Intro: Have you ever looked for victory in your spiritual life but had it vanish like a mist of fog? Are you searching for what it means to be more than a conqueror but feel conquered most of the time? Do you sing victory in Jesus and really don’t believe that it’s possible. If you were honest would you say that true victory in the Christian walk is only for the super spiritual?
I believe we feel that way because we have forgotten that one of the of the portions of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. If there are commands and or directions in the Bible then Jesus has already told us in John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” In 1 Corinthians 10:31 we are told, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Why? Why should it be about God’s beauty, weight, and worth? Because when History ends it will be tied up with the scarlet cord of Jesus’ blood.
Paul does not compare the Christian life to a stroll. Paul compares the way we are to live in this life as a race. Dr Billy Graham was asked this in a television in interview. “What is it that makes you so different from other Christians?” Dr Graham simply replied, “I don’t have anything on anybody, I just try harder than most Christians.” Excellence requires sacrifices and self-control. Michael Phelps did not become the world’s greatest swimmer by lying on a lawn chair but by giving up things that other people were not willing to release. Paul is talking about the Isthmian games that took place every two years. There were all types of athletic contests running, boxing, gymnastics, wrestling etc. The athletes were so passionate about the contests that they sacrificed they way they ate, exercised, habits, etc. Jesus does not want us to be what other Christians are or have been. Instead he wants us to run toward His upward calling for us. So Paul explains and encourages us how to prepare and run for the glory and growth of God’s Kingdom.
I. We are called to endure the pain of running for victory
Read 1 Corinthians 9:25, 27
The word translated competes comes from the Greek word where we get agony or agonize. There is no room for a half-hearted effort when we are running for God’s glory. Paul is again not talking about running to salvation but recognition. Our recognition comes in the next life when we stand before Jesus at His judgment seat. Some will stand before Jesus and have the works of their lives burned up because of a half-hearted effort.
The athletes of Paul’s day changed their daily lifestyle for the purpose of passing glory. They would not have to pay taxes or serve in the military. We will share in the forever glory of God.
Discipline or self control is the Holy Spirit working in our lives. 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” NLT It appears to me that if you are not walking in discipline and self-control you are not walking in the Spirit.
Peter said that we will have “the crown of glory that does not fade away.” 1 Peter 5:4
He called it "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1:4-5).
Just because it is reserved for us and we are kept safe for it doesn’t mean that we are to passively sit back and do nothing. There is a tension in the Bible that Jesus has procured and prepared it for us but we are to faithfully chase after a closer walk with Jesus.
The passage in Hebrews gives a clear idea of what Paul is talking about here, “" Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2)."
What things that may not be deliberate sin can you lay aside for a closer walk and clearer witness of Jesus? What things do you release so that you can rely more heavily on Jesus? Are we too easily pleased with temporary things that we will not deny them for the forever thing?
II. We are called to expect the prize of running for victory
The crown that was won by the Greek athletes was a wreath of some wild plant usually celery. That crown would wither and fade sometimes before the races were even over. We are running for the reward of God’s approval. We are not running for acceptance. We are accepted in the beloved. That means because of Jesus life and death of obedience, and His resurrection of victory we are accepted. What we run for is God’s approval. How do we gain His approval?
Faithfulness to who he called us to be, to what he called us to do, to how he called us to do it.
III. We are called to enjoy the purpose of running for victory
John Piper said well, “God has not saved you to sit in the stands. God has not saved you to lie on the track. God has not saved you sit on the edge of the pool with your feet in the water. God has saved you to spend yourself for the glory of His Son.”
A) God’s reputation shared
B) God’s invitation offered
Think of the words that clearly reveal God’s invitation. Come, take, live,
IV. We are called to expend the passion of running for victory
We do not compete against flesh and blood in this race called faith. So why do we so passionately run?
Because as someone wisely said, “We are judged by what we finish not what we start.”
How do we bring this home practically? What is it that keeps us from pursuing Jesus passionately? Where do we need to seek His wisdom and word on self-control and discipline?
1 John 2:16 “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”
A) The craving for physical pleasure (The lust of the flesh)
This is of course allowing physical pleasure to rule your life. Sensuality in the Old Testament was represented by the idol Ashtoreth. Her followers worshiped her through every kind of sexual perversion possible. Today we don’t have temples in her honor however the false God is alive and well in the sex crazed and obsessed culture in which we live. Has she dealt you a blow with pornography, premarital sex, adultery or homosexuality? God never made sex a sin. It is the perversion of sex as a gift in marriage that distracts us from our race. Turn to Jesus to give you the ability to properly use the sexual passion given to you by God as a gift.
B) The craving for everything we see (The lust of the eyes)
We agonize against the idol Baal – the God of materialism. He promised wealth and success to anyone that admired him. As you live your life do things distract you from your passion for Jesus and His kingdom? You cannot serve God and money or possessions. Let you passion for faithfulness to Jesus reveal the rust and rot on worldly possessions.
C) Pride in our achievements and possessions (The pride of life)
Pride was represented in the Old Testament by Molech. Molech was the god of influence. Many falsely believed he would give them power if they fed his ego with the lives of their children. How important is pride and ego? Who do you sacrifice so that you can have temporary influence and recognition?
Conclusion: What exactly would God find if he opened the inner doorway to your heart? What controls your emotions? What controls your decisions? What controls your thinking? It takes self-control and self-denial for Jesus to be the King of all these. You can be just as effective as Billy Graham in your circle of influence if you will run for the prize.
There is an old saying, “Champions don’t become champions in the ring they are recognized there.” When you come to the race or the fight preparation is everything. When you are in the middle of the action it is clear whether or not you took a short cut.
What will it take for us as a body to become truly healthy? Health is a result of the Holy Spirits work and control in our life. Health doesn’t merely come from a desire for it but also from a discipline for it.