Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. – 1Cor. 9:26-27 NIV
Please click the link above to download the full text of this Ministration
The Apostle Paul was no doubt a very hardworking disciple and herald of the Good News. Probably due to his feelings of guilt of being a persecutor of the way (1Tim. 1:13; Phil. 3:6) and an attempt to compensate for those times when he acted in ignorance, he put in so much energy to his Calling as an apostle such that he could, arguably be rated as the most successful herald of the Gospel of his time, at least going by the number of New Testaments books credited to have being written by him. One thing he would himself assert however, is that he was in no way inferior to any of the other Apostles, taking his time to list some of his experiences in the course of implementing his Calling – 2Cor. 11:5-30. The Apostle Paul had to endure all these experiences, all of which are not the kind that is desirable by men, yet, he never stopped expanding the frontiers of the gospel for as long as he was free and able to do so, simply because he was convinced about what he was preaching – 1Cor. 15:3-11. With his elite background, he had an option to avoid such painful experiences, yet because he was more assured of the choice he made, he chose to remain in that choice against all odds – Phil. 3:5-11.
So when a group amongst the brethren, especially those who came to know about the Way through his evangelism activities begin to question his credentials as an Apostle, he was always likely to lose it at some point like any other human being and this occasion was one of the possibly many more occasions that he had to show that he was after all human.
In a reaction that revealed one who had being pushed to the limits, due to the way he and his fellow workers were being treated with disrespect, he gave reasons why he deserved better recognition at least, one equal to that granted the other co-workers in the Christian ministry. If anyone was going to disregard and disrespect them, he was not expecting that it was going to be the same people whom he birthed into Christianity. His minimum expectation was that these group of people should accord him the deserved recognition of an Apostle, even though he had never placed that burden on them. Wondering why recognition for them should be less than other heralds of the message, he presented his credentials to them (1Cor. 9:1-2) whilst demanding for his rights to be treated in a manner that recognises his achievements amongst them – 1Cor. 9:3-23.
Heretofore, he had not made a big case out of his being denied of this level of recognition because he considered his Calling as being in a race with only one prize in mind which is Salvation so as to receive the Eternal Crown of life. With that in mind and like in every race, the basic requirements preparatory to success is for the runner develop a strict training schedule and have a disciplined approach before and during the race if such has plans to succeed – 1Cor. 9:24-25. His tolerance of his below par treatment therefore, was probably because of these consideration. In the scripture that is the foundation of today’s Devotional, he revealed the principle determing the manner in which he is running his race.
- He was running his race with a goal, which is the Crown of Life, in mind – 9:26a.
- He was taking actions calculated actions that will enhance the realisation of that objective – 9:26b.
- He was running his race with the intention to be a co-winner of the prize and not just one who leads people to winning it whilst he loses it – 9:27.
It seems that a major challenge of men is in rightly determining people who merit being recognised and respected. This has produced several instances of misdirected acts gratitude. For some however, such actions are as the intention is to deprive others the honour that they truly deserve for reasons best known to them. The effect of such disregard and disrespect is discouragement of people from doing good as they have been unjustly deprived of the minimum reward for their positive actions, which is recognition.
That every human being desires to be compensated with this irreducible minimum is not in doubt and has nothing to do with their spirituality. There may not be the desire to make such actions one for public consumption, but the beneficiary of such positive action is always expected to show gratitude, not only at the point of benefitting from the good gesture but at all times, even long after the gesture was received. The reaction of the Apostle Paul, one whose high level of spirituality is not in doubt, to such disregard and disrespect confirms that anyone will be hurt at some point if they do not receive the deserved recognition for a positive action.
Obviously, the Apostle Paul was willing to overlook this disregard until his right to make intervention in order to resolve unnecessary disputes amongst the brethren was being questioned by some of them even when he it was that was God’s tool of introducing the Gospel to them – 2Cor. 10:1-17.
Apart from situations like the one that the Apostle Paul found himself in, Christians must learn to run their Christian race with the principles of the Apostle Paul if they desire to have the prize which is the crown of life.
Firstly, in all situations, the Christian must remain focused on the goal which is the eternal Crown of Life. To be so focused is to ensure that such thoughts remain the one and only consideration at all times and in all situations. The consequence of loss of the prize if focus is lost and the need to avoid such situation should be the main reason that will guide all actions and reactions of a person. The Christian who is aware that a single negative action or reaction can nullify many years of positive actions in Christianity will be very cautious of how to react in such situations – Eze. 18:21-32. Nothing should be of interest outside the set goal which is the winning the Crown of Life.
Secondly, the one who desires the Crown of life should avoid impulsive actions as they will most likely not be right. Such should learn to do more of thinking than acting just as the Bible advises that all should be quick to hear and slow to react – Jms. 1:19-27. Regretted actions are always characterised by damages, which are mostly irreversible and may be physical, spiritual, emotional and/or psychological in nature. The one who desires to have the Crown of Life must rightly think out all actions before implementing them.
Thirdly, Christians especially those saddled with leadership must be conscious always that it is possible to lead souls to winning the Crown of Life whilst they miss it. This may be due to varied reasons ranging from personal transgressions to errors incurred due to wrong handling of the actions of the led. An example of the former are the different acts of disobedience of several great people in the scriptures that brought pain and distress into their life starting from Adam to Cain and even King Saul just as example of the latter is the inability of Moses to enter the Promised Land due to his reaction to the actions of the Israelites in the Wilderness – Deut. 3:21-29.
Christians must remain focused during their entire Christian life if they are to inherit the Crown of Life. It is not about when the race started or the stage of the race where one is, but ensuring that one successfully completes the race. That is the only time that the Eternal Crown of Life can be assured. Do all you can to run your race with focus so you can win this prize. May God grant us all the wisdom to do so on Jesus name. Amen.