Paul ended his appeal to the leading members of the church in Corinth with an appeal to self-control.
Every two years, Corinth celebrated the Isthmian Games. The event was a major source of income for the city, similar to being the host city for the Olympics or the Super Bowl.
Contestants and spectators came from all over the Greco-Roman region to participate in the games. The prize for each was a wreath made of wilted celery. In today’s video with Rudy Ross, I was in error when I said the wreath was wilted asparagus.
Whether the prize was wilted celery or asparagus, Paul used a striking comparison between an earthly award and a heavenly crown.
— 1 Corinthians 9.24-26 – Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.
Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.
So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air;
But I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.
The Importance of Discipline
Simone Biles, the Olympic seven-time gold medal winner in gymnastics, follows this training schedule.
— On Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, she has diligently carries out two practices each day (for a total of seven hours of training on these days).
— On Thursdays and Saturdays, she puts in half-days.
Without a doubt, a gold medal is more permanent and valuable than a wreath of wilted celery. However, it can never compare to a heavenly crown.
Paul’s training routine involved self-giving service to the lowliest members of the churches he served.
— He worked diligently to build up the spiritual life of all of the members of the church.
— He was determined to extend the good news of God’s love by every means possible.
— He sought to live a Jesus-kind-of-life, so he could challenge members, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11.1).
Richard Foster in his classic book, “Celebration of Discipline,” describes how spiritual disciplines work.
Imagine a swinging bridge like you would see in an Indiana Jones movie. If you fall to either side, you will crash to your death on the rocks below.
(1) One perilous side is self-effort. The spiritual equivalent of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” will lead to disaster.
(2) Passive spirituality where you do nothing and expect God to do everything will land you on the rocks of spiritual death.
The sweet spot on the bridge involves human effort. Daily Bible reading, prayer, and obedience involve work.
One of the church fathers said, “Work like everything depends on you and pray as if everything depends on God.”
When we discipline ourselves to do the basics of following Jesus, it provides an avenue for God’s grace to do what only God can do.
Foster wrote about 12 Spiritual Disciplines. The disciplines are “tools” that allow God to work through the Holy Spirit.
The three disciplines that I focus on the most are prayer, Bible reading, and obedience.
The result of living a Jesus-kind-of-life is an eternal crown that is infinitely greater than wilted celery or a gold medal.
Please check out the YouTube video that Rudy Ross and I recorded. Rudy has insights that you will appreciate.
Please email your prayer requests to firstname.lastname@example.org private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.