Summary: What's the goal of your salvation? It's not just about the assurance of Heaven! God has plans for you in the here and now. The apostle Paul compares our walk of faith with the races of the ancient games. You were never meant to be a spectator - you're
A Line In The Sand - 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 - May 1, 2011
Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, is the name he was given at his birth in 1840. In our tongue his name translates as, “Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain.” At his baptism he took upon himself the name of, “Joseph” and he succeeded his father as chief of his people in 1871. Until they were forced from it he, and his people, made their home in the Wallowa Valley of north eastern Oregon. But faced with ever increasing demands by, and threats from, the U.S. government of the time, Chief Joseph and his 800 followers of the Walllowa Nez Perce packed up all that they owned, left the land of their fathers, and began to head towards Canada where they hoped to find sanctuary.
In just over 3 months time the men, women and children of the Nez Perce, walked some 2600 kms as they travelled across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. They were pursued by some 2000 U.S. soldiers who brought them to battle several times during their journey. And yet, time and time again, Joseph, and his people, managed to escape as they fought to protect their families and their very way of life. (www.en.wikipedia.org)
Thinking that they had finally reached Canada, and therefore sanctuary, they gratefully made camp so that they might tend to the sick, the wounded, and the dying. It was while they were at rest, believing themselves to be safe, that the U.S. Calvary caught up with them one final time. In the slaughter that followed, scores of Nez Perce were killed.
Chief Joseph, in an effort to save the remnant of his people, spoke the words that captivated me as a youth, “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more, forever.” (www.thegoldweb.com) To use something of a contemporary expression we might say that that day, as Joseph spoke those words, he drew a line in the sand – a line that he would refuse to cross in all the days yet to come.
Now in many ways the story of his people, and their journey, might be considered heroic. For three months they overcame what seemed to be insurmountable odds, fighting what many might call, the ‘good fight.’ But we need to consider their story a tragedy as well because they stopped too soon. When they made camp that fateful day, thinking themselves to be safe, they were, in reality, just 60 km short of another line in the sand – the safety of the Canadian border. I can’t help but wonder how life might have turned out differently for them if they had just crossed that invisible line to freedom?
Well I want you to keep those thoughts in mind this morning as we turn, once again, to the word of God. Open your Bibles with me please, to the book of 1 Corinthians. 1 Corinthians, chapter 9, and I’ll begin reading in verse 24.
Now Paul visited the city of Corinth during the course of his second missionary journey. As he usually did when he arrived in a new place, he began to speak the word of God in the synagogues – speaking it to the Jews and telling them about Jesus. But when the Jews kicked him out of the synagogue he began to preach to the Gentiles. The 18th chapter of the book of Acts tells us that many of the Gentiles came to believe in Jesus through Paul’s preaching. Paul writes this letter to them some time later as he tries to encourage them in their faith and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. This is what he writes beginning in verse 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. 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. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Now in trying to teach these new Christians what it really meant to follow God, Paul had his work cut out for him because the Gentiles did not have the same background in the Word of God as did the Jews. The Jews grew up hearing about the great men and women of the faith who had gone before but the Gentiles knew none of these things. So Paul needed to find some way to help them understand what it meant to live for God, to be a disciple of Jesus, in their own day.