By Pastor Jeanne Miller
In I Corinthians 9:24-27 (Amp) we read, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. Therefore I do not run uncertainly-without definite aim. . . .But [like a boxer] I buffet my body-handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships-and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit-not stand the test and be unapproved-and rejected [as a counterfeit].”
In this passage of scripture Paul is speaking of a race that he has been given to run by the Lord. He is describing what it takes to win that race and he’s using himself as an example for all of us. Each and every Christian has a God given race to run. However, it is up to each of us to accept that race and to run it to win. Once we accept this fact, we need to find out what our particular race is, then train for it and finally, run it to win.
Paul talks about the discipline and commitment it takes to win-“I buffet my body-handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships”. We call this crucifying the flesh but this is a good description of how one must handle the flesh in order to run the race. Any athlete training for any competition knows the endurance and training it takes. It’s not a piece of cake. It requires all of their attention. It requires determination and an attitude of “I’ll not give up, no matter what”. Those with this attitude win.
We also can never back off from the race the Lord gives us to run. Just like an athlete it takes courage, boldness, never giving up, never backing down. But for us there is another ingredient. We also have a spiritual walk to maintain. Without it we cannot win the race. For us the devil is always there filling our minds with junk or putting temptation in our paths through our flesh to draw us away from the race. Many times his words tell us we can’t win because this is how we were made, this is what our parents went through or maybe something more subtle like, later on you’ll be able to conquer this but not now. The devil wins when our spiritual life has not been maintained because we won’t flee from the words he tells us. We’re not strong enough spiritually to do so.
Read I Corinthians 10:12-14 which is a continuation of how to run the race in order to win. “Therefore let any one who thinks he stands-who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm-take heed lest he fall [into sin]. For no temptation-no trial regarded as enticing to sin [no matter how it comes or where it leads]-has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man-that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature] and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out-the means of escape to a landing place-that you may be capable and strong and powerful patiently to bear up under it. Therefore, my dearly beloved, shun-keep clear away from, avoid by flight if need be-any sort of idolatry (of loving or venerating anything more than God).”
First of all, we must take care never to stand in our own strength when fighting the fight and running the race. It will surely lead to destruction. Our strength is in the Name of the Lord, and only in that Name do we stay where we need to be spiritually. There are times when Christians are not even aware that they are slipping in their daily walk with the Lord. But this slipping always makes a place for the enemy to get in and when the trials and temptations start we should immediately realize that we are in a place of vulnerability brought on most likely by letting down on our determination and commitment to running the race as we ought.
A definition for temptation given by Rick Renner is an outside source that appeals to a weakness in your flesh. It appeals to your flesh!! This should set off sirens in our minds and spirits. In verse 14 the answer given is to flee, avoid by flight, get up and get out of the situation that is tempting you. Avoid those situations and areas where you know you have a problem with your flesh. This is a choice each one of us must make. No one can do this for you but it is a way of breaking bondages of the flesh that need to be gotten rid of so you can run your race and win the prize that is rightfully yours. You will not win your race while you are under bondage. But the good news is that God has provided a way to win if you should choose to take it.
Attaining the prize should be our goal as Christians. We should know the race we are called to run. We should concentrate on the training needed to run it (our spiritual walk), and then not allow anything to distract us. This means not giving place to the temptations of the flesh because we know God has a way of escape for us if we just allow Him to show us. Our God is the God of the impossible and the God of Love who only wants good things for us. He is the one that can turn our bondages, sicknesses and poverty around so we can accomplish the mighty feats He has ordained us to do. Let’s allow Him to do all that He wants in our lives so in the end we attain the prize.