(The following is the July 19 devotional from my Next Step Devotions book. Before reading it, I suggest you read 1 Corinthians 9 and pay close attention to verses 24-27.)
Runners and other successful athletes must exercise discipline. We don’t wake up one morning and, without training, run a marathon. Many months of conditioning are required to complete the strenuous feat successfully.
Paul’s illustration of running must have resonated with the Corinthians since the Isthmian games, second in prominence only to the Olympics, were held outside Corinth. “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” (v. 24).
I took up running in my forties while doing college ministry and hanging out with students who loved to run. I never ran a marathon but did complete a few half-marathons and several shorter races. Team sports were never a good option for a skinny guy like me, who was always the last to be picked for childhood teams. But running was different. It was something I could do individually, competing against myself for personal records more than trying to beat others.
Paul knew the discipline required for running was like the discipline needed to serve Christ. “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” (vv. 25-27).
Disciplining our bodies is wise. It enhances our health and wellness. Still, these bodies will die, whereas our spiritual reward will continue in perfect, glorified bodies for eternity. Shouldn’t we live disciplined spiritual lives now for our Savior in anticipation of that coming prize?
Are there spiritual disciplines you struggle to maintain? Do you know someone who can coach you if needed for better consistency?