Nehemiah 9:22-10:27; 1 Corinthians 9:19-27; Psalms 34:4-10; Proverbs 12:4
NT: “Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people… I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, so that I may share in the blessings. Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:19, 22b-27 CSB)
Once Paul came to faith in Christ, he had one overarching goal: to serve the Lord and glorify God by preaching the gospel, winning souls and discipling those believers to maturity in Christ. That was the race Paul was running in. The prize that Paul was after was an imperishable crown of glory given to him by the King of kings for a job well done. In order to effectively present the gospel to everyone he encountered, Paul took every effort to be relatable to everyone. He didn’t change the message of the gospel, but he changed how he approached the gospel, depending on the audience. To a Jewish audience, he would approach the gospel from a Jewish perspective and made sure he didn’t do something that was offensive to Jewish sensibilities. To a gentile audience, he would approach the gospel from a gentile perspective and made sure he didn’t require anything from the gentiles that wasn’t necessary. Being all things to all people didn’t mean that he compromised on the gospel message or compromised on righteousness to relate – but he did tweak his approach.
In order to remain above reproach in every setting, Paul limited himself in what he allowed in His life. Often times, an athlete’s lifestyle looks very different during training season than during off season. During training season, athletes are very careful with what they eat, with how much they sleep, with the amount of extra-curricular activities they partake in, etc. During training, athletes are very disciplined – and their singular focus it to perform at the best they are able in order to win the prize. It is an athlete’s love for their sport, commitment to excellence, and devotion to win that drives their discipline. Paul said that he had the same attitude about his life in Christ. He desired to perform at the highest level possible in order to win the most souls for Christ and have the maximum impact on those he taught. In order to do that, He disciplined himself and didn’t allow himself to live like he was in the off-season. For Paul, there was no off season – so daily, he practiced the self-control that is a fruit of the Spirit and disciplined himself unto the devotion he had to serve and glorify God. Paul’s discipline was not born out of legalism or asceticism, but out of love and devotion to the Lord who had saved him and given him new life. His life was not his own. The same should be true of us who name Jesus Christ as our Lord. Are we living our lives like we are in off-season, or are we disciplined in our devotion to the Lord and His purposes?
Psalms: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and rescued me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him from all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and rescues them. Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him! You who are his holy ones, fear the Lord, for those who fear him lack nothing.” (Psalms 34:4-9 CSB)
David was a man who was devoted to the Lord. As part of his devotion, he disciplined himself in seeking the Lord daily in prayer, in reciting the word of God, in praising God for Who He was and thanking Him for all He had done, and in meditating on God’s truths. Even when David was on the run from his enemies, he did not forsake spending time before the Lord. In all his years of faithfully seeking the Lord, he came to find out that God is faithful to those who fear Him, who honor Him, and who humbly seek Him. So, David said to all who would hear him, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in Him!” For those who discipline themselves to seek the Lord daily and structure their day to allow time with God in the secret place, there are no regrets… only blessing. Even Jesus disciplined Himself to wake up early in the morning to spend time with His Heavenly Father. How much more should we do the same. If you don’t have that discipline in your life, it is time to start a holy and healthy habit. Taste and see that the Lord is good. If you discipline yourself to devotion, you will find there are no regrets – only blessing.
Prayer: Lord, just as it was with Paul, my desire is to be at the top of my game at every moment of the day, regardless the situation you lead me to. Even more than that being my desire, I know it is Your desire for me as well. In order to do that, I must depend on the fruit of the Spirit, which is self-control, and make the effort to bring disciplines in my life that will enable my devotion. Grace me to walk a disciplined life before You as I surrender my life to You in worship. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.