Which Race to Run
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
July 11, 2015
Open them if you would, to 1st Corinthians chapter 9 beginning in verse 24. Kind of our message this morning is Which Race to Run. Also just a side note, at mid-week service, on Wednesdays, we finished the Old Testament so now on Wednesdays we are going to be picking up the verse by verse, chapter by chapter. Also 1st Corinthians in the Sunday morning we are going to find a section in diving deeper so, just to let you see as transition into a new approach which we’ve done for many years, in going through the word of God. Let’s pray: Lord thank you this morning, your word administers life and God we just pray that you would take our hearts and just transform them because your Holy Spirit has just brought truth, life, love, the Holy Spirit, administering to us. God transform us, today we pray in Jesus name. Amen.
Alright. We’re in this section in 1st Corinthians where Paul is answering questions that they have sent to him. Remember now, he’s already sent one letter to them, we don’t have that one, but they’ve responded with questions. And then he gives answers to questions about the marriage, lust, hmmm, we, we’ve looked at that, sexuality and marriage, very interesting, wisdom about being single, they ask questions about freedom in Christ, liberty, you know, can we do this, can we do that, particularly can we eat meat sacrificed to idols. After all of they said, you know, idols are really nothing. And you know you look at that and you wonder, is there any relevance, you know, today with some of those questions, and absolutely there is. Now it’ true, you’re not going to go Fred Mayer and find prime rib on sale because it was sacrificed to Zeus, that’s true. But there is such application to our lives that we were looking at so it’s really important. But the idea of “can I do this and can I do that” is really so self-focused. And so it’s really bringing a higher perspective. And he says “now listen, you, you know that I was nothing”. Great, that’s knowledge. Knowledge gives you freedom, that’s great. But your knowledge is also making you insensitive. Puffing you up. And I want to show you something far yet better.
How about love? Love builds people up around you. And it’s just a better way to live! See, all of these questions really have to do with the greater question. How are you going to live your life? Are there… is there a principle, a higher principle that will guide how you live your life? In Chapter 8 there’s a verse that says: “There is one but… there is but one God the father from whom are all things, and we exist for him”. There is another part of that that says: “There’s one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through him. We live and move and have our being through him, and he has given us life; we exist for him, and that’s what gives that meaning, that purpose, that significance to our lives! Let’s live our lives to the glory of God. See, the point is making. Is that there are many different ways a person can live their lives today. You get to choose. There’s all kinds of ways you can live your life. The same is true in, in Corinth. My goodness, the, the temple of Aphrodite was right there in the city of Corinth. If, if they so chose, they could’ve lived their lives by pursuing the desires of the flesh; many did. He said “listen, look at the world we are living in, you can choose a lot of things, you get to choose how you are going to live, you get to choose whom you are going to serve, you get to choose the race you’re going to run”.
Wouldn’t that be sad, wouldn’t that be sad, you come to the end of your life, and you realized you climbed the wrong lather, you ran the wrong race, you pursued the wrong goal, you desired the wrong prize! That’s the point that Paul is bring us to in these, in these verses in Chapter 9. He uses an analogy of running a race. Run the right race, pursue the right goal. How are you going to live, how are going to run, what are you pursuing, what prize are you longing for. Now, the church of Corinth would’ve really totally understood that knowledge of running the race, because the games – cause this is Greece, right? So the games were so important, not just the Olympic Games but the Isthmus Games, right there in Corinth, were, were only second to the Olympic Games in size and stature. And so this was significant.
We love sports, and I think Paul loved sports, he was really using a lot of the sports analogies you know, we love watching football, and the NFL, the NBA, we follow the tracks, what games drafted so and so and traded for who, and whose going to be serving, everybody’s shuffling now, and we are all wondering you know, how this next season is going to go and the Blazers are looking like in big trouble because they traded the big guys and oh my, what are we going to do – you know, we focus on these thesis, we like sports! Well, they didn’t have that but they had the Games. And it was very significant, very important, the winner of the most significant race, which was called the Stadion, which was a 630 foot straight sprint. The winner of that race would have his name over the Olympiad for that 4 years, it would be marking the calendar. Back in those days, it was so significant that someone might say: “oh, you know what year that was, that was the year that so and so won the Stadion”, “oh yea, that year, I remember that” and then they marked their calendars, it was so important. The race, the winner of that race was like a hero! There’s no second, no third, it’s like winner – and that’s it. So they totally understood this analogy, and it has a spiritual baring on their lives, let’s read it.
