1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Christ in us guarantees eternal life– Christ’s life lived out through us forever and ever. We are guaranteed a resurrection of both spirit and body and thus an eternal soul. As Paul puts it, our wreath will be imperishable. We are going to live with God forever. All of this is possible because of our champion- Christ Jesus. He has won for us our victory and has become our hero.
This greatest of truths is the reason and power behind Paul’s strategy for living. A settled strategy of placing himself in servanthood underneath all others. A strategy for protecting the weaker conscience of others so as not to offend and lose them to their own destructive path. A strategy of living in incarnational love.
What is it that allows us to give up everything for the good of others? What is it that allows us to place ourselves lower in status? What allows us to go without?
Paul’s analogy is athletics; a good one for his time and place because the Isthmian Games were held in Corinth (sort of like the Olympics). The runner and the boxer will do what it takes to win. They will go without comforts and keep their eyes on the prize. They will discipline their body and keep it under control. And they did all of this to win a garland that would wither and fade away.
*Warning: there is some language in this clip.
But what about us? Our lives are fading away. We are dust. And yet, we will receive a crown that never withers or fades. We will receive an eternal weight of glory far beyond anything we give up, set aside, or lose in this life for the gospel’s sake. This crown, this glory, is Jesus Christ himself and our life together with him, the great lover of our souls.
“To live is Christ” is not the easy life. It is hardship freely chosen. Paul chose spiritual, physical, and emotional trials just like a professional athlete chooses to put their body, mind, and soul through great rigors to win the championship. Christ did the same for us. Death has been reversed by his resurrected life. This truth should never make us more complacent or lazy. It should make us self-disciplined and determined. Determined to win…by losing. By setting aside our rights in order to journey with others, even through their weaknesses, to Christ’s freedom and abundant life.
Are you living for future glory or present glory? How can the truth of a future with Christ empower you today to live for others in their weakness? How does the vision of Christ your crown motivate you to live in self-discipline now? What might need to be different in your life for you to live that way for Christ?