1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Your Life Is A Race Against Your Own Potential
1. Determine To Run Your Best Race (v24)
2. Prioritize Eternity To Run Your Best Race (v25)
3. Focus On Faithfulness To Run Your Best Race (v26)
4. Discipline Yourself To Run Your Best Race (v27)
1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Your Life Is A Race Against Your Own Potential
1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Your Life Is A Race Against Your Own Potential
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As we look at 1 Corinthians Chapter 9 this evening, I've titled the Message Your Life is a race against your own potential. Your life is a race against your own. Potential here the apostle Paul. As he is so apt to do and so great at doing, he brings in an illustration in the midst of the things that he is sharing with the Corinthians. Now we'll get kind of get into the context of what, what this illustration is attached to and what he's saying with it as we get into the passage a little bit further this evening. But just focusing on this idea that he is presenting here, do you not know? He says in verse 24. Those who run in a race all run. But one receives the prize, and then he encourages us to run in such. A way that. You may obtain it. Do you not know? He says he wants us to think about a race. The Corinthians would be. Very easy for them to think about a race because the Corinthian games. Would happen every couple of years, like the Olympic Games that were in going on during that time. Those took place in somewhere else, but the Corinthian games that if if miss games took place right there down the road from Corinth and so that that was every two years, they would have these major games. It was. Second to the Olympics and. So athletes would come from near and far and compete there for the crown, for the prize in various competitions of running, of wrestling, of even poetry. And and there would be these, you know, battles that would go on these competitions that would go on. And so it was an athletic. Culture there in corns, you might say you know they were all about the sports. They knew about it. They were familiar with it. They were engaging in it. It was something they were well versed in. And so Paul uses that and he says think about the race, think about the competition that you're so familiar with and now understand that your life is like that competition. But not a competition against others. In reality, not a competition. You know who can be the best Christian? It's not that kind of competition. The the reality of what Paul is presenting here is the competition is against our own potential. That is, that God has gifted us. He's enabled us. He's called us. He's provided for us. He has set before us a path. And what we will be evaluated against as we stand before the Lord at the finish line. Is how well did we do with? The potential that God had provided for us. How well did we do with the gifts that he gave to us? How well did we do with the provisions that he provided for us? How well did we do with the opportunities that that he set before us, those open doors that he opened and no one could shut? How how did we do? Compared to the potential of what could be done and how we could have done. There is a competition that is happening right now in your life. You may not think of yourself as an athlete. You may not be conscious of this competition or this race that is going on, but the race is going on nonetheless and at the finish line you will stand before the judge. To be evaluated, but you're not evaluated based on how Josh did in his race. You're evaluated based on. How did you do in your race? How did you do with what the Lord had given? To you. Thinking about this reminded me of a time when I was young, probably early teens, maybe even preteens. I was signed up for cross country, and as a home schooler, you know, I wasn't part of a main school, so there was this. This group of cross country racers that I got to be a part of and so we went and I think it maybe it was even through harvest, I can't. Remember that for sure. But I learned through that that cross country it was not really my thing. I didn't. I never enjoyed it, you know, running miles and miles and miles. It was I was never really good at it and I wasn't. Really enjoying it. I didn't like thirst for more and then want to go running every day that just it just wasn't my thing. But being a child and being told what to do and how to do things that my parents wanted me to do, I was involved in cross country, not just for the practices, but also for game day for the races. And so we would go to various places and participate in races and I would have to run this race. And I remember one very vividly, very particular race. I don't have any idea where it was. I kind of feel like it was, like near the beach or something. But it was like these, like mountain trails, a little bit so conflicting imagery in my head. I don't remember that part exactly. I don't remember how many people were involved in the race. What I do remember was that I was in second to last place. The whole race. Second to last place, until we got near to. The very end. And the last guy? Last place guy tried to pass me. And when the last place guy tried to pass me. I said no way. I don't have any desire to win. I don't care about coming in first. I'm not going to put that kind of effort to that, but I certainly don't want to be last place. Now of course I was unconscious of all those mental things that I was thinking at the time. I just saw him go and I was like, Nope. And I started running. And I remember very clearly after. The race my dad started to just. Converse with me a bit and he's pretty good at this where he can. Just really kind. Of you know, challenge you on things without being like a hey, you're a dummy. But you know, he began to ask me, like, hey, you know what? Why do you think you? Place where you placed today in the race. And I don't remember exactly the words I said, but it probably went along the lines of, you know, I just, I'm not very good at cross country. It was a long