Nothing is free. If we want a rich life, then we must work for it. To “win the prize,” we must train.
19 Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.
Notice that I said, “a rich life,” not, “to get rich.” The very next verse reads, “A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished [by the consequences of their actions]. What determines a rich life? According to Proverbs 21:21, “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, righteousness and honor.” Proverbs was written about 900 years before Christ. Had this proverb been written by a Christian, it would read, “Whoever pursues Jesus and His love finds life, righteousness and honor.” Now, on to training…
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Paul used an illustration straight from the Greeks and the Olympian games: Track. A person doesn’t just decide to run a marathon of 26.2 miles. It takes months and even years of training to do it. It takes strict training.
Verse 27 is the scariest verse for me. It would be like me teaching others to run hurdles (my high school claim to fame). But, when I myself run them, I skip one, and I disqualify myself from the race. I would still be on the team, but I would have lost the race. What temptations try to lure me away from running the race honorably? Fatigue, distraction, a desire to win at all costs, and fear all come to mind. For us as Christians, they would be lust of the eyes (what we see, we want), lust of the flesh (what we feel, we do), and the pride of life (we deserve it). See 1 John 2:16. Satan only has three tricks in his bag, but–oh, what tricks they are!
Do we really want excellence? to make a difference? Then Let’s use our competitive nature to push ourselves in our training in righteousness. What training in righteousness? This one:
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
We need purpose, focus, and direction for when we train. Here are some tools:
- Study– What are you reading and why? If the Bible, why are you reading where you are reading? Pleasure reading is good as long as it reinforces our spiritual growth. If it makes us think, that’s good, but if it makes us doubt, then find out why. If we can find error in it, then reject it as a bad influence. There are too many good things out there to read for us to waste time reading questionable material. How do we know what truth is? We read the Bible. Jesus said, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth.” John 17:17. It’s okay to have questions. Ask for help, especially from the Holy Spirit.
- Speaking of which, prayer is our connection to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. Why do you pray what you pray? Don’t be afraid to go to the Father with any question. He will answer; just give Him time. Some things we’re just not ready to hear, yet.
- Conversations– Talking with others is how we learn about the other facets of the diamond of spiritual knowledge. Why do you discuss what you discuss? On what do you base your information? Experience? Logic? The internet? Second-hand information? If I tell my wife something that I have learned, she immediately wants to know the source of my information. If it’s another person, she then wants to know where that person got his information. She’s a researcher and I love her for it.
The big question is, how can we tweak each of these tools to help us focus on learning the heart of the Father? We must remember that our goal is not to get rich, but to be rich in life, righteousness and honor.
Abba, I pray for my readers that they will strive for excellence. You want us to be righteous, perfectly mature, complete and whole in Christ. I believe we can get there. I am trusting You to lead the way. Knowing that You walk with me, empower me, and protect me is enough for me to trust You all the way. Lead on, my King. Amen.