Summary: Many believers suffer "burn-out" or from lack of preparation. Like any other pursuit, if we are to be effective in service, we must make the proper preparations and condition ourselves spiritually.
The Conditioning in Discipleship
1 Corinthians 9: 24-27
Over the past several weeks we have been discussing discipleship and what the Scripture reveals about being a disciple of Christ. I am convinced the Lord desires every believer to be a disciple, but discipleship is not immediate following salvation. Some live for years following salvation and yet never fully surrender to the Lord and His will for their lives. One thing is certain: if we are to be a disciple, a learner and follower of Christ, we must be willing to submit to His leadership in our lives and follow His divine direction.
I think you will agree, based on our previous studies, that discipleship is not for the faint of heart or unprepared. Being a genuine follower of Christ requires commitment, sacrifice, and preparation. Our Christian journey is never referred to as a life of ease, but often a battle in which we are engaged. The enemy seeks to defeat and oppose every believer who determines to follow the Lord.
Paul understood the struggles of discipleship and the conditioning required to be successful. Our text today is familiar to the Bible student, and it is a great passage to consider regarding discipleship. Paul uses a competitive race to illustrate the believer’s walk, conditioning, and preparation to endure and finish the race we are engaged in for Christ. Let’s examine the observations of Paul as we consider: The Conditioning in Discipleship.
I. The Ambition Required (24) – Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. Paul discusses the ambition of a disciple of Christ. Consider:
A. The Participation (24a) – Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Really this should be apparent to each of us, but I fear we fail to comprehend the urgency of our time. Every runner in the race is expected to run if they have any chance of obtaining the prize. Merely contemplating running or dreaming of a prize will never provide success. If one is to obtain the prize, and win the race, he must be engaged in the race.
This is also true in our efforts for the Lord. We cannot expect to be effective disciples if we are not engaged in service to the Lord. Simply being aware of people who need the Lord, or those who need someone to come alongside them in support, is never enough. We will never become devoted disciples of Christ is we are not following Him, actively walking with the Lord and pursuing His will for our lives. If you want to be an effective disciple, you must enter the race!
B. The Prize (24a) – Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Paul also reveals the reward for finishing the race in first place. There is a prize awarded to the victor. In the games to which Paul referred, many would enter the race, and run the race, but only one would receive the prize. If they were to have any hope of winning the prize, they had to prepare for the race, enter the race, and endure until the end.
Our Christian journey for the Lord is not a “winner take all” race. We are all running the same race, and yet it is possible for every believer to obtain a prize. We are not in competition with each other, but we must all pursue the prize. What is the prize? First and foremost, when we run in obedience, we glorify the Lord. Second, we have the opportunity to win those who have yet to receive Christ. Third, we have the privilege of investing in fellow believers and strengthening the body of Christ. These treasures are eternal. Being obedient in service to the Lord may not pay much in this life, but there is an eternal reward waiting for the faithful.
C. The Pursuit (24b) – So run, that ye may obtain. This is simple, yet profound. There is a prize to win, but it will never be obtained by those who fail to enter the race. Paul urged the Corinthians to pursue the prize, to run in order to obtain!
There are a lot of races being run today, but few seek to obtain an eternal prize. Most have temporal ambitions for material things, but few are committed to serving the Lord. In fact, regarding service for the Lord, most are content to be spectators rather than pursuing the prize themselves. They are content to watch others run for the Lord, but fail to get involved. If we are to be effective disciples, we must pursue the Lord and His will for our lives!