01 Mar Run to win – Mar 12
By: Ferdinand Haratua
“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.” (1 Corinthians 9:24–27 ESV)
The Apostle Paul compares the Christian life to an athlete who runs to win the prize. Paul explains that every athlete exercises self-control in all things for a perishable prize, a wreath made of pine-wood. Sadly many Christians do not exercise the same level of self-control even though our prize is by far more valuable.
As Christians, we should exercise self-control in all things, lest we find ourselves disqualified (verse 27). Yes, disqualified! The way we live our life has eternal consequences.
Paul says that he does not box the air, but “discipline” his body and keep it under control. The Greek word for “discipline” means to strike under the eye, to blacken an eye. Paul keeps his body under control, not because it is evil but because it can be misused as instruments for unrighteousness (Romans 6:13).
We need to exercise self-control in all things and discipline our body. There is no excuse for Christians to be lazy and undisciplined in our spiritual walk. We should never switch on the cruise control. For some of us, there are things that we need to cut off completely from our lives in order for us to be able fix our eyes on Jesus. Like Paul we need to keep our body “under control”, the Greek word here means to make it a slave. Paul makes his body his slave, he directs it to obey him for useful service for God’s kingdom.
Our attitude is often wrong when we ask the question, “How far can I go before I am sinning against the Lord?” We ask for the minimum requirements instead of asking, “What habits will help me to hunger for more of God?” Or, “What will make me more useful in God’s kingdom?” Athletes do not ask for what is the minimum training requirement, but rather, they seek for optimal behaviours, discipline and training in order to win the prize.
Is Paul actually saying that we are saved by our works and not by grace? Far from it, Paul explains later in his letter saying, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10 ESV).
John Piper writes, “Paul’s running did not nullify the purpose of grace; it verified the power of grace. Eternal life hangs on the way we run and the way we fight not because salvation is based on the merit of works, but because faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Life is a proving ground for whether faith is alive or dead – a proving ground for whom we trust.”
Let us not run aimlessly, but rather committed to discipline our body and keep in under control.