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November 28, 2021 | Ed Stetzer
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“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”— 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)
Have you ever trained for something? A competition, race, or match? Whatever it was, I think we can agree that training for a major game or competition is intense. I remember training for the Florida Vocal Association State Solo Music Performance Assessments. The goal? Receive a superior rating. I trained for months. Rigorous breathing exercises, scales, technique work, and rehearsal of my songs. When the day came, all the training paid off! I received a superior rating for my solo piece! I had my reward, and it was awesome.
In today’s verse, the apostle Paul uses a similar illustration to show the need for believers to live in single-minded, self-controlled focus and devotion when it comes to preaching the gospel and living it out. And the apostle uses himself as an example. Just as a bodybuilder trains for a tournament, the apostle tells us “Therefore 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” (1 Corinthians 9:26–27 HCSB).
You see, Paul knew the glorious prize, the unfading crown that awaits those who faithfully serve the Lord with the right heart and pure motivations. And he knew this meant more than just preaching and teaching, but living the truth. It’s a warning against hypocrisy. One commentary says that Paul lived a simple life, denying himself and taking up his cross to avoid failing shamefully of the prize, after having called others to the contest.
By the power and sustenance of the Holy Spirit, Paul lived in such a way that would allow him to run the race with perseverance, self-control, and faithfulness. Being fully satisfied and fulfilled in the all-sufficiency of Christ, he cast off earthly rewards for a heavenly crown. Unlike the hypocrites who “received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:2 NIV), Paul stored up a bountiful heavenly reward.
I pray we, like Paul, can live disciplined, faithful lives rooted in the all-sufficiency of our Lord and become “all things to all people so that by all possible means [we] might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22 NIV). If we do that, like Paul, we won’t be disqualified or receive a passing earthly reward. Instead, we’ll have a glorious crown in heaven waiting for us!
DIG: You may be familiar with what training looks like for a race, game, competition, or match . . . but what does training look like for the race of the Christian life? How does one train for preaching and living out the gospel?
DISCOVER: What spiritual disciplines are you actively engaging in to run your race well? Prayer? Bible study? Worship? Fasting? Journaling? Silence and solitude? Service? How are you practicing self-denial in your daily race?
DISPLAY: Create a “training” plan for your race. Set aside specific times of the day and week in order to engage in spiritual disciplines. Create a habit out of these essential aspects of the Christian life. If you don’t, it will be much harder to experience the fruits of your relationship with Jesus. Don’t look at it as a routine or as legalism. It’s simply you being a faithful steward of the time the Lord has given you, prioritizing your walk with Him, and ensuring that you have set aside time to be with Him, hear from Him, and experience His presence.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.