25 February 2015

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

“So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air ...” (v. 26)

Psalm: Psalm 117


Like yesterday, today's passage is part of a chapter that describes the nature of Paul's life as an apostle. Here we encounter a familiar analogy, as the Christian life is equated with athletics. The way to win the prize, or reach the goal, is to "exercise self-control" (v. 25). Paul urges his hearers to get in shape!

But Paul never forgets the purpose, the reason why we are doing this. Why should disciples exercise self-control? Why should they persevere? These things are not an end in themselves but, as verse 23 has already declared, they are done "for the sake of the gospel".

Of course, the stakes in the journey of life are significantly different from those of an athletics contest. The Isthmian Games were held just outside Corinth every two years, and they were a significant athletics competition. Winners were considered heroes, but their immediate reward at the end of a race was a wreath of dried celery. Paul highlights the difference between transient wealth and glory and the "prize" (v. 24) of eternal life in God's kingdom. He argues that if athletes can push themselves to their limits for a temporary crown of vegetables, how much more we should struggle for the imperishable crown!

The Christian life is one of discipline. It often requires self-control and effort to help build up and nurture faith, not just for our own sake, but for the sake of reaching others. Paul encourages those who have chosen to participate in this "race" (v. 24) to run with determination, keeping their eyes focussed on the one they are seeking to follow.

To Ponder

  • During the times when you are struggling, or when you feel lost, what helps you to focus on God?
  • What helps you to keep spiritually fit? And what particular things may need attention and effort at this time?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Price-Tebbutt

Nicola Price-Tebbutt is a presbyter in the Methodist Church. She has previously served in circuit in Sheffield and as a tutor at Hartley Victoria College in Manchester.