I. Run for the Right Prize
1st Corinthians 9.24: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain the prize. Everyone who competes in the games, exercises self-control in all things”. Now, they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we, an imperishable, an eternal, spiritual in nature and value. “Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not, as not beating the air”. In other words, he’s got purpose and meaning and direction. “I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I’ve preached to others, I myself should be disqualified”.
These are really important; he’s touching on the deepest questions of life. And so, the point that we need to grasp, that is pressing into us, run for the right prize, let’s start with that! “Run in such a way that you may obtain the prize”. Those who ran in the games received an imperishable wreath; that was their, their indication of winning. They didn’t have gold medals, they had an Olive Wreath. And they would cut these branches from the wild Olive tree that grew next to the temple of Zeus, they would cut it with golden scissors, and needed to form together by so and so, and into structural horseshoe, nevertheless, it’s just an Olive Wreath. And it’s perishable. You know the guy takes it home, no doubt puts it on his wall, he wants everybody to see it as they come in, you know, “it’s the Wreath! I won it in the Stadion”. But after a while, don’t you think his wife would say “look it’s dear, get rid of it, it’s just a bunch of dead leaves on the wall”. At some point, it’s a perishable wreath! He says what wreath are you running for? Win imperishable. You know there’s a saying, kind of a common phrase in the world, He Who Dies with The Most Toys Wins. Well frankly, that’s not much of a win. That’s the whole purpose of meaning and direction of your life? That’s not much of a win. God says: “Let me tell you the value. The value is the soul.” That’s eternal. Other stuff in this world is passing away. The world itself is passing away. But the soul is of greater value. And the souls of those around you have greater value.
Here’s a verse from Jesus in Matthew 16.26: “What would it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?” How would that profit you? Or what would a man give in exchange for his soul? Many do not recognize the value of what God is given them. The value of their soul. God knows it, God sees it. They don’t see the value of their soul! And there... that value is what determines the race you’re going to run.
A. Love is a great way to run
That value, seen that determines how you are going to live your life and in fact, he says “and to see the value of those around you”. Many live very self-focused. See the value of those around you - in another words, love is a great way to run. Run this race. And love! In other words, it’s how you live your life; love is a great way to run! In Chapters 8 and 9 he makes the point. Listen, there’s a principle. Can we do this, can we do that, should we do this, should we do that. Listen, that’s all so focused, love is higher. Love builds up. In fact, you’re very near, let’s turn the 1st Corinthians 13, it’s the famous chapter on love. But let’s just look at the first few verses. He says: “If I, if I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but don’t have love, I am just that noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”. That’s, that’s how worthless that is. “If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all mysteries and all knowledge, and I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing. If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, if I deliver up my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it prophets me nothing”.
Love is the determiner of value. That’s a great way to live. It’s a great way to run this race. It’s a great quality as you walk your ways; you run this race of life. You know, on July 4th, we went to the July 4th parade, our granddaughter Via said “My Mom always took me there, I want to go, so, let’s go”. So, we go to the July 4th parade, if you know the parade today, the thing in parades now is to throw candy. When I was growing up we ate candy when we were at a parade. But they throw candy now. And of course, all the kids are up at the curb, and so the candy gets thrown, and everybody starts clamoring, you know, to grab a candy. So I’m kind of standing back, I’m, I’m watching and, you know, she’s got a bag and so she’s, candy gets thrown and she’s just grabbing some and putting them in her bag, more candies thrown and I see that there’s a couple of kids, one on one side one on the other, that are younger then she and they can’t get out there and get like the rest of them. I’m just kind of watching her, and I’m so touched because she started giving candy to them. Like getting some, and making sure this one gets some and making sure that one... the mom of one of them actually said to her: “that’s very sweet of you”. She kind of looked up at me and smiled and I thought, Via, never lose that. That’s the way to live your life, right there. See the value of those around you.
Paul, he says something that really catches our attention. In 1st Corinthians Chapter 8, verse 13, he is talking about, you know, “whether I can eat food sacrificed to idols, dadadada” he says: “listen, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat food again”. Excuse me, “never eat meat again” you got to eat food. That I might cause my brother to stumble, love is more important. Love is more important than my freedoms. Love is more important than my freedoms. 1st Corinthians 9.22: “I have become all things to all men that I might, by all means save some”. That’s a powerful verse. How about verse 23 of this same chapter, where he says: “And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I might become a fellow partaker of it”. Why such dedication? Why such heart? Why, why such, the, the commitment of the soul? Why dedication? Answer? Cause God has done so much for him!
