I miss my workout partners. I miss the camaraderie and accountability of meeting friends to exercise each morning. With the goal of flat tummies and healthy bodies in mind, we lunged, and crunched and squatted for 30-45 minutes each day. We hated it. We loved it. But we did it to win a prize – a strong, healthy body.
So when I read these verses recently, I not only related to Paul’s illustration, I was reminded of something more valuable. Check it out:
“Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT)
You might have read those verses many times before, but let’s allow God to use them again today. Did you catch that 2nd sentence? As followers of God, we are like athletes who train bodies into submission so we can achieve the desired results – TO WIN! How much more important is our spiritual health? Our ability to overcome temptations? Our victory over depression? Our success in sharing our faith? Our ability to hear from God? Our usefulness in the hands of God?
Paul said that we should pursue our spiritual health (our relationship with God) with purpose in each step, training and disciplining ourselves with self-control.
What does that look like for us?
For me, each step of my spiritual growth is planned…just like an athlete with an exercise regimen.
- Read God’s Word consistently each morning
- Pray each day
- Set aside times in the year to pray and seek God in a more focused way
- Journal about my experiences with God
- Read a few books throughout the year to expand my knowledge or inspire me
- Attend a few events throughout the year designed to draw me closer to God
It’s not rocket science, but it works. Yet, these planned steps only work if I’m committed to doing them consistently. Like Paul said, I must “practice strict self-control” and train myself on what to do.
So, while I’m wholeheartedly pursuing a healthy body, I won’t pursue it more than I’m pursuing God.
While I’m wholeheartedly pursuing a fun family life, I won’t pursue it more than I’m pursuing God.
While I’m pursuing a clean, organized home, I won’t pursue it more than I’m pursuing God.
While I’m pursuing a vital ministry, I won’t pursue it more than I’m personally pursuing God.
While all of those things are valuable, they pale in comparison to our ultimate purpose as Christians – to love God with all of our heart.
I want to win the race and get the prize, and I want that for you, too! Let’s pursue God first, most, and best today!