Here are two translations of Paul’s message to draw us away from complacency and onto athletic discipline that aims to win our personal race in the spiritual life. We are reminded that the prize for this race is not the fading, temporal kind but the eternal one that truly matters.
1Cor 9: NIV The Need for Self-Discipline
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.
1Cor 9: 24-25 MSG You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.
26-27 I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.
Transposing athletic discipine in the spiritual setting, the exercises can consist of regular time for
1. Reading, knowing, meditating on God’s Word, His love letter for us.
How can we grow in our relationship with Him if we disregard what He says or if we put words in His mouth? Wouldn’t that be like getting to know an earthly biological father by conceptualizing on our own what that father likes, dislikes, is like instead of listening to him, spending time with him and getting the answers from what he says? The conversation from daughter to father might sound like, “Dad, it’s okay with you if I don’t follow what you say or pay attention to all the things you’ve specifically outlined in your letter for me. As long as I’m speaking in a gentle manner and exhibiting patience, even if I’m deceiving people, that’s acceptable to you, right? Because my relationship with you is a private thing between you and me so I can choose what to pick up what feels like a good fit for me and drop what I don’t like… (These presumptions are examples of the strongholds and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God in 2Cor 10:4).
How can we create from our limited human capacity the eternal infinite God of the Universe like an artwork to suit our preferences? How can the created presume to create The Creator? How can the clay create The Potter?
2. Prayer of all types
3. Spiritual Breathing
Exhaling sin by confession and running away from temptations, application of biblical learning.
Inhaling by asking for the Holy Spirit’s filling and taking in His Word.
4. In daily activities, triumphs and struggles, being aware of God’s presence and just casting burdens to Him as they happen and seeking His guidance, or thanking Him.
5. Being in an accountability group that intentionally seeks to keep spiritual life in check.
Heb 10:24-26 NIV 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
6. Worshipping with other believers in church
7. Using spiritual gifts to edify other believers.
What other spiritual exercises can you share?