Discipline Who Is In the Mirror
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
I titled this devotional, “Discipline Who is In the Mirror,” yet led in with scripture from 1 Corinthians, chapter 9. If you are wondering, the reference about the “mirror” is from the Book of James, which will also be raised.
Many of you remain in bondage to something that is not of God. Or, you know of brethren who remain in bondage to something that is not of God. Though Christ has provided for you a victory over sin, you are still to be in obedience to Jesus Christ.
In this lesson by Paul, the teaching concerns food sacrificed to idols (beginning with chapter 8), and how our discipline can cause those who are un-disciplined, to stumble. The lesson leads up to the scriptures 9:24-27 and continues on with chapter 10. Where I will focus is specific to an element of disciplining yourselves as Paul illuminates in the 1 Cor 9 scripture.
Something I will first point out; Paul raises his own bondage as an example to teach from. This “burden” however, is of God. Paul is driven by his burden to preach the Good News about Christ to whoever or wherever he finds himself located. Yet Paul stresses that his very life is in peril due to this burden. He writes about going without food, being apart from brethren or for the other Apostles, being apart from their spouses. In chapter 15, Paul truly illuminates this burden with the following:
v30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
In the 1 Cor 15 verses, Paul raises both the physical danger he faces day by day and at the same time, how he dies spiritually, day by day. However, the burden Paul finds himself under, is lighter than any worldly “bondage.”
That is because “bondage” is about something of the world (not of God), that is for your destruction while “burden” is something of God, for His glorification. As a Christian, you have to strive for obedience to the burden that Christ has blessed you with. Yes, any burden that Christ places upon you, no matter how perilous that burden may be, is a blessing.
Paul gives us an example (a metaphor) in how an athlete will discipline themselves, mind and body, to achieve a goal. This athlete will do ALL that is necessary for the purpose of achieving a goal and winning a prize. An athlete will force themselves to endure ALL the pain associated with and also resulting from, this discipline.
For Christians, the goal has already been achieved by Jesus Christ. However, like an athlete disciplining themselves, you must also discipline yourself to “reap” the goal that Christ has achieved for you. Like the athlete, you must endure the pain associated with the discipline of resisting temptations that will lead to sin and bondage. Like the athlete, you must face the peril and hardship associated with the disciplining of your body and your mind. By doing so, when you face dangers of the world, i.e. temptations, the discipline will empower you to resist. You will be able to endure against all struggles associated with sin, by the resisting.
Through Jesus Christ, all this empowerment to resist is possible, but YOU must strive in disciplining yourself.
Imagine being given a goal to gain 25 pounds in muscle while reducing your bodily fat percentage from 12% to 8%. All the food for a proper diet is provided and will even be prepared for you. The strict schedule for working out is provided and a weight room with all the necessary equipment is provided. There it all is, “for” you.
If the athlete does not discipline themselves and put into “action” all that was provided, then the goal will not be reaped. The pain of lifting heavy weights over and over must be done. Even when injury occurs because something was done in error or done wrong, a time of healing (restoration) is done. When restored, the discipline of lifting those weights, eating the right foods, running those miles MUST continue.
This is what Paul is illuminating in that lesson. As a Christian, you must continue to strive in disciplining yourself to continue on in your run toward the hope that you have in Jesus Christ. Whatever burden that Jesus has given to you, must also be endured and accomplished. Paul is basically saying, tough it out, endure the hardships (persecutions) and danger (sin), DO the work given to you and by doing all this, you will finish the race.
In James, we are given this lesson:
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)
I mentioned earlier about how burden from God, is a blessing. When you fail to discipline yourself, when you DON’T DO what God’s Word says to do, James is straight up in informing you about what you have done. You have “deceived” yourself. Yes, some who are Christian do sin. They also think they are running the race. They are not. They are under bondage and don’t even feel the destructive power of that bondage due to the deception as they have been led off the path that Christ initially set them on, when they first believed in Him and had accepted Him as their Savior.
Church leadership has a burden from Christ, they are to “disciple” those who have believed in and accepted Christ as their Savior. Discipline however, is a burden given to each individual believer. That means “YOU” discipline yourself WITH the instruction (discipling) given to you by your leadership, counselors, brethren, etc. When you read your Bible, hear a sermon, attend a Bible Study or discuss scripture on the bus with a fellow believer, this is “discipleship.” Like the athlete’s provision of the proper food, of a schedule, of the equipment. Even when instructed in the use of all that is provided, attendance of classes on how to eat properly and how to exercise properly, unless there is “discipline” of ACTION by the individual, nothing will be achieved and the athlete will fall short of the goal.
The Word of God instructs you how to resist sin, how to do what is right. Sermons can exhort about how to be righteous. Bible studies can help you understand the meaning of scripture and also show ways to apply the meaning of scripture. However, if you do not discipline yourself to always DO what is taught to you, then any Christian will remain in or fall into bondage to the sins of the world.
Paul is exhorting you to understand “your” part in running the race. By taking what is given to you and apply all the lessons and discipleship provided, you are disciplining yourself. Just like the athlete in Paul metaphor example in the scriptures.
The result, you will be able to resist temptation(s) and not fall into a sinful bondage. Or, allow you to overcome (stop) a bondage so it is not or does not continue in destroying you. By choosing to apply what is given to you, any deception that has caused you to fall off the path that Christ placed you on, Christ will place you right back on the right path. In other words, you WILL GET right with God once application of God’s Word is activated in your life.
With no discipline, all you read and study, all you hear concerning the Word of God, will not have a changing affect in your life without your discipline in consistent application of God’s Word. Consistence is required for you to remain blessed in the burden God has given to you for His purposes in giving Him, glory. This same consistence is also required to remain FREE of or to GET free of the bondage(s) that the world will attempt to destroy you with.