race. It was a hard course and I was tired and I did the best that I could. And he was like, really? Because I saw that guy try to pass you and then suddenly you could run faster. If you could run faster when that guy was trying to pass you what? What if you could run faster before that? What if you could run faster the whole time? What if you could run faster and? Get further up in the lineup of the race. I don't think I received his exhortation back then, but 30 years later, Dad, it paid off clear memory of really understanding. Yeah, you know. I wasn't running. In such a way that I might obtain the price? I wasn't motivated to win the prize. I could have done better, I just didn't want to. It wasn't in my heart. It wasn't the mindset that I had. It wasn't the focus. I was there and and I didn't really care about what place I came in as long as it was. That was the only thing I cared. About I just didn't. Want to be last? Anything else? I'm I'm fine with that, so I. Will do just enough. To not be in last place. As we think about this illustration that Paul. Gives us here. My prayer is that all of us would be in that place. Not to run the race that God has set before us to just not come and last. But as Paul says here, run in such a way that you may obtain only one receives the prize. And and you can approach your life. You can approach your calling and your ministry and what God has given to you, you can. Approach it in a way that is. Not that wholehearted. That is not that, you know, excited about what God has given to you, not that determined to do what it is that God has set before you. Like you're just trying to make do to do good enough to just not come in last place. Your life is a race against your own. Think about some of these men and women of God. How well did they do against their potential? Go back to the father. Of faith ibraham. I think the scriptures reveal to us a good deal about him to give us a little bit. Of freedom to say he did pretty well. Did he reach his full potential? Hmm, I don't know about. That, but he did pretty well. He had some missteps. He had some, you know, backslides, you might say some. Issues of faith that he worked through and recovered from. After the recovery from, you know going forward after that, I would I would suggest Abraham did pretty well in meeting his potential but but he did fall on the race, right? He did bruise his knees a little bit and got scraped up as he tumbled around, rolled over, but but then he got back up and got back into the race and. He did pretty well. I would suggest he has great reward in eternity. As he ran to obtain the prize, despite his shortcomings and failures from time to. What about Samson? How did he measure up to his potential? Again, I think from the scriptures we have a lot of freedom to be able to evaluate his life. And say, you know, he really did not measure up to his potential even close. Sampson's kind of the guy that we look at to say, look at what can happen, I mean so much potential. But an undisciplined life, an undisciplined and undisciplined heart. Can lead to great tragedy. And sure, maybe he had a good big victory at the end. But that big victory at the end in no way made-up for the lost potential of his life. That could have been. Had he ran the race to win the prize, I think King Saul is another good. Example of that. Great potential. Because his heart was not submitted to the Lord, then we come to King David's great potential and also, you know pretty well fulfilled. That potential not perfectly. Nobody can, right, but. Similar to Abraham, he had his missteps. He had his failures, his frailties, his, his issues, where he tumbled there on the route and got scraped up and banged up and fell down. The great thing about David and what made him a man who pursued the heart of God was. From that place of failure, he would get back to seeking the Lord and and to get back into the race and back to run again. What had been set before him. You think about Queen Esther? How well did she do against the potential that she had? Well, there was some. Scary moments for a little bit where, you know, perhaps she wasn't going to fulfill her potential. I think as you consider the scriptures, you can have a a bit of freedom. To say she she did. Well, fulfilling the potential that God had set before. Of course, we don't know everything and you know the Lord is the one who evaluates that. It's really not up to us to evaluate, but but I spend this time to evaluate some of these people here to help us understand there is this. Opportunity and possibility to really do. Well, in our race. And there is also the opportunity and the possibility. To really do poorly. In our race, it's not automatic that we. Run the race to win and it's not automatic that we measure up to our potential. It's not going to happen. Except with. The help of the Lord. And a deliberate effort, and it extenuating effort, an overwhelming effort. People don't win races. On accident, casually. Just by chance. They win races. With great effort being extended. Towards it. It's a pretty powerful. Illustration that Paul gives us here. And it's one is I've been reading through it just since. A stirring of something the Lord stirring up something for me and speaking to me, and even tonight as I walk through this passage with you, I can't clearly articulate exactly what this means for you, but I can articulate that I sense the Holy Spirit is speaking to me about this, and there's going to be. Perhaps more clarity, hopefully in. The days ahead and the weeks ahead. That the Lord wants to minister. To me about this. It's something that I share with you this evening. Where I could. I almost did it, but I decided not to pull the stunt but have a mirror up here and and and talk to myself and say Jerry. Your life is a race against your own potential. That that each of us would look in the mirror and understand this. This is for real. And one day I will stand before God. You will stand before God. And you could see like the progress. Bar like here is your. Potential where in the range. Did you fall? Where did you? End up in the Reece that you