I CORINTHIANS 9:24-27: “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. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
OBSERVATION: “Are we there yet?” Every parent has heard this question from their child during a family road trip. Every year our family would make the trip from California to Michigan for the Zehnder Family Reunion. We would leave in the middle of the night to travel through the desert when it was the coolest, as we did not have air conditioning in our car. Mom would supply us with cold wash rags dipped in ice water and inevitably I would begin to ask – “Are we there yet?” My Dad’s reply usually was – “It is just down the road a piece.”
We are all impatient about reaching our destinations in life. When we are a child – we want to be a youth. When we are a youth – we want to be an adult. When we are single – we want to be married. When we are a Christian – we want to be perfect. Along each step of the way we cry out – “Are we there yet”?
This journey is further complicated by those who give false testimony, as if they had already arrived! They speak of their complete victory and clear sailing in the Lord. We listen to these testimonies and we wonder – “What is wrong with me?” “When will I arrive?” And all the while we continue to struggle. We wrestle with feelings of guilt and wonder if there is something we are not doing right. Maybe more Bible Study…maybe more prayer…maybe more service – and yet we struggle. What is the answer? “When will we get there?”
Paul correlates the Christian life to the life of an athlete. It is a life of commitment. It is a life of hard work. And it is a life of sacrifice. All of this is not to be done in our own strength. We have been given the indwelling and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. However, this does not negate that we still have to work – according to His working within us. And we have to discipline our bodies, our natural man, our worldly leanings and desires. How long will this last? It will last until we cross the finish line, until Jesus Christ returns, or until we are ushered into His glory through death.
Now I know that is not what some people desire to hear. They want to find the silver bullet that will vanquish all foes without a struggle. Paul didn’t find it. Why? It does not exist. This is why Paul was open and transparent when he said – “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” How did Paul do this? He tells us how in Romans 8 – “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:13-14 ESV)
We overcome in this life by DAILY walking after the Holy Spirit, and through the Holy Spirit disciplining our bodies (putting to death the deeds of our old sinful nature). While it is true that we will grow daily in this ability, we also must recognize that our old nature does not intrinsically become better. There was one solution for our old sinful nature – union with Christ in His death and resurrection. We are risen to newness of life, but this newness includes a daily accounting of our personal weaknesses and our need to walk in self control and the discipline of the Spirit. None of us arrives fully in this lifetime. We are complete in Christ within our spiritual man, but we must walk with wisdom and discipline within our natural man. There is no other way.
Lord, thank You for the victory that is mine in Christ Jesus! Thank You that I can win the race that is set before me – through Your Grace and by the power of Your Holy Spirit! Help me to run this race of life like a faithful and committed athlete striving for the prize of the high upward call of God in Christ Jesus. I know that one day when I ask – “Are we there yet?” – I will hear these words – “Well done thou good and faithful servant. Your race is completed. You have received the prize. Enter into the JOY of Your Master!”
In Jesus Name!