Have you ever been an athlete training for a big game or sporting event? It wasn’t until I was in my fifties that I really understood the intense discipline it takes athletes to prepare. I thought being a kickboxing instructor had been the epitome of my athleticism until my husband and I found a karate dojo in our new town. We began training for our black belt certification, and I’ll never forget the grueling four-hour test of my strength, will, and endurance.
Paul’s talk of running a race and being disciplined in training brought all those memories back for me. It’s also helpful to note that Paul’s original audience would have been very familiar with a sporting event, much like the Olympics, which was held every two years in Corinth called the Isthmian Games. Paul’s words would have been very powerful because of this association.
These few verses bring Chapter 9 to a close. Paul ties up this whole notion of the proper foods with this example of discipline. For those who were questioning how difficult it might be to give up certain foods or other “rights” to be followers of Christ, Paul wanted to assure them the prize was worth it. Maybe that’s where the phrase “keep your eye on the prize” comes from. It’s certainly good counsel for us to focus on when faced with difficult times of testing in our own lives.
“They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.” What images come to mind when you think of your eternal prize? I envision a huge embrace with Jesus and reuniting with loved ones and other faithful followers, like Paul. I can’t even begin to describe the overflowing feeling inside to experience such an abundance of peace and love all at the same time.
You’ll notice I titled this entry as “Discipline of Faith”. What does our faith have to do with discipline? When I think of discipline, I think of stretching myself, challenging myself to do something I wouldn’t otherwise do. When we couple that with our faith, we should be asking, “how do I step out of my comfort zone to grow closer to Jesus?”
Some suggest a Bible reading habit is what helps them be disciplined. God’s word will surely stretch us and mold us into different individuals. We are often challenged by difficult texts and/or by messages the Holy Spirit gives us when reading even familiar passages. Embrace those insights!
Other spiritual disciplines to strengthen our faith include prayer, meditation, fasting, confession, solitude, worship, and celebration. Which of these do you include in your walk with Jesus? A couple? Start to pencil out a plan for adding at least one of these to your daily activities.
Let’s pray …
Father God, I do want to exercise spiritual disciplines in my life so I can grow closer to you. I know that when I do, my days seem such much more complete. Thank you for the freedom you give us to experience this world. May all my actions be honoring and pleasing to you. Help me to connect on a deeper level, see you more clearly, and listen for your voice. In Jesus’ name. Amen.