ran. In this life. Well, let's walk through the passage starting here in verse 24 for point #1 determine to run your best race, understanding that it's a race, not against somebody else, not against everybody else. It's a it's a race against yourself, really. And the the potential of what God has given to you. Understanding that races are not one accidentally or half heartedly. There, there needs to be what Paul is encouraging us here in verse 24 is a a determination he's calling us to make a choice. To make a decision, verse 24, do you not know that those who run in a race all run? But one receives the prize. Run in such a way that you may obtain it. Paul here is using the illustration of a race. He's pointing it directly at the Corinthians, directly at you and I tonight. And he's saying you need to run, you need to. Approach life this way. That you would. Have victory in life. In the same way as the winner of the race has victory in the race that they run. Do you not know? Of course they know this. He's he's addressing something very obvious here. Everybody in the race runs. But one receives the prize. Apparently Paul didn't know about. Participation trophies, right. That comes later in history. In the Corinthian Games, one would receive the prize. The one who ran. Really well for. Their potential but was at the back of the pack. They didn't receive a price. They didn't get a for effort. Reward for, you know, trying hard and doing their best. Only the one who crossed the line first at the end received the prize and and the the contrast that Paul is painting here is there's all that run. But one receives the prize. There are many who enter into races today with no intention of trying to receive the prize. No intention of even finishing the race. Sometimes, sometimes it's just. I'm going to go half a marathon, not the full thing. I'm going to go just a mile. I'm just going. I just want to be part of the experience. There's a few in those races that really want to win. And they're they're the limited ones competing for first. Now you get to something like the Olympics. And of course, everybody on the track, they want to win. And they are fighting hard, and every one of them is doing as much as they can as best as they can, sometimes through great pain and agony running over, you know, with broken bones and. And sleepless nights and. But they're doing everything they can, giving every last ounce of effort and coming in second place. And there's only one who gets the prize. There's only one who gets the gold. Many try and many try incredibly hard. But only one succeeds and is the winner. Of the race. The point that Paul is making here is you don't get credit for just being in. The race. It's not automatic, it's not easy. It's not accidental that the runner wins the prize. One receives the prize. We love to think about eternity and the blessings that will have in heaven, right and, and and sometimes it can kind of lull us into a little bit of sleep and thinking like it's just going to be great. And so I don't have to put any efforts. I don't have to do anything deliberate. I don't have to work hard or sacrifice here. Because eternity is just going to be glorious. And so, you know, that's enough. I'm just good with that and. Eternity is going to be glorious. But Paul is calling us out of that lethargy of just approaching life in a nonchalant well, hey, at least I'm in the race, you know, that's all that matters. Paul says no run in such a way that you may obtain the prize. You need to run hard. You need to be devoted. You need to be dedicated. You need to be giving yourself entirely to this race that is set before you. Now I think we do need to be careful as we evaluate this to not think of and equates running the race in a way that we would obtain the prize that that doesn't equate to. That doesn't automatically mean just do more things and be more busy. Although it might mean you need to do more things and be more busy, but but it's not automatically. It's not run more races, right? It's run your race. What has been set before you and I think the context will help us understand really what Paul is talking about here. And so I'm going to back up a little. Really, we begin this whole section of Corinthians back one chapter, Chapter 8, verse one, Paul says now concerning things offered to idols. We know that all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And so we find 1 Corinthians chapter 8A change of subjects. I often point out when we enter into a new chapter, we're not necessarily changing subjects. Chapter eight of 1 Corinthians. That's one of those times where. We are changing subjects. Now concerning things offered to idols, Paul is writing to the Corinthians in response to questions. That they have asked him. They had sent him a message, asked some questions he heard about some problems, and so he's been responding to that in chapter seven, he was responding to questions they had about marriage and intimacy and remarriage, and all of those things. Now he's changing subjects. OK, I answered those questions. Now let's talk about things offered. To idols, let me answer this question for you. But Paul here takes an interesting approach. He's not just going to give a one line answer to this question. The question was, is it OK for Christians in Corinth in that day in that culture to eat food, meats that had been sacrificed to idols? Now some believers in Corinth were doing that. It was cheaper meat. You could get it as a discount if it had already been used as a sacrifice. It is cheaper meat than meat that had not been sacrificed to an idol, so it was a convenience thing. It was an economic thing. It was a feasting thing, and some Christians were doing that and others. In Corinth, were really bothered by it. How can you eat something that has been offered to a false God? Offered to something demonic? How can you be part of that at all, even if it is a good deal? Now Paul, as he answers this question, he doesn't just. Give an answer and then move on, but really he spends chapter 8-9 and ten responding. To that question. He doesn't. Just here's the truth. Next thing