“Don’t you know that all the runners in the stadium run, but only one gets the prize?  So run to win.  Everyone who competes practices self-discipline in everything.  The runners do this to get a crown of leaves that shrivel up and die, but we do it to receive a crown that never dies. 

So now this is how I run — not without a clear goal in sight.  I fight like a boxer in the ring, not like someone who is shadowboxing.  Rather I’m landing punches on my own body and subduing it like a slave.  I do this to be sure that I myself wont’ be disqualified after preaching to others.”


SOAKING IT IN: Paul was a big believer in goals.  He understood that, for him, without goals, there was no motivation to move forward.  After Paul encountered Jesus, his main goal was and remained foremost to preach the gospel of Jesus and do it in as many places and with as many people as possible.  In order to accomplish this goal, Paul could not sit still and take time to enjoy or reflect or rest. 

He compared this work of his to that of an athlete preparing for “the Olympics” — running a race.  They didn’t run because they liked to run, they ran to win the prize…to have done the best job.  The reward they received was short lived – a crown of leaves that will shrivel up, and in the next competition, someone might be faster and the glory is over and done with. 

Paul compared himself to these athletes, but with a higher understanding of the prize he was working towards.  He was working towards enabling and enhancing the Kingdom of God.  This is an everlasting prize that will never shrivel and that is individual.  Paul welcomed and encouraged other contestants to join him in this race.  He further indicated that the self-discipline required here is imperitive to finishing a winner.  It would be a sad thing to do all the right things but forget the most important reason for doing them.  Paul, therefore, struggles with himself – boxing himself – to keep the main thing the main thing. 

When you are a public figure as Paul was, it can become all to easy to start drinking your own koolaid.  It can be easy to buy in to the fact that you are doing a good job and being noticed and celebrated and even loved, adored by many.  It could be easy to let yourself become the worshipped for doing such a great job rather than keep pointing others to the true One to be worshipped. 

Paul wanted none of this!  He wanted to stay his course with the goal in front of him so that in the end he was not disqualified for himself getting off track.  This takes self-discipline.  In our human condition, those who do a good job often receive lots of attention and accolades for their work.  In the midst of such hoopla, we must stay focused or else we will become self absorbed, unfocused and ineffective.  To be appreciated for one’s work is a good thing, but not the goal.  The goal must continue to be of excellence in doing the thing you are called to do.  Too much patting on the back might distract and pause what started out so well. 

Self-Discipline is defined as “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to aboandon it.”  Self control is defined as “the ability to contol oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations.”  It occurs to me that self discipline would be most difficult without the gift from the Holy Spirit of self control.  This work of the Holy Spirit in our lives through God our Father and the source of all our goals helps us with our human condition that could easily be overtaken in grandiose and selfish behaviors in the midst of success. 

Sharing God’s word is a very public opportunity, but without self control driving our self discipline, we are suceptible to egotistical demise and our goals become cloudy.  We must find and maintain balance moving on with the goal.  In those moments, we look to Jesus, our example who kept moving even when the crowds pressed in and wanted to elevate him.  He took his time away for prayer and focus and then made the next portion of the journey toward his goal.   

Lord, help us keep our focus and move on in the goals that you lay before us – achieving the eternal prize.  Let us run with Your wind beneath our wings and Your joy in our hearts and Your glory in our minds!

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