24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
1 Cor 9:24-27 (KJV)
Dr. Rev. Brian Germano preached the second in his series entitled Go for the Gold #2: Conditioning Required on the scripture from 1 Corithians 9:24-27 this past Sunday August 5, 2012. His blog can be found here. Here are some thoughts based on his sermon and his sermon notes. The questions I’ve posed are more for me than anything else, but I share them here just the same. Feel free to answer them or not; share or not as pleases you.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul outlines worldly people compete for worldly prizes meaning real, tangible things they can touch. This implies the ‘prize’ as something like treasure, money; or in our modern terms gadgets, material goods, or wealth. He tells us Christians should run this race before us but not for the same prize as those in the world because our prize is a spiritual one. He tells us we are to run just as hard with just as much effort but for a totally different reason. In Verse 27 Paul implies there are rules and ways we are to Condition, Train, and Discipline our bodies for this race. The race Paul is referring to here is living the life God has given us along the path He has laid out for us. But what are these implied methods and rules for training, conditioning, and discipline?
Conditioning is making what we do now more efficient. It is easier to run 3 miles, we can complete our weight training routine with less exertion, or we are able to more easily swim twenty laps. This is conditioning in a physical sense taking what we already do and making it easier to complete because our body has conditioned our muscles, cardiovascular system, and bones to better handle the stresses we are putting on them. In the physical sense this happens because we continue to perform the same exercises on a regular basis. If we stop exercising our bodies in total begin to atrophy and loose the ability to perform those physical tasks we once did.
The spiritual equivalent of conditioning is regular prayer. Prayer is the spiritual oxygen our souls require to condition our heart toward the word of God. Constant communication, discussion, and involvement with the Holy Spirit is what keeps our heart turned toward the love of God by prayer on a regular basis. In his sermon titled Go For the Gold #2: Conditioning Required, Rev. Germano says, “Prayer allows us to breath in the Holy Spirit and exhale the stresses of the day.”
1. How are you involved with your local church to discover more opportunities to pray for the world and community around you?
2. Where are you in your prayer life?
Training is the second aspect of improving upon what we have. Training is taking an activity like jogging and pushing the activity to get a faster time, or improve. In weight training we work to lift weights a set number of times over the course of time so our muscles build enabling us to lift more weight. Swimmers swim laps over, and over so they can get faster times during races. Training is performing a series of exercises designed to improve the bodies performance.
The spiritual equivalent of training is the study of God’s word as contained in scripture. God has outlined His ideas of what good and bad are in His word. We are to study that word to identify things in our lives we need to work on to get better. These things are what the Christian should focus on in his or her spiritual training so we can become better and more useful tools to God as His witnesses.
3. What are you studying now in God’s word?
4. What book or books are you reading now to train your heart, mind, and body toward God’s purpose?
The third aspect of spiritual conditioning is like motivation to train physically. We loose the strength, flexibility, and power we have built up over time through physical exercise if we do not continue to do it. If we are not intentional in our plan for our physical fitness we end up with less than the results we desire. For those of us who are in poor physical shape this intentionality sometimes takes the shape of an accountability partner or partners. These are people who call us out for being lazy, who we will let down if we don’t meet them at the gym, they are the reasons we overcome our own mental objections to the task and labor of physical exercise.
Intentionality in our spiritual lives is very similar to that same accountability in going to the gym. Intentionality in living for God takes the form of participation in and with a local church. Christian accountability forms itself around the body of Christian believers. We individually and in small groups give those around us permission to hold us accountable for our spiritual fitness. Dr. Germano calls this, “No Sloppy Living.” This permission is scriptural from Hebrews 10:24-25.
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Heb 10:24-25 (KJV)
5. What have you resolved to do intentionally for the Lord and His people?
Physical fitness is easy to identify. Firm and toned muscles, healthy skin, energy; these are things that identify an individual who is making an effort to maintain their physical fitness. Spiritual fitness manifests itself as well in an outward way. Cheerful attitudes, helpful demeanor, and aversion to gossip identify those who are tending to their spiritual fitness of the heart, among other outward signs. We are allowed and designed to be each other’s spiritual fitness trainers. The building that houses the local church is our spiritual gym. Accountability groups are the motivators who make sure we are reading, studying, and working on things to improve our understanding of God’s ways. It doesn’t take a New Year’s resolution to begin this sort of exercise regimen. It only takes a decision to do so, today, now, just as you are.
6. What is the true condition of your spiritual shape?
7. Do you have a small group or spiritual accountability partner?
8. Do you really want to grow in the spirit or are you content to live as you are?
9. What is the next step in your spiritual growth?
10. Are you going to work diligently to make that step a reality?