Having a child is such a blessing. If you are fortunate enough to be a parent, you know this to be true. There are, however, things that accompany parenthood that I did not necessarily foresee. In hindsight, I should have, but I was wrapped up in the joy of pregnancy and the anticipation of the miracle on the way. It seems that having a child is just another way for people to compare and compete with each other. When you’re young, it’s, “When are you getting married?” When you get married, it becomes, “When are you going to have a baby?” When you have a baby, people want to know, “Is he rolling over? Is he crawling, walking, talking, making straight A’s, playing football…?” You get my point. Now, I know not everyone who inquires about my child is meaning it in a negative way, but there are those who simply ask in order to tell you that they are in fact married with two point five children who at the age of four months have already completed college. Don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with being a proud parent. I am one. It is the issue of comparison; to show ourselves better or less than someone else. This is not a phenomenon that church life is immune to, either. In ministry, people want to know, “How big is your congregation? How large is your church building? How many have you baptized?” As humans, there is within us this potential to compete with each other in every aspect of life. Dare I say that God placed it there? Yes, I dare. The drive to succeed has a purpose, but we, as usual, have misused it.
God designed us to run a race. We are simply running the wrong one. We have bought into the “American Dream” with all we are, and we run ourselves ragged trying to achieve it. We were not meant to keep up with the Jones’. Instead, the race we were meant to run with our whole selves is the race to share the Gospel; to please God. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 says, “Do you not know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Therefore, I do not run like one who runs aimlessly, or box like one who beats 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.”
Let’s establish the context for this passage. Paul has just said that he becomes a Jew to the Jews, weak to the weak. He is doing whatever he needs to do to share the Gospel with everyone (verses 19-23). The entire chapter is about how Paul is living his life as an example of Christ. Then he closes with the verses we are looking at. There is a connection. The race we are running is one for souls. The world around us is certainly in a race. Some may even reach the finish line and obtain a prize that does not last. Paul, however, through the Holy Spirit, is telling us that there is so much more. We are to share the Gospel as if we were in a race trying to win it! That means a significant amount of effort must be exerted. It requires us to be to be focused, have a plan, be disciplined, and deny ourselves (verses 26-27).
Is your life centered on sharing the Gospel? Do you share the saving message of Christ? How often? Does it inconvenience you at times? Do you have a plan of action for reaching the lost? Are there specific days, times, and places that you have designated as part of your witnessing tactics? Does this sound like we’re in a war? We are! This is spiritual warfare. We are battling Satan and ourselves. It is not our natural desire to do God’s will or to tell others about Him! We have to discipline ourselves and deny ourselves. Would we rather stay at home, relax, spend time with our family, and unwind? Sure. There are those days. That is when we have to discipline our bodies and go anyway! I must note here too that we are often tired from things that have nothing to do with the Lord. There is nothing wrong with enjoying life, but we must also remember our priorities and a word we do not like: moderation.
Finally, Paul wants to be the example. He doesn’t want to be a hypocrite; for his preaching to be dismissed or disqualified because his actions don’t match up with his words (verse 27). Can we examine this Scripture and walk away thinking we are fine; that our lives are on the right course, and we are doing everything to take the good news to those around us, to those in our state, to the U.S., and to the nations? Can we boldly proclaim as Paul did, “Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1)? I do not think so. We want to elevate Paul because he was an apostle. Remember, too, that he was a human being like us. God’s expectations have not changed. There was not one standard for Paul and another for us. We are expected to live for Jesus! We are expected to run the race! Are you running? I pray that we all give ourselves completely to the task of reaching the world for Jesus Christ. May we put more effort into telling the lost about Him than we do our families, jobs, and hobbies. I hope you are blessed by the Word. Have a good week!