B. Don’t be a spectator
Faith is foremost, because love is foremost. Oh if you know Paul’s story. Oh what God did for him. Oh did God redeem, a man that was really foregone. Oh had he messed up his life. And God took a hold of him and brought him. Oh do you remember that love that you had? Remember the love that you had when you first came into faith and Christ? Remember the day that you received Christ? And the joy? The zeal? The excitement? God remembers. He says “keep the love that you had at first”. I was talking, this week the pastor Samuel, our Beaverton campus pastor and he’s mentoring, administrating to this guy, who has just come to faith and Christ and, and he’s got all this excitement and joy and zeal and he wants his wife to get into the Lord and he’s just excited about the whole thing, man, that is, that is so refreshing to see again and again that newness and freshness of that first joy, of that first love. Remember that? He says: “I want you to have that same love – run that way. Run that way! Love, love God with all your heart soul mind and strength! Love your neighbor as yourself. Love, it’s a great way to run. God says “I remember. I remember the love that you had at the first. I love this first”. Chapter 2, verses 2 to 3, it gives us that perspective. God says: “Oh, I remember. I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the dessert, through a land not sown” Israel was holly to the Lord, the first fruits of the harvest. What a picture.
And then he gets back to first Corinthians 9, he’s helping us to see the involvement of the heart. In other words, don’t be a spectator. He says: “Run in such a way that you obtain the prize”. In other words... run! Get in the race! Run! Set your hearts, set your mind! Focus on that prize, that goal. Ruuun! Don’t be a spectator. Don’t sit on a side lines. Put your heart all in this. Don’t just stand back. Don’t just be an observer, watching, jumping with all of your heart. Think of all that he’s done for you. Man if you receive Jesus Christ and Lord and Savior, you’re already involved. His blood has been applied to you. The forgiveness of his sins has been given to you, he’s adopted you as a son or as a daughter, he’s your father; now you’re pretty involved, so jump in with all your heart.
Live to the fullest! See? Some people stand back and observe. Well that’s very interesting, they watch the church, they watch Christians, that’s a very interesting thing, they’re just observing. Don’t just be an observer, jump in with all of your heart. Love the challenge that Joshua gave, in Joshua 24 verse 15: “This challenge rings through the centuries, rings right into our hearts, choose, there’s lots of ways you can live your life today. These are a lot of choices; these are a lot of ways you can live. He says “I challenge you”. Choose. Choose for yourselves today, whom you will serve. Whether the Gods which your father served beyond the river? Or the Gods of the people and the land in which you’re now living. But as for me and my house, we made our mind. We will serve the Lord. We’ve set our course, we’ve determined with our heart.
See, in other words, Christianity is not something to be sampled; it’s not something to be nibbled. You know that verse that says “taste and see that the Lord is good”? Let’s not nibble and see that the verse is good. This part: “takes fully and you will see that the Lord is good, the favor is on you”, in other words, pour your heart into this thing. Jump in with all your heart. That’s a great way to live your life, a great way to run the race. Hey, when it comes to parenting, I’m in with all of my heart. When it comes to being a grandparent, I’m in with all of my heart. There’s some things you just got to jump all the way into. You know, we go to a lake, and you know, no matter how worm it is, that water always seems cold at first, right? And some people, you know, get in one way, some get another way, some people kind of dabble “oh it’s too cold” hey, that’s not the way you get into a lake. We bring our grandson, he’s 3 “come on Ethan, jump in, get in”, “oh no, it’s too cold” – that’s not the way to get in. I love the way that Via gets in. Jumps right in, full in, all the way, right out the . That’s the way to live your life in Christ. Your heart is fully in. I love that perspective. I’m in with all my heart.
