As God inspired His writers to pen the words we now call our bible, He did so in order the help relate a message of hope and purpose. The hope, of course, is found in the “gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Our purpose, at least in part, is to be “the salt of the earth,” or, putting it another way, “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). The one-another verses we have been walking through in Sunday morning bible class are God’s way of helping us understand how we can be that salt…that light. That walk can at times seem rigorous.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?
1st Corinthians 9:24
The imagery used by God to help us visualize the Christian walk is helpful to me, and I suspect to you as well. In the above verse, God wants us to see of life here as Christians, as kind of a race. All of us know that there is usually only one winner in a race. So, how should we approach this Christian race? “Run in such a way that you may obtain it” (1st Corinthians 9:24). Here is where we find that somewhat awkward tension in our Christian walks. We should, and dare I say, must, walk in this world with confidence in our eternal life we have received through Christ (1st John 5:13). At the same time, that confidence should not result in complacency; but instead, renewed vigor to want to bring glory to the one who has given us life. Paul said it this way, “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1st Corinthians 9:26-27).
Now let’s place this in context and make application. First, if you look at the verses leading to those mentioned above, you’ll find Paul talking about a couple of things: the right to eat meat sacrificed to idols and the right for Paul to receive pay. Our “rights” so often can hinder our purpose as Christians. Through Christ, Paul had made himself “a servant to all, that I might win more” (1st Corinthians 9:19) by setting aside his rights, to further the gospel. This idea of dying to self is not easy to do! It takes discipline! It takes training! It takes commitment! May God empower us to run with vigor the “race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrew 12:1-2).