I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we, an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Cor. 9:23-27
Dear Jesus, this is one of those passages I used to avoid as a recovering legalist. Once I came to rest in your righteousness alone for my salvation, it was Scriptures like this one that confused me, at times activating that part of me that still thinks I can make you love me more by my doing. So I praise you for the ongoing teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. I praise you for showing me more about living in line with the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:14). I praise you for all the freedoms you have won for us, including the freedom to obey you from our hearts.
Hallelujah! The gospel sets us free from working for wages; we now run for a crown. Ultimately, every crown will be laid at your feet, Jesus, for you have earned our salvation for us. Our obedience merits nothing, but it does show that we love you (John 14:15). How can we honestly say we love you if we disregard what you say?
Hallelujah! The gospel sets us free from running aimlessly and beating the air; we now live in a story of redemption and restoration. All of history is bound up with your commitment to redeem your people from the nations and to make all things new. We praise you for rescuing us from little narratives of self-fulfillment for grace-fueled lives of kingdom advancement. There will be enough grace for the whole race. We can make no excuses.
Hallelujah! The gospel sets us free from beating ourselves up because of shame or pride; we now train ourselves for godliness. We are to bring our appetites and bodies in submission to the gospel (1Tim. 4:7-8). Forgive us when we are more disciplined out of vanity than out of a commitment to grow as your disciples. Fitting into our pants is not as important as revealing your beauty.
Jesus, you are the one who has “won the prize” for all of us. Only the gospel qualifies us to “share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). We don’t fear losing our salvation, but do let us fear misrepresenting you and “frittering away” this one short life you’ve given us. Show us how to do all things for the sake of the gospel and by the grace and truth of the gospel. So very Amen we pray, in your most loving name.