C. Run with endurance
How are you going to run this race? There’s lots of things, lots of choices you can make today. Don’t be a spectator. Don’t be on the sides. Don’t be an observer. That’s interesting, no, he says “love, the first, the highest, the foremost of all things that God has ever said”, Jesus quoted. It’s to love, the Lord, your God with all your hearts, all mind is straight. And love your neighbor, love your brother. Love, it’s a great way to run. But then, he is telling us this picture, uses analogy of running a race and he’s run with endurance. This is a race that lasts a life time. This is not a little sprint; this is a life time run. He says: “I run”, verse 26, “in such a way, as not without aim”. I don’t run without an aim. Me meandering here and there through life. I have fixed my heart. I have determined my course. I have decided to follow Jesus. And there’s no turning back. No turning back. I’m in, I’m in with all of my heart. And there’s no turning back. He’s got purpose, he’s got direction, his eyes are fixed, he’s heart is determined. I love Hebrews 12 verses 1 and 2, he uses the similar analogy, he says: “Therefore, since we have so great eclogue of witnesses surrounding us, let’s lay aside”. Every encumbrance, in the sin that’s so easy entangled, and lets, lets run the race, with endurance. That race that’s set before us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
We began in Christ, we’re going to stay in Christ, we’re going to cross that finish line in Christ. I have set my course. I have determined my heart. He says “run this race with endurance”. Fixing your eyes, setting your course, determining your heart. You know when I graduated from Bible College, I had the privilege of giving the valedictorian speech and those were the very verses I spoke on. They were all graduating, you know, young, full of hope, full of vigor, full of idealism - what a great message for us all to take hold of them, me as well. Fix your eyes man, determine your course, set the direction of your life and stay the course. Steadfastness, run with endurance. But, he says back in Hebrews 12: “To run with endurance means to set aside in cumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles”. It’s a really good picture. “Sin which so easily entangles”, it’s kind of a picture of a briers. We get briers, we live in the Northwest where we get these blackberry things, with these kings, with these thorns on them and you get messed up with that, they will take hold of you and tear your legs. I was growing up in the country and man, those things just take over everything. Imagine running a race and the path, goes a long, you know, a bunch of those blackberry things. Stay away! You-run-on-the-other-side, because you get anywhere near those things, once they get a hold of you, they start tearing you and tearing you and pulling you down. It’s a great picture of how many people live their lives with too much encumbrance and stuff that entangles you. You cannot run that way! Pulls you down.
You know, one of the most grueling races, speaking of the races in Greece; they actually had a race where the competitors would be dressed in full military armor. And then, run the race that way. It would almost be humorous to watch. Because it’s so encumbering. So difficult to run with all of the stuff pulling you down. It’s a great picture. See, it’s a great picture. Many people run with so much baggage! They’re loaded with encumbrance! They’re holding on to things. You know, one of the heaviest things that people carry - I’m convinced – bitterness. Unforgiveness.
Things of hurt. We all understand hurt. We all understand wounds. But you’re saying, “don’t you see, they encumber you”. I want you to run with the joy. The joy of the Lord man. Run the race with a peace, peace and understanding, run the race with the love that’s free and clear. Encumbered? No, let go of these things. Let go of these things. Let go of these things. They’re encumbering you down. Forgive. Let go. Let go. Forgive. It’s holding you back. You can’t love in the fullness of love when you are encumbered by unforgiveness.
In fact in Hebrews 12, same chapter but a few verses later he says: “See to it that; see to it, that no one comes short of the grace of God”. Now, that right there is really powerful. He says: “that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble”. It causes trouble in your life and by it many are defiled. They end up bitter. You can’t love when you’re bitter. You can’t have joy when you’re bitter. You’re not going to have peace when you’re bitter. Jesus said something interesting; in Luke chapter 8 verses 14 to 15, he’s teaching a parable, and it has to do with a farmer sowing his seed, it’s a picture of the word of God being sown, and he said: “Now, there are different types of soils like there are different kinds of hearts that receive the word”. There’s the hard heart, the word is sown and his heart doesn’t receive a word of it. The enemy just snatchers it up. There’s others, who have soil but it’s thin, it has rocks and then it can’t take root. They hear the word, they do hear it, they receive it, but as soon as the heat of the day comes, they’re offended, and it bears no fruit [inaudible 00:24:09].
Than in Luke 8, he gives us another picture, he says: “Now the seed which fell among the foreigners, now these are the ones who heard but as they go their way” what does that mean? As they live their life, as they run their race, they’re choked with worries, riches, pleasures of this life and they bear no fruit to maturity.
But there’s another kind. Ahhh, but the seed that fell on the good soil. These are the ones who’ve heard the word and they’ve heard it in an honest and good heart and they hold on to it, they hold it fast and they bear fruit with perseverance. They bring a spiritual result in their lives. What a better way to live. And he says, those worries, those pleasures and riches they choke. Another words, they’re holding on, they’re cumbering you, they’re holding you down! What a picture of the encumbering that many people have in their lives. He says: “run this race without all of these encumbrances”, let it go. To quote the famous philosopher from Arendelle, Queen Elsa [singing] “let it go”; ok, I’m not going to sing that, but turn away and slam the doors as I say it’s a pretty good point. And so, then he goes, in the next verses, he’s telling us, here’s a spiritual application. Exercise self-control in all things. Notice verse 25: “Everyone who competes in the games, exercises self-control in all things”.
