1 Corinthians 9:27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
A number of years ago we had the privilege to watch our son Nathaniel compete at the 2016 World Under 20 Track & Field Championships in Poland. He was immensely proud to represent Canada in the Men’s Decathlon. However, Nathaniel’s excitement was short-lived. After winning the final Day 1 event, the 400m in a personal best 47.95 seconds, he found out he had been disqualified for a lane violation – which the team protested but ultimately lost. The zero points, rather than the 911 points, immediately put him out of the race for a Decathlon medal, and in fact moved him to last place. To say it was gut-wrenching would be an understatement, after all the years of training that went into this one moment, but it also provided an opportunity for Nathaniel to show his true character by coming back the next day to finish Day 2, even winning the last event of the day, his 1500m heat.
With disqualification indelibly etched on our minds, it made me think of today’s scripture. In context it goes as follows: 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 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. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27).
As painful as it was for Nathaniel to go through the disqualification in the race, and as painful as it was to watch as family, friends, coaches and teammates, there is a disqualification that is far more serious – the disqualification of “the prize” in heaven. Without getting into difficult theology and your belief in the “Perseverance of Saints” (whether you can lose your salvation or whether Paul is referring to rewards in heaven), it is clear that the loss of, the disqualification for “the prize” would be the most devastating thing that could ever happen.
Paul gives clear instruction to us as Christians as to how we are to lead our lives. We are to make our bodies our slaves rather than the message of the world which enslaves people to the lusts of their bodies. We are to run the race of our lives with direction and purpose, and we are given the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13) and we are given the Bible that provides direction for us. “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (Psalm 119: 105).
As a current or former athlete, a parent of an athlete, or as a coach, you understand the concept of the discipline of physical training. Are you applying this same concept to the discipline of spiritual training, which by the way is of far greater importance than your physical training? Are you running the race of your life in such a way to win the prize? Make a commitment today to go into disciplined training to obtain the crown that lasts.