1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
What is winning? You may say “Winning is beating someone else in a race, or an event, or something where we come out on top or win an argument. But, is that really winning for us as an individual. Since everything about following Jesus comes back to the individual, it brings up the point of winning in our lives. How can you be humble and yet win a race? It seems impossible to keep ourselves from doing a victory lap when we compete with others and win the whole thing because we were the ones who made the effort and we feel we “deserve” reward in some form or fashion. We can couch the whole victory lap in a spiritual way by saying Praise Jesus. But are we really running in the best way possible to grow us in our faith and thus, honor God? I wonder…..
In verse 26 Paul explains the “way” we are to run our race. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; But, what does that mean? Without glorifying Jesus in our thinking we may never understand these poignant words from the Apostle Paul. You may say “I glorify Jesus!!” That attitude could be a defense mechanism that kicks in when we truly find out we need to do something totally different and new in our thinking in the area of obedience. When we kneel before the Lord with obedient hearts we actually kneel our will as well to His will and His way.
Neil Marten, a member of the British Parliament, was once giving a group of his constituents a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. During the course of the visit, the group happened to meet Lord Hailsham, then lord chancellor, wearing all the regalia of his office. Hailsham recognized Marten among the group and cried, “Neil!” Not daring to question or disobey the “command,” the entire band of visitors promptly fell to their knees!
If Jesus said to kneel in the area of obedience, the question is “would we kneel?” Kneel our lives in the area of speech, conduct, attitude, and any other areas Jesus asked us to kneel. In Romans 12:Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. We can relate to these first two verses. In fact they are quoted many times in the area of becoming more like Jesus. But what about verse 3 and how it is connected to both. Verse 3 says 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. What if we added that verse to the overall teaching Paul was sharing in this letter to the Romans. It might say present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice which you should be doing anyway. Don’t let the world pollute this precious life of service by becoming competitive in your thinking because you are nothing without Christ, so live like Him and Him only as you look at yourself daily in His grace.
I have a friend who is super competitive but he would never admit he is that way. His very upbringing was centered around “winning.” Losing is not an acceptable life to live and that attitude about living is the driving force in his life, so he cannot escape it because it is “who he is.” His very identity is found in always winning in everything. He is a believer, but he has not been able to get beyond this spiritual blockage because he can’t see it. So he lives his life without a perfect Jesus aim. He beats aimlessly at everything that comes his way and immediately falls in to competition without stopping. Guilt comes along with this attitude but he can’t admit the problem so he can’t get out of it. This friend is my old self and he haunts me to this day because he doesn’t want to feel less than because in his younger years he was always made to feel that way. This friend tries to intimidate me into following what he thinks about life and living, but I will not give in. It is my desire to glorify Jesus in my life and this old friend is a constant influence to win, win, win. I have decided, with God’s help, to discipline myself to live differently than my old friend and let Jesus be my aim in all areas of my life. Paul in Chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians opens himself up about what others are saying about him and he explains why he does what he does and it refreshing to see Paul be so transparent in the way he presents his case. For Paul, at base level, it is all about Jesus and nothing else, and everything that is left is just unimportant details. I love this man Paul and his refreshing way of writing shows such a wonderful example of being a man of God.
Maybe you see some glimmer of newness in your life after reading these scriptures and maybe God is wanting you to distance yourself from the person who goes through life trying to prove yourself to others. Jesus said in Luke 11:28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” That can only happen when you realize Jesus has won that victory and you don’t have to prove anything. Jesus just wants you to live in the grace given to you and let Him be the aim of your life. Life is a race, but Jesus has already crossed the finish line and we are just celebrating HIS victory, which makes it OUR victory too. I am on this journey of faith and I am learning more every day, but there is so much more to learn. My life is running The Race Yet to be Won and that is my pilgrimage.
The Pilgrimage continues……