“And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”
And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.
We get the English word “agony” from the Greek word for “competes.” It takes all our effort to win the race of the Christian life. At times it may be agony. It involves a “temperate” or a self-controlled approach to be a winner. Participants in the Isthmian Games trained for 10 months and stayed in tents during their entire stay. They had to be pure-blooded Greek and have no debt. They spent the last month in Corinth under supervised workouts. They had to deny personal pleasure in “all things.” Discipline gives us singleness of heart and oneness of aim.
Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown,
Those who won an Isthmian Game received a wreath of pine, olive, or ivy leaves that eventually perished. However, this reward involved more than just the crown, and the competitors got more than the symbol of ivy leaves. The city of the winner made a statue to the victor of a game and gave him privileges at all future Isthmian Games, a poet wrote an ode to his victory, he received a monetary reward, and he was exempt from taxation. This is why they went through the discipline to win. There was great value in winning.
but we for an imperishable crown.
The Christian’s reward is “imperishable.” God does not grant this crown because we are nice, but because we warrant it. There is greater value in winning the Christian life than the monetary win of the Isthmian runner. That is why we go through strict discipline. We need to know our goal of pleasing God and how to get to that goal. God gives five different crowns for five different purposes:
This passage in 1 Corinthians 9:25 is a crown for a disciplined Christian life.
1 Thessalonians 2:19, For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?
(This is the crown for winning people to Christ.)
2 Timothy 4:7-8, 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
(This is a crown for living a consistent Christian life.)
James 1:12, Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
(This is a crown for faithfulness under tribulation.)
1 Peter 5:4, and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
(This is the crown to the faithful pastor of a local church.)
Winning demands discipline, especially at winning the lost.
Those who wish to win the lost and be successful in ministry must have rigorous self-discipline. It takes great effort and agony to win. The winner limits personal privileges and indulgences to reach people. It takes giving up rights; we cannot limit liberty without self-control. A slovenly approach to winning the lost will not reach them.
Are you geared to the proposition that “I will be all things to all men that I might, by all means, save some?” Winning the lost demands discipline. We cannot divide our lives into numerous interests if we will effectively reach those without Christ. Jesus stands at the finishing line with a trophy, so we are not satisfied with just making the squad. Discipline is not an end in itself. Its only benefit is to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. Discipline practiced for its own sake hinders the Christian walk and the work of God in us. This is the mistake of confusing the ends with the means. People can live lives of severe self-discipline and self-restraint and yet be thoroughly immoral. The action of discipline must effect something in biblical parlance. It focuses on energy and rejection of the superfluous and an owning of God’s purpose for our lives.