise regimens to keep their bodies in top shape. They spend hours training and practicing. They set priorities and set other interests aside for the time being. They have to say no to things that get in the way of their training to reach their goal.
What if Christians had this same level of self-control and devotion to their spiritual lives? What if we didn’t hit snooze on the alarm clock but remained dedicated to time spent with the Lord in the morning? What if Sunday school was a greater priority for our children than their sports and activities? What if we spent more time reading the Word than scrolling on social media or flipping channels on TV? What if we sacrificially gave our time to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Now, those are just examples. This isn’t about legalism! All of those spiritual disciplines are extremely important! But they do not save you. Not doing enough of those things doesn’t revoke your salvation either. Salvation is not the prize Paul was training for; he already had that!
Remember, Olympic athletes have to be citizens or nationals of the country they are representing before they are qualified to compete in the games. If they break any of the Olympic rules, they are disqualified from competing for the prize, but they don’t lose their citizenship.
Likewise, when we accept God’s grace through faith in Jesus and His work on the cross, we become citizens of His Kingdom and obtain our salvation. This is citizenship that we can not lose. Paul knows his salvation is secure, but he is not wanting to become disqualified from an imperishable reward that awaits him in eternity. Paul exercises self-control and discipline in his life because he is fully committed to the goal of future, eternal rewards rather than temporary, worldly rewards. He is all about the long-term game.
Friends, are you exercising self-control and self-discipline? Are you living for the here and now, or do you have long-term Kingdom goals that lead to eternal rewards?
Jesus, help me live with self-control and self-discipline. Keep my eyes focused on your eternal kingdom and the everlasting rewards that You have promised to those who remain faithful and committed to serving You. Amen.