next subject. This whole. Triplet of chapters is. In response to this question, there is truth that Paul is sharing. There is there is an absolute truth to the question that is being asked. But Paul is doing more than just answering the question because he's understanding. He's recognizing the attitude of those who know the truth about the situation. The attitude of those who know the truth about doctrine. Their attitude is wrong, and so they're right about the doctrine, but they're wrong about their practice. They're wrong about how they're treating others and how they are responding to the questions and hurts and criticisms. Of the people around them. And this is an important thing to understand. There is a wrong way. To exercise rights that you have. There's, there's a lot of liberty that we have in. Christ, a lot of freedom that we have bought and purchased for us by Christ that that has been given to us a lot of grace and a lot of mercy. We have a lot of rights and a lot. Of freedoms but. That doesn't mean. That we should always experience. And cash in on all of our rights and freedoms. And there can be a very wrong way to exercise our rights. This is what Paul makes the point of in 1 Corinthians, chapter 8, verse 9. He says beware, lest somehow this liberty of yours became become a stumbling block to those who are weak. So there are those who have this liberty because they have a better grasp of doctrine and understanding. But he says, guys, you gotta watch out because the way that you're exercising this right is wrong. And you're creating stumbling blocks. You're creating hurts and pain in people's lives and in the body of Christ. Paul also addresses this issue in Romans Chapter 14. Where the same question is being wrestled with Romans, chapter 14, verse 21, he says it is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine or do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have? Faith have it to yourself before God. Happy as he who does not condemn himself. In what he approves. Paul says they're to the Romans about the same issue. Look, you have no problem eating meat. OK, great. Have that to yourself before God. If you could do that privately and not offend and stumble, anybody, enjoy that meat that has been sacrificed to idols you. Have that liberty. But same problem there if you disregard what is happening and and you exercise your right in a way that is. Stumbling or offending or hurting others. Then you're exercising your rights wrong. And so Paul concludes in 1 Corinthians chapter 8, verse 13. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat. Lest I make my brother stumble. Paul saying my priority is not, hey, it's a good deal. It's a good feast. My priority is does it hurt anybody? If it hurts anybody, I'm not gonna do it. I I I'm willing to sacrifice. I have the rights. I have the freedom. But I won't partake of that if it causes my brother to stumble. And that launches Paul, that last verse of Chapter 8 launches Paul into Chapter 9, where he is essentially saying look, follow my example. I willingly give up my rights so that I can better fulfill my calling. And Chapter 9 he walks through some of the rights that he has surrendered. Verse four, do we have no right to eat and drink? Do I not have the right to enjoy? A good feast. Enjoy lavish. Celebrations and joyous times of food and drink do I do I not have that right? It's a rhetorical question. The obvious answer is. Yeah, he has the right. Just like the Corinthians have the right. But he doesn't partake of that right. Not that he can't. Not that it would be wrong for him to do so, except for he decided that's going to hinder. The race that God has set before me. He surrendered the right to have a spouse. Verse five. Do we have no right to take along a believing wife? Would it be wrong for an apostle to bring? Along a spouse. As they're ministering from place to place, no, it wouldn't be wrong, Paul points out here. The other apostles do that. The brothers of the Lord do that, and Peter does it. They all have their wives with them as they go from place to place and travel, and they have a spouse and their spouses with them and. Provided for and taken care of. I have that right, Paul says. But I choose to surrender that right. It's not part of. What God has given to further the race that he has set before me? He's also surrendered the right. To income. From his ministry ministry to the Corinthians, verse 6 is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? These other apostles, they go around, they refrain from working. Paul says I have the right to refrain from working and to say hey Corinthians, I'm here ministering to you. You ought to provide. For me, I have that right and the rest of these verses here in Chapter 9 as he goes on, really lay out that right. Biblically this is, you know, established in the scriptures. This is something that God has said. But even though I have the right, Paul says. I refrain. It's a choice that I'm making. In verse 15 he says I've used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done. So to me, I'm not saying OK, now take up an offering and start providing me for the ministry, you know and. Giving to me that offering that is brought in. No, I'm not. I'm not writing for you to do that. He says it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void. This is my race. I've made these deliberate decisions and I don't want anything to counteract that. To sabotage that, I I want to run the race. I got a set before me and I've willingly laid down rights. I've willingly laid down freedoms that I have. And I don't want anybody to try to take that. Away from me. This is what I'm doing for Jesus. In verse 23 kind of recapping some of the things that he's doing here, the rights that he lays down, the way he surrendered, he says I. Do this for the gospel's sake. That I may be partaker of it with you. I'm doing this for the gospel, the mission that God has given to me. And so Paul here walks them through these things. Again, these are my rights. I'm laying down. You have the right to eat. But you're exercising your rights in a way that is