II. Exercise Self Control in All Things
Now they it to receive a perishable prize. But we – imperishable! Eternal! Spiritual! An athlete must use self-control, in what they eat, the regiment of their training, even the focus of their mind. Now he’s using the spiritual point. I want you to live victoriously! I want you to run this race, I don’t want you to be victorious in it, I want you to have the blessing and favor of God all over it, so I need you to see the point.
A. We need good spiritual food
The athlete trains. He uses self-control in all things. What he eats of course. The regiment of training. Even the focus of his mind, which reminds me of 1st Peter 1:13: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action. Renew your mind” he says. Keep sober in spirit. Keep sober in spirit. Fix your hope, completely on the grace, to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Pin your hope on this, fix your eyes on this, so the analogy is spiritual. He says: “I want you to be victorious”, just like an athlete using self-control, what they eat. You need, we need, good spiritual food. You have with me that an athlete would not compete well on a typical American junk food diet. Would that not be true? I mean, the typical American junk food diet is not going to do it for an athlete. They are going to have more discipline of what they eat, they are disciplined because they know that they are, they’re fueling the body, and they have to discipline so they can have the strength the endurance, it’s a good spiritual analogy. Cause frankly, there’s a lot of spiritual junk food all around us.
There’s a lot of ways you can live your life today. There’s a lot of choices. You get to choose! And that’s why he’s challenging us. There’s spiritual junk food all around us, but there’s also spiritual food that endures us to eternal life. That much is good. And the scripture uses that analogy of what we eat physically, to what we receive spiritually; it connects the two together in many places. For example, when Jesus was coming to the end of a 40 day fast, remember as he was just beginning his ministry, he went into the desert and had a 40 day fast, at the end of which, the enemy Satan had come and tempted him. And he said “if you’re the son of God”, literally, “since you’re the son of God, turn these stones into bread”; knowing that he would be hungry at this point. “You’re hungry? I know that you physically want to eat, so turn the stone into bread, since you’re the son of God”. Jesus responded, Mathew 4.4 “It is written”, I love the way Jesus answers with scripture, in the authority of God’s word, “man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that precedes from the mouth of God”. I love that answer. It’s just a powerful response. Physical being is of little consequence in comparison to your spiritual being. Cause even this body of ours is temporary. We’re just living in a temporary tent. And the older you get the more temporary you realize it is. The spiritual nature of it is the significance.
There is another point that he brings in analogy, this is in John 4, this is where Jesus comes up to this well, and there’s a woman. And he says “Give me a drink”. And the woman says, “how is it that you, being a Jew, ask of me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink”. And they get in this conversation. And he brings to her attention, the comparison between that water and the living water. The spirit, he begins to speak about life, more significant issues of eternal life, and at one point he says to her, “go get your husband”. She says “I, I, I have no husband”. And he said “you have said it correctly that you have no husband, because you had 4 husbands, and the man you’re now with is not your husband”. She said “sir, I perceive that you are a prophet”. He touches on the deepest issues of life. He touches on the things which matter. And brought her to life. And brought her to the knowledge of salvation, which she received. And then she went into the village, and she said “you got to hear this man, who’s spoken all things to me. And revealed all that I’ve done”. That got their attention “let’s go see him”.
B. Discipline your body; it’s not the master
Meanwhile, the Disciples say to Jesus “Sir, take some food” and I love what he says in John 4, verse 32 to 34: Jesus said to them “I have food to eat, that you do not know about. My food is to do the will of him, who sent me and to accomplish his work”. You think about that verse. That’s powerful! “I have food that you do not know”. See the analogy between the physical bearing of this world and the spiritual, the spiritual reality that it pictures. It’s far greater. My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Now, he says, this is an analogy of running the race, everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control. Spiritually, we need self-control. Now, a lot of people when they hear that idea, they are like “oh pastor, I don’t want to hear about self-control”, they don’t like the idea of self-control. Well, we are going to have a message today, and the message as part of the subtitle is going to be Exercise Self-Control. Groan. They don’t like the idea of self-control because many people like to live in the moment. That I can do what they wish at the moment. Too many people eat that way. He’s using the analogy, we can use it too. Many people eat whatever they feel at the moment, many people are very at-the-moment-eaters. You know what I mean? They feel like getting this, so that’s what they eat. Without thinking through of course that these eventually are going to have consequences.
