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.
1 Cor. 9:26-27
This verse has been one of my daily reminders this year. After one of my church’s pastors preached on this for New Years, I wrote it down and stuck it on my wall. So for all sorts of things, I can remind myself of the why to it all.
Perhaps you are like me, and you need to know WHY you are doing something for it to get done. Like today, I was trying to do math conversions for microbiology. Things like figuring out dilutions, and finding the original sample concentration of CFUs- fun stuff. But the thing is, my brain doesn’t run on equations. For every equation, I need to know why. Why does it work that way? Why am I even doing this? Once I know why, the rest becomes simpler. Or at least bearable.
Every day, situations present themselves that require me to remember why. In school, I have to remember that my why for being successful is to become a nurse like I know I’ve been called to. In working out, my why is to be healthier to accomplish more. And because it will be worth my time in the end. And in resisting temptation, my why is in order to finish the race strong, to not be disqualified in the end of the prize, to be closer to my God. 1 Cor. 9:26-27 is pretty much the ultimate why to everything we are called to as Christians, both generally and individually.
Each day has it’s temptations, it’s failures, it’s struggles. Believe me, I know. But when I start to think why it may be worth it, these verses answer every question.
This passage is like a promise to me. It brings about the concept of possibility. Failure happens, but victory and finishing the race is possible. We run to receive an imperishable prize. We are not aimlessly fighting, we are not aimlessly running. We do not do this to achieve a cheap earthly prize like gold or silver, but to receive the imperishable. We run to remain qualified. Not of eternal life, but for the prize and blessing of the gospel. Paul writes these verses after explaining the sacrifice he makes for the sake of the gospel and his witness.
I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
1 Cor. 9:23
It is the blessings of the gospel that we run for. Obedience results in blessings over and over throughout the Bible. Works can never be enough to receive salvation, but our works are not in vain. When we obey, we receive the blessings of the gospel. When we disobey or fail, just as an athlete gets back up after a bad day of training, we get back up and find victory in the grace of a new day. Which thankfully is one of the blessings of the gospel- grace to mess up.
So what happens when we don’t obey? When we don’t run to obtain the prize? Well, sin hurts. Fear hurts too. It hurts our relationship with God, and sin can physically harm us. We miss out on the blessings that can be obtained through obedience. The natural consequences of our sin catch up with us. Note again that consequences don’t always refer to eternal consequences. The only requirement for eternal life is to believe or trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. But there are physical consequences to our sin. So when we don’t walk in victory through grace, when we don’t act on the why for each moment, we don’t obtain those same blessings.
Finally, I want to reemphasize the promise that our efforts are not in vain. We do not fight the air, we are actually fighting. So keep going, even when it feels like you are swinging at air. Do you know how dissatisfying air punching is? Try it, then hit a punching bag. When I did that, these verses made a lot more sense.
I encourage you to read the whole passage in 1 Corinthians. Remind yourself each day that it is not in vain, and victory is possible through Christ.
Thanks for reading!