wrong. Look at me and how I've laid down my rights. I'm calling you guys to follow my example run in such a way that you may obtain the prize. Because you are not running to win right now as you're exercising all of your rights, and who cares who's hurt or offended by it? Listen, Corinthians insisting on your rights. Enjoying your freedoms and stumbling other believers having the proud. And lavish lifestyle. That's that's not running your best. You have the freedom. You have the right, but you're not running your race to win. So here Paul is. Making it clear. You need to determine to run your best race. That doesn't mean run more races. Doesn't even necessarily do mean do more things. It might mean do less things, surrender more rights, surrender more liberties. It's not about being, you know, involved in some system of where you have a a count of how many things you do and making sure you. Meet your quota. It's more about looking at what is the calling that is set before me. And what is the best thing for that calling? Am I determined to run my best race and if something interferes, if something would get? In the way. That I. Would be willing to lay that aside. Surrender that. So that it doesn't get in the way. The race that God has called me to. And my cross country race. The only thing I was. Willing to try hard at was to not lose. And you know, sometimes we are like that as believers. And I think this is a little bit of. Something that the Lord is. Challenging me with as I'm working through these things. Reading through these things, praying through these things. No, to try to be clear, I mean I like to be honest and genuine, and so I'm not. Probably encouraged to share some of the things that I share, but sometimes I do and so I will and you know, come with me, but hopefully it doesn't hinder anybody else's race. But I I. Wouldn't suggest at all that I haven't, you know, been. And doing my best at ministry things at opportunities that God gives me. At the same time, I'm thinking about my mindset and and I can see myself. Kind of having. Some bad ideas in my head, some some wrong thoughts. You know, there's that saying I often share that seat and can't take anything away that God has for us. What he can do is to try to give us to give it up on our own. And and so as I've been praying through this, I've been wondering have I been? Believing some of his lies. Have I been kind of believing some of the deception that he has sought to bring? And that's why, perhaps, as I was reading through this and preparing for it, the the, the message that God has been giving to me is get back in the race, get back in your race. Again, not that I show up on a Sunday morning and I'm just like, hey, you know, I'm just trying to like, not fail here. So just as long as I don't lose this message, you know? At the same time. I do see the the way that I would picture it is this way. You know you can be in the ocean pounded by waves, right? And and you can have two different postures. You can have the posture of like I just don't want to be crushed by. The wave. And you can have the posture of I'm going to conquer this wave. I'm going to get through this wave so I can get out to. Bigger waves. And it it's the same water. It's the same waves, but it's a different posture, right, in a similar way, I I wonder, I wonder if my mind has been where it needs to be and my heart has been where it needs to be. Where I've been maybe caught up in, you know. I've even expressed this to many of the guys around here. I I went there, I don't know it maybe the Lord is done with me. Maybe my my ministry. My time is winding down. Maybe I'm not, you know, don't have much race ahead of me. Not don't have much road ahead of me. Maybe. Maybe my season's about up. A few weeks back, we met with some of the guys. Some of the guys who are on the board. And there were some concerns shared and some doubts about where my heart was in regards to ministry and where, you know, where my priorities were and. You know, I don't share this as like there was like this radical come to Jesus moment or anything like that, but. But the doubts cause me to think because. The doubts didn't reflect. My analysis of my heart and my mind. But the doubts made me think, well, what am I portraying? What is my posture and maybe? There is. Some evidence. Externally of. This struggle, this deception, these ideas. That have been happening internally. And it can be. Quite a self fulfilling prophecy, can't it? Where I walk around many times really convinced and I just say this honestly. And please don't try to correct it, right? But I just have a sense most of the time that everybody is disappointed in me that that I'm just letting the church down. I'm letting the board down. I'm letting my wife down. I'm letting my workplace down. I'm let. You know that that is. You know, part of how I feel, which I know is not real necessarily, but it is part of where I'm at. Many times. Most of the time, I would even say that that it just is like. Ah man, I know. And it's not that I want to be out of ministry and that's why I might be thinking that way. It's more like. There could be someone it could be. So much better off. So much better cared for, and and that thought process has. Put me many times in this place of I'm just trying to not get pounded by the wave. I'm not trying to conquer. I'm just trying not to lose the race. Individual things, specific things. I give it my all. But overall in the race that got us set before me, I might not be giving. It my all. Pluses, run your wreaths to win. When it comes to times of worship. Like tonight. Short on time wrestling to. Get everything done right. I'm practicing for about 10 minutes before service. Can I do better than 10 minutes of practice for a time of worship? Of course I can. Should I do I need to? Is it? Is it the practice of the chord transitions that I need to practice or is it the practice of? The heart preparation that I need to invest in. Again, it's not necessarily doing more things, but. Did I? Did I run that race to win tonight? Did I run this race to win tonight? Am I running my overall race? To win, Paul