It’s like comfort food. Makes the person feel better at the moment but little by little, it makes them feel worse. Actually, there is a study. Who does all these studies, I don’t know. But there is the study, and the question was: does comfort food actually accomplish the goal of comfort? The answer is: actually, no. The study revealed that instead of feeling comfort, people actually felt guilty! Because, they knew that what they were eating, was actually not going to help them. End eventually, we result in muffin tops. So they realized that this is not helping them at all. So the comfort food didn’t bring comfort. Is there a spiritual equivalent? Yes, there is. There absolutely is. Because many people seek comfort of the soul. And they are in pain. Excruciating loneliness! Despair, hopelessness, emptiness, and they seek some kind of comfort food, so they end up medicating. They’re in pain. Without... which is actually poison. And instead of feeling better, they feel worse. Medicating with alcohol or drugs or sexual things, there’re so many things today that, that are spiritual, they think are comfort but actually are hurtful and harmful to the soul. They don’t bring help!
That’s why, that’s why God’s word is so relevant today. Because he speaks of the deepest points of our loneliness, our despair, our emptiness, our pain or hurts. And he says “don’t you see I want to show you a better way to run, a better way to live, I want you to have love! I want you to have peace that passes understanding! I want you to have a joy. That’s just way better. I want to heal the hurt, I want to touch the loneliness, I want you to understand my love for you. If you could only comprehend it. You would long for it because it satisfies the soul. I love song 42 verses 1 to 2 “as the dear pants for the water, so my soul longs, pants for you oh God”. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Thirst! Hunger! These are desires. He says “I know you have desires”. Every soul does.
And the deepest desires, God wants to touch and answer and heal. So he’s bringing the point. Run this race like an athlete would bring self-discipline. I want you to be victorious. You need to see this point. He says “discipline your body, it’s not the master”. Notice verse 27: “I buffet my body and I make it MY slave. Now that word buffet /ˈbəfət/ is not the word buffet /\bəˈfā/. That is the word buffet and it means, it’s a great word that literally means to bring into submission, it’s like a wrestling word, I hold, I bring it into submission. My body is not going to be the master! Cause you know, it wants to. He’s touching again on the deepest issues of life. You know, your body, your flesh, wants to be the master. I want to say what we’re going to eat, I want to say where we want to go, I want to say what we are going to watch, I want to say what we are going to listen to, I want to say what we are going to do in this life, I want to be the boss. It’s like a child! I want what I want and when I want it. That’s the flesh. Paul says: “he’s not going to be the master. That’s going to end badly”. It’s kind of funny; we were having a conversation with our granddaughter Via - I’m so glad we have a Via, it’s a whole new source of fresh sermon illustrations, [audience laughing] we’re talking to Via about you know, respecting, you know, you’re adults, you’re respecting your grandparents, respecting the world, and she said: “why can’t kid be the boss”? Hahaha. What a great question! Well there’s a reason. Cause that will end badly. I had several conversations with my kids, so why is it you want to do that thing, whatever they’re explaining, I said “that’s why right there you need a parent!” Because that’s going to end badly! And he says the same thing, Paul’s recognizing it right away. Now, listen, I am going to buffet my body, I am going to make it my slave, I’m going to put it into submission – it’s not the boss, it can’t be the master, that’s going to end ruinously.
