December 1 (Daily reading: 1 Corinthians 9-11) Paul was concerned about the church at Corinth. The members were divided, some claiming to follow Paul, others Apollos, and others, Peter (1:12). They were judging one another over what they were eating (8:1-13). Paul asked them: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?” Paul compared the Christian life to a person who competes in a race (9:24-27). But note a difference in his analogy. In a race, there are participants and there are spectators. But in the race of the Christian life, every Christian runs the race: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).
Why does someone run a race? To win! Paul said to the Corinthian Church, “Run in such a way that you may win.” He described how a runner lived a life of discipline: “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.” The runner in Paul’s day competed to win a crown of leaves that would wilt and disappear. But those who run the race of the Christian life will receive an eternal crown, “the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:4)!
If a runner disciplines himself so that he may run even better, how much more should Christians exercise discipline in their lives to better serve Christ? This was Paul’s concern. He was not running to obtain salvation; he knew that was “the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). He was training himself to participate as a servant of Christ. He described his personal goal: “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” Being disqualified does not mean losing our salvation. It means losing the blessing of participating in the service of Christ! (305)
– Al Gary
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