24Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? So run in such a way that you might receive the prize. 25But everyone who enters a race exercises self control in all things. Those folks do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we do it to obtain an incorruptible one. 26So I run in this way, not uncertainly, thus I fight, not as one beating the air. 27But I put my body under strict discipline and bring it into subjection, lest having preached to others, I myself should be found unworthy. — 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Note: This morning as I listening to the Running Toward the Goal podcast I was about to post, I decided it would make an excellent devotional as well, so I looked up the transcript and used it. For this one day, Running Toward the Goal and Jody’s Devotional for the day will be the same.
I like Paulâ€™s images of running a race. You may be able to tell by the title of this program!
A key theme in Paul is the need to keep pressing forward; to remain engaged in spiritual discipline so as not to fall out of the race.
In this passage Paul is arguing against those who feel that either because they have attained to special secret knowledge, or because they have become spiritual beyond questioning, they no longer need to be concerned.
Paulâ€™s response is that we are in a race. We need to run to win. Unlike the physical races, itâ€™s not a race with only one winner, but just like those â€œreal worldâ€ races, itâ€™s possible to drop out and not to make it to the finish line. In a physical race there is a crown. Itâ€™s a perishable crown that lasts only for a short time. But in our race, there is an imperishable crownâ€”our very souls. Our crown will last forever. This should be great motivation to keep on running toward the goal.
But there is an additional factor to Paulâ€™s running. He has a goal. He has just told us earlier in the 9th chapter of Corinthians that his goal is to spread the gospel. He will do anythingâ€”give up any rights that he may have, change his behavior amongst different groups of peopleâ€”always provided that it helps to spread the gospel message. He is not just exercising for the fun of it. Everything in his life and ministry is focused toward that goal.
Do we have such a goal in our lives? Do we have a mission, a ministry to which God has called us, and against which we test every decision, every opportunity, every closed door? Is the gospel of Jesus Christ our guiding light, our one focus?
Paul doesnâ€™t beat the air. He looks at what he does for effectiveness. Itâ€™s not enough for Paul that someone *says* what he does will help spread the gospel. He wants it to be a real success! He wants to gain some if at all possible.
He works to enslave his body. Many of the Corinthian believers felt that the body didnâ€™t make any difference. They could even engage in sexual sins because the body was not important. But Paul thinks the body *is* important. It too is to be brought into submission to the gospel. It too is part of this plan.
In fact, there is nothing left out of Paulâ€™s focus on his one goalâ€”spreading the gospel.
And there is also a solemn warning here. Paul indicates that even those who preach the gospel have the possibility of themselves being cast aside. Is this a cause to lose our assurance? No! But it is a cause to lose our self-assurance. It should cause us to make sure that we are always leaning on Jesus, focused on Jesus, acting for Jesus.
Letâ€™s live the gospel.