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But you don’t have to deliberately break the rules to be disqualified. It’s possible to unintentionally break the rules and still be disqualified. At the ’88 Summer Olympics there was an American boxer named Anthony Hembrick. He was disqualified from competition because he didn’t show up at the ring in time for his fight. The newspaper article states that “U.S. coach, Ken Adams, before returning to the athletes village with Hembrick, said he was under the impression the bout was scheduled to be the 11th fight of the day, just before 1 p.m. But Hembrick was actually scheduled to participate in the fifth bout of the day. He attempted to catch a bus from the village at 10 a.m., but the bus was packed, according to Canadian boxers and coaches who just got inside the doors. Hembrick didn’t catch a bus until 10:30, and was too late to be hurried by ABF officials waiting for him at the door of the boxing arena. His opponent was in the ring at 10:40, but Hembrick didn’t arrive until 10:52. … Angelo Dundee said, ‘It’s the responsibility of the head coach to check, double-check and triple-check the time. He’s an Army man, too, he should know that better than anybody. He’s been in the Army for 30 years. And he’s got assistant coaches.’ … Coach Adams said, ‘We had no idea it was that close to the time. I feel bad about it. I’ll take the blame. I feel for Hembrick. I wish there was something I could do.’” The article concludes by stating, “Hembrick, from Detroit, was considered one of the few U.S. fighters who had a legitimate chance to win a gold metal, in the 165-pound class.”

But Hembrick didn’t win a metal—he was disqualified. He didn’t deliberately try to break the rules. He did it unintentionally. He was sincere—but sincerely wrong. He was still disqualified.

Being disqualified from winning the race of the Christian life is a real possibility in our lives. Paul took the matter seriously and personally. You notice in 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul says, “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.”

Paul didn’t think that the prize was automatically his just because he was an apostle or because he preached to others. He knew it was a real possibility that even he might be disqualified if he failed to faithfully follow Christ.

That doesn’t mean that he would lose his salvation, but it does mean that he would lose the reward he would have received for successfully completing the race of the Christian life.

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