says, run determine not everybody wins. Only one person wins and and you only have yourself to compete with here, you need to measure up to your potential. What what God has given to you. And that doesn't mean that it has to be a perfect and flawless race that you have those stumbling and you miss that turn and you fall over and you roll down the hill and will. Get back up. Brush off those you know leaves and twigs that are stuck to your leg and get back on the the track and start to run again. Determined to run your best race no matter how many times. I fall no. Matter how many times I fail, I gotta get back up. No matter how many times I let people down or no matter how many times I let the Lord down, I gotta get back up and determined to run my best race. Satan can't take anything away. But he. Can get us. To just try not. To lose, he's already making progress. He's already accomplishing some of his desires and his goals. There's much more that God has for us. Don't settle for a second or last or second to last. Run your best race be determined. There's so much glory that you can bring to God. There's so much that you can do on his behalf in his Kingdom. There's so much that God has for you. Well, verse 25 gives us point #2. Prioritize eternity to run your best race, verse 25 says, and everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. As he continues to think about the race and the runners in the race, he says look, those who compete. They live their life for that competition. They they govern their whole life. All things he says. There's no part of their life that is not impacted. By this competition, when they're in a race, you think about an Olympian. For years, their whole life is devoted and dedicated to that. 2 minutes on the track. And they govern them. That what? How much they sleep. What kind of food they eat, how much free time they have, how much fun time they have, how many movies they watch, what, what time, you know, they get up in the morning, what time they go to bed, how much they pursue other jobs and careers. Like, all of that is governed by. The mission. The competition. Everyone who competes for the prize is temperate. In all things. Commentator Andrew David Masali says Olympic athletes had a reputation for strictly exercising self-control in sex and diet. The athletes, according to some accounts, swore and oath that they did not have sexual intercourse, eat meat or drink wine for 10 months prior. To the games. There was a 10 month training period for the Corinthian Games. And the athletes would have to promise. I didn't eat meat. I behaved myself. I walked this way. Followed all the. Rules the rules were not just governing how they ran on the track, but governed their whole lives. And athletes submitted to those rules and they were temperate. They they were self controlled in all things. In order to compete to have a chance to win the prize. And Paul says they do. It to obtain a perishable crown. But we for an imperishable crown, another contrast, this illustration he's using here with the race is to give us a lot of contrast to consider. Those guys for 10 months. Or Olympic athletes today for years and years. Strictly regulate their lives. They're temperate in all things. And they do it to obtain. A little flower. There's a little flower from our yard. Her garden. Now it's seen better days. But this is what they would get. They would get a wreath that would be put on their head. It was. It would wither and die after a couple of days. It would be no better than this flower. And they would work so hard. To have the bragging rights of what they did in winning the games and have a fading branch put upon their head. Paul says, look, they do that for this. They just do it. We're so hard, so dedicated, so devoted for for this little thing. That's not going to last. But we do it for an imperishable. Crown the the reward for us. Like there's no comparison in the contrast. You can't have a great enough contrast to show how little that perishable crown is compared to the eternal weight of glory. That God has in store. For those. Who are devoted to him? And so they sacrificed greatly. For something so insignificant, and yet the contrast, what Paul is addressing to the Corinthians. We have something far greater and so. It it should be natural for us to be willing to sacrifice at least as much. To sacrifice greatly for the. Far superior greater reward that awaits us. But we have to prioritize eternity. If you prioritize the temporary, you're. You might be willing to sacrifice for it, and you might sacrifice greatly for the temporary. But you're not going to run. Your best race. Listen, we're all adults. We understand this concept of sacrificing to achieve something. And how we count it worth it? As an adult, you do this all the time regularly. You know what it's like to work hard and to sacrifice to reach a goal that you have set to obtain something that you have set before you. But think about. This how many wreaths have you obtained? That have withered and died. How many goals have you reached that ended up not actually being very valuable for you, even though you worked really hard at it, even though you sacrificed greatly and you got what it was you were. Trying to get. And then. Days later, weeks later, months later. That wreath fades and you realize I worked so hard for that, but. It wasn't as valuable as I thought. Every one of us has that experience. That's not true in the things of the Lord, you prioritize eternity and you run your best race. And the prize that you get is imperishable and worthwhile. But every goal that you achieve. Through great sacrifice. Is just as perishable as this flower. If that goal is not part of God's. Plan for you. Doesn't matter how hard you work at, it doesn't matter how much you sacrifice for it. If that goal is not part of God's will for you. God's plan for you. You might get it. But it's perishable. It's not going to last. It's not going to. It's not going to fulfill. If you're going to run your best race, you need to prioritize eternity. FB Meyer says he points to the denials. The hard training, the