(1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
It's not blind faith. Being a Christian is not about wandering aimlessly about wondering where you are going and what's coming next.
We as Christians have a specific goal we are aiming at. We have a specified path we must follow. We are being led by the Holy Spirit to the goal that is to be ours at the end of this journey with Christ.
And we know what the goal is and how we are to achieve it. So we do not run aimlessly and without a purpose like an athlete who is in a race but does not know the way to the finish line. We know the way. Jesus is the Way, and the truth and the life. We follow Him and He leads us to the goal, which is eternal life in the kingdom of God with Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Paul in this section of scripture compares our walk to that of an athlete. He says in these words the following.
24 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. – (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
In verse 25 Paul describes the ways of the athlete. They exercise self-control in all things as they build their bodies to achieve peak performance in whatever sporting discipline they are involved in. And they do this to receive a reward, a wreath, accolades, world record, medals, certificates and so on.
And yet these things are fleeting. Those who achieve the pinnacles of success in sport are on top only for a moment in time and then the work starts all over again to hold onto their position as number one until someone knocks them off their pedestal.
Consider premiership teams in the many different games and leagues of football around the world. The winning team in the last game of the year gets the right to hold the title of premiers, champions or league leaders for that year, and then they must begin all over again next year. And in the elite level competitions it is unusual that the same team will win the premiership two years in a row, and extremely rare for them to win three years in a row.
When Paul speaks in verse 26 about runners “running aimlessly” and boxers “beating the air” I am reminded of the pointlessness of football games and the amount of energy, time, effort, training and cost brought to bear each year in the hope of being the champions that year.
What do these athletes achieve? A moment of glory? The adoration of their fans? A significant pay check that year?
They aim for a goal that is basically pointless. As do all other athletes in all other sports, games, competitions and so on. It is all pointless because none of it is lasting.
Not so with Christianity. In Christ there is a goal we are aiming at too. But unlike the goals of the sporting world, and any other type of competition you care to think about in this world, our goals are not pointless. The goals in Christ do not lead to a moment of fading glory, a front page news story that will tomorrow wrap the rubbish and go into the bin.
The goals of Christianity are permanent and lead to things that are everlasting, never ending and established by Jesus Christ and God the Father. The goals of Christianity are imperishable, and they bring us to Him who will transform our lives into a life that like His, is imperishable.
Like sporting goals though, we need to work with the “team.” We need to work together with those given gifts to minister to and teach the people of God, by God. He has given gifts to men to do this work and we need to listen to what they teach. More than that we need to listen to the words of Jesus that He ensured we would have when He established the bible as our textbook. His words are the words of life that lead to eternity, and if we desire to live with Him, we must follow His rules.
We need to be led by the Holy Spirit who is given to those who ask the Lord for this gift and have hands laid upon them. The Holy Spirit is the teacher, counsellor, comforter, guide and protector who shows us the way, opens the words of the truth so we can understand and does the work of transformation in our lives until we stand mature in Jesus Christ.
And over all of this there is Jesus who helps us and the Father who is working with us for as Jesus himself said, the Father loves us.
We also work together and meet together as a church to learn, worship, praise and grow, for this is what the Lord instructed us to do. We serve God by serving His people, providing each other's needs, encouraging one another and lifting each other up as we learn from Jesus.
Aim For The Goal
So Paul tells us here to aim for the goal. To discipline our body and subdue it so that we are not slaves to the human lusts, desires and passions of the flesh, but rather our flesh is kept under control. We work through the Holy Spirit to walk in the spirit and so subdue the passions of our human nature.
We also work by using the power of the Holy Spirit to “…take every thought captive to obey Christ Jesus,” as we are told in 2 Corinthians 10:5.
When we are able to control our thinking, then we are able to control our bodies. And even more importantly we are able to control our tongues so that we do not say or do the wrong thing.
This is our aim. To walk as Christ walked so that we may be accepted into the kingdom of God set aside for those who are perfected in Jesus Christ. And we MUST be perfect if we are to live with Christ and God the Father. Jesus told us in Matthew that we had to be perfect as God the Father. He said,
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – (Matthew 5:48)
We must be perfect AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER is perfect. We have to achieve perfection just like the Heavenly Father of us all!
Impossible you may think? No. Jesus told us we MUST be that perfect and so that is the goal at which we aim. And Jesus did not set us impossible goals.
Yes it is impossible for a man to make himself perfect, but not for God to make a man perfect.
The Heavenly Father set up this whole process of Christianity with perfection in mind for those who follow Jesus Christ and so not only is it possible, it is achievable.
He gives us grace to be able to stand before Him. He gave us Jesus to die for our sins and be raised to give us eternal life. He gave us the teachings that will guide the way. And finally He gives us the Holy Spirit to bring us into perfection. It is now up to us to seek the way, following Jesus, be led by the Holy Spirit and come to God to receive the perfection He has for us to receive.
Aim for the goal, and like Paul, ensure you “…run that you may obtain it.” And remember, whatever goals there may be on this earth, including the rewards of competition, sports and so on, none of them are comparable to the reward that awaits us in Jesus Christ. His rewards last to eternity, the rewards of this world begin to fade as soon as they are achieved. So run to obtain the rewards of your hope in Jesus Christ.
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