In fact, he says in 1st Corinthian chapter 6 verses 12 and 13, he says “ok, I’ll finish that are lawful unto me”, using a phrase that they quoted to him, “ok, fine, but I will not be mastered by anything. Nothing will master me”. Food for the stomach, stomach for the food. God will do away with both of them, frankly. You’re temporary. The body is not for immortality; God didn’t give you a body for immortality. God gave your body for the Lord. And the Lord’s for you, the Lord’s for the body. Nothing will master me. I love, I love the picture. I will not be mastered. That flesh is ruinous. You let it be the master, it’s ruinous. He says: “no, I will bring it into submission”. The athlete who competes, must discipline his body. Same point; he presses the arm, he doesn’t feel like it. But it’s a spiritual analogy. It’s a spiritual point. You know, in 1st Timothy 4, verse 8, he uses that idea, physical exercise and physical strength etc. to make his spiritual point. He brings these words, “bodily discipline is only a little profit”. Now, is bodily discipline of profit? Yes! You work out, you should work out. As we get older, the older we get the more we should work out. I mean, we need to work out as we get older. Amen! [audience: Amen] Hahaha, that was that, a very exciting Amen, right there. But isn’t it true? I mean we should, it’s good, it is some profit. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, you should think of your body, you should eat right, you should exercise, Amen? [audience: Amen] And I believe in that, right, so I go down to gym, I like to work out – you know it’s kind of fun. You go down there and you see some of these guys, right? And of course they have to wear a shorts like this so they... [the audience laughing]... and I think – and some of these guys are like bum, bum, bum, and I think: how long have you been doing this man? How many hours? I thought, imagine, just imagine, just imagine, if a person had that kind of discipline, spiritually? What if a person had that kind of application of self-discipline spiritually? Spiritual food, the regiment of the discipline of what they do in the world, and the relationship to the Lord, the focus of their heart and their life, imagine the faith they would have. Imagine the blessing that they could bring to those around them, the love that they would have, the maturity in Christ; can you imagine? This is... bodily discipline is only of little profit but Godliness? Ahhh... that’s profitable for all things. Since it holds promise for this present life and for the life to come. It’ll bless your life know. And it has eternal bearing.
In other words, how you live matters. You get to choose whom you’ll serve. You get to choose the race you will run. You get to choose the prize that you seek. That what’s eternal and imperishable is offered to us in Christ. There’s a lot of ways you can live your life today. There are lots of ways you can live your life! “Choose”, he says, “this day, whom you’ll serve”. As for me and my house, we’ll serve the Lord.
- Sermon Notes
Which Race to Run
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
We are now in the section in this letter where Paul has been answering questions asked of him by the leaders in the church in Corinth. He has answered questions about marriage, specifically sexuality within marriage as well as wisdom about being single. He also answered questions having to do with Christian liberty; questions having to do with whether they could eat meat sacrificed to idols. After all, some realized, idols are nothing.
“You have knowledge that gives you freedom,” Paul was saying in response, “but your knowledge is making you arrogant and insensitive to those around you. There is a more excellent way. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”
All of these questions have to do with a greater question that rises over all of them, “How are you going to live your life?” In chapter 8 verse Paul said, “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”
We exist for the glory of God; that’s what gives purpose and meaning and significance to our lives. And that’s what determines how we live. There are many different ways a person can live his life on this earth. In Corinth, the temple of Aphrodite was right there in their city and many chose to live their lives pursuing the desires of the flesh.
In other words, you get to choose how you will live. You get to choose whom you will serve, you get to choose the race you will run. Wouldn’t it be sad to come to the end of your life and to realize you climbed the wrong ladder, or you ran the wrong race, or you pursued the wrong goal, you desired the wrong prize?
That’s the point Paul brings us to in these verses. He uses the analogy of running the race as an illustration of how we live. In other words, how are you living? How are you running? What are you pursuing? What prize are you longing for?
The church in Corinth would have completely understood this analogy. The Isthmus Games held in Corinth were second only to the Olympic Games in size and significance. They didn’t have the NFL or the NBA, they had the games and the fastest runners were treated as heroes.
The most prestigious of all races was the stadion. A dead sprint of about 630 feet. There was also the double stadion and the 10 stadion race. They would sometimes mark their calendars by saying, “The year so and so won the stadion.” That’s how important the games were, so they certainly understood.
I. Run for the Right Prize
- Run in such a way that you may obtain the prize, Paul said.
- Those who ran in the games did it to receive a perishable wreath, but we are running to obtain an imperishable wreath.
- The winner in the ancient games would receive the prize of an olive wreath intertwined to form a circle or horseshoe. The branches were cut from a sacred wild olive tree near the Temple of Zeus and cut with a pair of golden scissors. But the greatest prize was the prestige bestowed upon the winner.
- In other words, what prize are you running for? There is a common phrase in the world, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Frankly, that’s not much of a win.
- God says it’s about the value of your soul and also about the value of the souls around you. An imperishable wreath is eternal in value.
Matthew 16:26, “For what would it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
A. Love is a great way to run
- In both chapters 8 and 9 Paul makes the point that there is a principal that’s higher. “You have knowledge, that’s good, but knowledge puffs up and love builds up.”
Illus – When we were recently at the July 4 parade downtown, I was so blessed to see Aviah making sure the younger kids around her also got candy.
1 Corinthians 8:13, If food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.
1 Corinthians 9:22, I have become all things to all men that I may by all means save some.
- In verse 23 Paul said, “I do all things for the sake of the gospel.” Why such dedication? Answer; because God has done so much for him. His faith is foremost because his love for Christ is first.