severe discipline to which men who took part in the game subjected themselves. No one thought it strange that they should sacrifice so much for the chance of winning. Why then? Should he be counted eccentric? Who sought to or who sought the certain reward. Of gaining new. Lovers of his masters cross, why should it be so strange? Eccentric how crazy. To sacrifice greatly for the cause of Christ, for the Gospel's sake, Paul says. I do this for the gospel sake. In verse 23, I forego rights. I sacrifice greatly. I'm. Temperate in all things. I adapt to the audience that I'm at to Jews. I became Jews to Romans, I became Romans. I those with the law. Those without the law. I'm doing everything that I can. Because I've prioritized eternity. Corinthians you're prioritizing your rights, you're prioritizing your temporary. We want to have a good feast, and it's cheap. If we get these. Meets sacrifice to idols. I'm sorry it hurts you, but I wanna have a good feast. I wanna have a good time. Prioritizing the temporary, prioritizing the moment instead of eternity. You need to prioritize eternity, Paul says in second Timothy 4. There's laid up for me the Crown of Righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved his appearing. There's there's a crown, there's. A reward. Those who love his appearing. They're they're prioritizing eternity. There's a prize. There's a crown pluses. I'm right there. I'm about to enter into eternity. I can't wait to receive it, but to understand it's not just for me. It's not just for apostles. Every believer in Jesus has the opportunity. Run your best race. Put eternity first. Prioritize it. And there's a great reward in store for you. Verse 26 gives us point #3 focus on faithfulness to run your best race. Verse 26. Therefore, I run thus not with uncertainty. Thus I fight not as one who beats the air. Paul says This is why I run the way that I run. I run this way, not with uncertainty. It's not unclear to me which way that I'm running. Which way is Paul running? Towards the gospel. Towards the call of God in his life in verse 16 here of Chapter 9, he says if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to. Boast of, for necessity, is laid upon me. Yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel, for if I do this willingly, I have a reward. But if against my will I've been entrusted with the stewardship. Whether I want to do this or not, this is the call. And and I can resist it and do it begrudgingly. It's a matter of faithfulness. It's a matter of. Stewardship, but if. I do it willingly. There's a reward. And so I'm gonna focus on faithfulness, and I'm gonna willfully choose to run the race that is set before me. I'm not going. To be uncertain. About I don't know if I really want to do what God wants me to do. I don't know if I want to. Do you know the the the race that God has set before me? Now, this isn't saying that Paul always knew exactly God's plan. With him, you walk through book the book of Acts, and Paul tried to go to this area and God said no. He tried to go to that area, he said. God said no, he wrote to the Romans and said, look, I've been trying and trying and trying to find a way within the will of God to get over to you. He he didn't have the blueprint of his life. And know exactly there was uncertainty about the details. Of when and where and and those exact things. But what was clear all the time was it doesn't matter what it takes. It doesn't matter what it costs me, I am determined to be faithful to God. Whatever doors he opens, that's what I want to go through. Whatever he calls me to, that's what I'm going to do. It doesn't matter if it aligns with what I was hoping for or dreaming about. I want to do God's will. His will be done. Not my will. So I run with certainty I'm running. To be faithful. To God, and thus I fight not. As one who beats the air. Paul says I don't fight empty battles. I fight. There's battles. But but I fight the battles that are worth fighting. I'm not wasting time to swing in, like, hey, let's just, you know, debate some theoretical things that have no consequence and no, don't matter. Here he's saying I'm willing to engage in battles. But I'm not gonna engage in battles that have no benefit genealogies, which have no end. Right. All these contentions and and things. I don't want to fight things that don't matter. Earlier in 1 Corinthians chapter six, he tells the Corinthians. Are taking each other to court. He says what's wrong with you? Why wouldn't you rather be wrong and lose money? Have someone wrong you in the church than to. Bring shame to the name of Christ by taking your brother and sister in the Lord to court. Why wouldn't you rather accept wrong? Why wouldn't you? Rather focus on faithfulness, your faithfulness to God. Why is winning that battle winning that debate, winning that conversation more important to you than your faithfulness? To God. 1 Corinthians chapter 4, Paul says. My mission is faithfulness, he says. Consider us servants of Christ, stewards of the mysteries of God, and what's required of stewards that you be found faithful. He goes on to say I don't know of anything against me. People are judging me all the time. I don't know of anything against me, but that doesn't make me and it's it's God who's my. Judge, I just gotta do my best. I don't know everything. I gotta do. My best to be faithful to the. Lord, who called me. Focus on faithfulness. To run your best race doesn't mean you have all the answers and know all the details. But it's keeping yourself in that place. Of Lord whatever you want. Objective is to be faithful to you. Finally, verse 27 gives us point #4 discipline yourself to. Run your best race. Paul says I discipline my body and bring it into subjection. Lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. Paul says I discipline myself, run this race like me. I discipline myself. Athletes are temperate and all things they govern their whole lives around this competition that they're working towards. We need to do the same. And we need to be. Disciplined in our body. To be disciplined, not allowing our feelings, not allowing our cravings, not