I CORINTHIANS 9:24-27: “Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” CSB
OBSERVATION: How am I doing in the area of self control? Is my life marked by moderation in all things, or are there areas of excess that keep putting me on the sidelines? How can one develop self control in their life?
Paul addresses the issue of self control in the closing verses of I Corinthians chapter nine. He uses the athlete who runs a race in competition as his example. In a stadium race all the runners have a chance to run and win. However, only one person wins the prize. He then makes a statement that is both contradictory and encouraging at the same time.
- “Run in such a way to win the prize.”
The prize the athlete was running for was a crown made of a wreath that would dry up and fade away. The prize that we are running for is our eternal reward in God’s kingdom. And this crown, the crown of glory, will never fade away. And the wonderful thing about the crown of glory, it is not reserved for just one, but all God’s children can attain the prize.
Yet, self control is needed!
Earlier Paul spoke of building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ in our lives (I Corinthians 3). We all have the choice of what materials we will use. If we walk in obedience to God’s commands in the power of the Holy Spirit, if we make love our aim, if we reach out to others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we will be building with gold, silver, and precious stones, and we will get a reward. However, if we lack self control, if our lives are marked by carnal ambitions, we will build with wood, hay, or stubble. And, although we will be saved, we will lose our reward.
Self control is needed.
Whenever the Olympics come around we are greeted with stories of great self sacrifice and victory. Why did the one individual win the race. Was it simply because they were more talented. When races are won by a mere one thousandth of a second, it is more than talent or luck that wins the race. It is self control. The gold medal goes to the one who put in the extra effort, kept their focus sharpened, did not become distracted by the other person in the lane next to them, or succumb to the temptations of the celebration the night before the race.
The prize goes to the one who exercised self control!
- “So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Paul realizes that he needs self control. To discipline one’s body is to recognize that we are all prone to excess in certain areas of our life. These excesses can be anything that distracts us from our sincere devotion to Jesus Christ. They may not even be sinful. We can be distracted from our devotion by good things too!
In all of life – self control is needed!
And, here is the wonderful truth that can set us free. Self control is not something that we develop. It is not a product of our human effort. It is not a call to works righteousness. The wonderful truth that will set us free is- self control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives!
- “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23 CSB
As we follow Jesus Christ, as we daily yield to the ministry and power of the Holy Spirit within, He will produce self control in our lives. This is a powerful truth. God wants us to win the race! He knows our human condition. We are not on our own. By God’s grace He produces the very self control in our lives that we need to run the race to win. All we need to do is daily yield our lives to His power and walk after the leading of the Holy Spirit!
- “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:24-25 CSB
For years I struggled with an anemic devotional life. I cried out to the Lord to help me in my spiritual disciplines. I lacked discipline and self control. The Lord then gave me the L.I.F.E. plan that incorporates daily Bible reading, intercession, worship, and journaling into a daily devotional discipline. As I began to pursue this plan, something wonderful happened. I found the self control and discipline I needed. The Holy Spirit met me at the point of my need, and in answer to my prayer! Now, what once was a discipline has become my greatest delight!
If you need self control for any area in your life, you are not alone! God is standing ready to cultivate this in your life as you daily yield your life to Him and begin to walk and live by the Spirit. The wonderful thing about fruit is that we do not have to produce it. It naturally grows as we abide in Christ!
Lord, as Paul prayed, so I pray today. Lord, as I live in the Spirit, let me also keep in step with the Spirit in everything I do today! Grow in me the fruit of the Spirit. Grow in me – self control!
In Jesus Name!