Good morning everyone. My apologies for being late this morning but I took advantage of no kids and slept in. We are continuing with our look at 1 Corinthians 9.
Paul was unique in a number of ways but the one way I appreciate is in his perspective. He had an entirely different way of seeing the world and his place in it. It is sad to think we see it as unique because it shouldn't be. It is a perspective that should be shared by all of us; it is a Kingdom perspective. His perspective was partially due to the pressing need he felt to introduce Jesus to as many people as possible. It is a sense of urgency that we greatly lack. Consider this:
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. v. 19
Before we look at his practical application of this attitude consider the attitude itself. Although Paul knew the freedom he had in Jesus he chose to take on man made restrictions in order to infiltrate people's lives, to engage them, to find a way to make Jesus relative to them. He denied his freedom, denied it, in order to win people to Jesus. What kind of man was Paul? The kind that saw life differently than us:
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. v. 24
Paul saw his life in this light; he had been given a task and he knew he only had a little time to complete that task (all races come to an end) and so he approached it as a race. And Paul wanted to be the best at this task that we have all been given. Why?
I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. v. 23
And he was not willy nilly in his approach to it either. This was serious work and Paul recognized that he was still human with all our weaknesses. What is the biggest problem with us completing the task we have been given to preach the good news to the world? Slavery! We allow other things to take mastery over us and we do not do what we aught to do. Consider Paul again:
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. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. vv. 25-27
We know we cannot do things in our own strength, we are weak vessels. We need the strength of our Lord. But he gives us strength to do the things we are determined to do. He is not going to provide the determination or discipline for us to lead lives that honour him. He will provide the strength to beat anything that has mastery over us, such as too much television, food, finances, laziness, friends, fear, etc. All these things can dictate our actions instead of us dictating to them. How many times do we feel too tired to read the Word or to pray or to have a family over for a meal? Paul said he beat his body into submission to him. In other words he trained it, he took control over it so it would not dictate to him. Every athlete has to pust through fatigue and pain to win. Using Paul's illustration, a runner faces many obstacles in his body. Fatigue is only one. There is a lack of will in the body, there is pain to overcome, there is teh famous wall to push through. Look at the look on their faces; it is not an easy thing. What did Jesus warn his disciples?
"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." (Matthew 26:41)
All this to say that Paul considered we must train ourselves for this work, realizing the cost of it. It is not something that happens when we sit at home watching night after night of television. It only happens when we enage people in our community, when we do things we may not be comfortable with in order to fit in with them. That was Paul's practical application:
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. vv. 20-22
Perhaps I don't like sports but my neighbour does. So I learn about sports to enter his world and spend time together watching the games and chatting. It does not matter if I like it or not, it is for the sake of his salvation. Selfishness will not be my master. Perhaps I coach a soccer team to get closer to the parents. Perhaps I do not enjoy libraries but I volunteer there as a reader in order to engage people in their passions. I do not like bowling but I am invited onto a newly formed team, so I join to be with people. There are many examples where we take mastery over our dislikes in order to fulfill the task that has been given to us, and we do it with joy.
So ask yourself seriously, who is in control of your agenda and your daily life? Do you end up doing what you aught not to do or are you doing exactly what you were given to do; you are running the race with the attitude of getting that crown, of sharing in the blessings of the gospel? It is a much different way of seeing things than we are use to seeing them. Meet my new motto:
I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corthians 6:12)
I will not be mastered but we become volunteer slaves for the sake of the gospel.