allowing our desires to govern and dictate all that we do. But that we bring our body, he says. I bring my body into subjection. I tell my body to submit to me. And that doesn't mean we deny the reality of feelings and emotions and desires. It doesn't mean you know, but but that we don't allow them to be the boss. So Paul says I endure. I'm willing to suffer. Notice what he says in verse 12 here in 1 Corinthians 9. If others are partakers of this right, that is provision. Are we not even more? Nevertheless, we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the. Gospel of Christ. We we purposely did not partake of the rights of provision, but that doesn't mean that everything was just hunky Dory. We had to endure all things. That means there were times where we were hungry because Corinthian Church wasn't providing for us. We're doing our best to provide for ourselves and our side job, but. There were times we went hungry. There were. Times we were cold. Paul tells Timothy and second Timothy 4. Hey, bring my cloak when you come because it's cold, I'm shivering. I'm willing to shiver for the gospel. I'm willing to shiver to be faithful, but there are these times I have to endure. It's cold. Discipline yourself. Be willing. To let your body shiver. And grumble. And thirst. And ache. Discipline your body. To run your best race. In 1 Corinthians chapter 6, Paul says all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. Then he says it again. In chapter 10, all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. Not all things edify. There's a lot of freedoms I have. There's a lot of rights that I have. But I'm going to discipline myself. I can't run my best race just like a athlete can't run their best race, eating all the ice cream. You know that one might want or all the. Doctor Pepper that one might want, or all of the chocolate cake that one might want just like. A athlete can't sleep all the sleep that they want to sleep and can't. Pursue all the other things that they want to pursue, that there has to be this discipline, this saying no, this bringing. Yourself into subjection. Paul says lest when I've preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. If you were disqualified from. The games means you had no chance to win a prize. It didn't mean you lost your citizenship. Paul's not talking about salvation here, right? He's just saying. I don't wanna lose my reward. I've worked so hard thus far, I don't want. To lose the reward. FB Meyer puts it this way. He had No Fear of being rejected. But he feared lest God who used him so wonderfully should cease to do so and should cast him aside in favor of someone more unselfish. More submitted, more free. From that. Which would excite prejudice. Paul says. I don't. I don't want to lose out to someone who is more submitted to God and they have to take over my race because I couldn't discipline myself. No, I want to finish my race. And so I disciplined myself. Back in 1 Corinthians chapter three, he talks about building on the foundation right, and the work is going to be tested by fire. And hey, if all of your. Work is burned up. Because you didn't discipline yourself, he says you'll still be saved, but so is through fire. But if the work endures, there's there's reward. And so we discipline ourselves to finish the race. To bring it to completion. To enjoy the reward that God promises to us. Hebrews chapter 12 verse one gives us this exhortation. Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance. The race that is set before us. The weights, as opposed to the sin sins are obvious things that hey, this is a violation of what God has called us to lay that aside, of course. But there's also the weights. Which goes back to the rights and the freedoms that Paul's been talking about. There are some rights and freedoms that you have. That are weighing you down that are keeping you from running the race that you've got that God has set before you. And Paul reminds us tonight. Listen, your life is a race against your own potential. You're going to stand before God and be measured. Did you cast off all the weights? That you lay aside the sin that is wrapped up around you and easily ensnares you. How did you do? Compared to the potential. That God had given to you. You're not going to. Win and be victorious by accident. You're also not going to do it in your own effort in. Your own strength. And we need God's help in all of this, and we need the empowering of the Holy Spirit to do any of this. But it doesn't happen for us. And the Holy Spirit is not going to force us to. Run our best race. We have to choose. We have to come alongside with the Lord and say, Lord, this is your will and I'm making it my will to you. I'm determined to run my best race. And I'm going to prioritize eternity and value that more than anything else, and look forward to what you have in store there and to value the things that are unseen because those are eternal. I'm going to deliberately reprioritize. My values, my heart, my mind, my schedule. So I can focus on faithfulness. But what I need the most is to do what you've called me to do. And if that requires some discipline. So saying no to things, I'm cutting out of things. Some laying aside of weights, some removing of sin that is wrapped up around us. Or whatever it takes for faithfulness to you. I want to run the race. To win the prize. How well did Abraham do? How well did Samson? Or Saul or David. How well did Peter do? How well did Paul do? How well did Jesus do? Jesus is the only one who's ever met his full potential. We're not going to be 100%. How close can we get? How far can we make it? Down the path. That the Lord has called us to you. Your life is a race against your own potential. Run it. In such a way as to obtain the prize Lord, I pray that you would help us to do that. Fill us with your spirit. Or that we might come in agreement with you and make up our minds. To run for you to run with you to run towards you. To put you first. Above all things. I pray God that you would lead us. And accomplish your will your plans and your purposes through us. We pray this in Jesus name.