- Love is a great way to run. Have love in your heart. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength… and love your brother as yourself.
Illus – Do you remember the love you had for the Lord when you first came to faith? Do you remember the joy that was in your heart? Keep that love alive. The Lord also remembers the love you had at first.
Jeremiah 2:2-3, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest;”
B. Don’t be a spectator
- “Run in such a way that you may obtain the prize,” Paul said. In other words – run. Get in the race, Christianity is not a spectator sport.
- And in truth, if you have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then His blood has been applied to your life. You’re involved now. Think of all He’s done for you; your sins have been forgiven, you have eternal life, God is now your Father. Can you not run this race called life in thanks to Him?
- Some stand back and observe church and Christians, “That’s interesting,” they say to themselves, but it’s more than interesting, it’s a decision, it’s a choice.
Joshua 24: 15, “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the people in whose land you are now living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
- Christianity is not something to be sampled, it is a step of faith that changes the entire course of your life. When the scripture says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” that doesn’t mean to nibble, it means to fully partake and you’ll see that the Lord is good.
Illus – On vacation we went swimming at Hagg Lake. I’ve found that the best way to get in the water is by jumping in headfirst. In Christ, you jump in heart first.
C. Run with endurance
- This is a race that endures for a lifetime. Paul said that he ran “not without aim.” In other words, he had purpose, he had direction; his eyes were fixed.
Hebrews 12:1-2, Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.
Illus – When I was graduating from Bible college I had the privilege of giving the valedictorian speech and those were the verses I chose to speak on. There we were just graduating, young, full of hope and vigor, just getting started running the race of ministry. What a great lesson for us all; run with endurance by fixing your eyes on Jesus.
- But running with endurance also requires laying aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles.
Illus – It’s like running a cross country race and you come upon briars along the path. Don’t get near them, they will entangle you, they will hinder you from running well.
- One of the most grueling competitions of ancient Greece was for runners to run in full armor. Some people run like that, they run with too much baggage.
- I think one of the heaviest things people carry is bitterness and unforgiveness; and it hinders many.
Hebrews 12:15, See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; but no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;
Luke 8:14-15, “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life and bear no fruit to maturity. But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”
Illus – To quote the famous philosopher from Arendelle, Queen Elsa, “Let it go!”
II. Exercise Self Control in All Things
- Verse 25- Paul uses the example of an athlete training to compete in the games as an analogy of how we should live spiritually.
- An athlete must use self-control in what they eat, the regimen of their training, even the discipline of the mind.
1 Peter 1:13, Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
A. We need good spiritual food
- An athlete wouldn’t compete well on the typical American junk food diet. They’re disciplined about what they eat because they know it’s the body’s fuel.
- In the same way, there is junk food for the soul and there is spiritual food which endures to eternal life.
- As Jesus was coming to the end of a 40 day fast, He was tempted by Satan who said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, turned these stones into bread.” Jesus’s answer gave great spiritual insight…
Matthew 4:4, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
John 4:32, 34, Jesus said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about… My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.”
- Most people don’t like the idea of exercising self-control, but Paul’s point is powerful and practical.
- Many people eat whatever they feel like at the moment without considering the consequences.
- But comfort food, which does make a person feel better at the moment, will, little by little, eventually make a person feel worse.
Illus – There was a recent study; does comfort food accomplish the goal of bringing comfort? Actually, no. The study revealed that instead of feeling comfort they felt guilty because they were starting to have a muffin top.
- Is there an equivalent spiritually? Absolutely. Many people are medicating their emptiness or loneliness or despair with alcohol or drugs or sexual things.
Psalm 42:1-2, As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God…
- Verse 27 – Paul says, “I buffet my body and make it my slave…” That’s not the word buffet, that’s the word buffet which means to keep it in check, bring it under submission. It’s like a wrestling term.
- Paul is straightforwardly saying that one of the great troubles of life is that this body of ours wants to be the master. It has urges and desires and wants to be in control. In other words, it wants what it wants when it wants it.
- Paul said, “I bring my body under submission and make it my slave.”
1 Corinthians 6:12-13, All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with them both. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.
- An athlete who competes must discipline his body, he presses on even when he doesn’t feel like it. But the analogy is spiritual.
1 Timothy 4:8, Bodily discipline is only a little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
- How you live matters. You get to choose whom you will serve and the race you will run. Run well, the prize is eternal and imperishable.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NASB
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.