Discipline is Demanded

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 - Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

2 Timothy 2:15 - Be diligent to present yourselves approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:5 - And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.

The first few days back at school are the greatest, aren't they? There's plenty to talk about with old friends. Classes are not routine or boring yet (maybe the teachers come prepared for the first few days!). Assignment due dates still seem far away in the future somewhere. At first everything is exciting and "easy"--but soon the truth strikes! It's going to be another year of hard work and sweat! And without some kind of discipline in your life you're not going to do well at all.

The point of the above Scripture is that discipline is also demanded in your life as a Christian. Some Christians have the idea that the"Christian life" should be like a summer vacation filled with surf, sun, sugar, and sleep. No way! The life of a growing Christian is more like the life of a good student or a good athlete--disciplined!

Think of the discipline demanded in the life of an athlete. It doesn't begin at the time of the game or meet. There is a long and hard, disciplined, training period. If you don't think this is true, go over and visit football practice some afternoon. You won't believe the grunts and groans you'll hear! You'll see guys so pooped they can hardly stand--but still forcing themselves to put out and run.

The Greek games which are the source of Paul's analogy in 1 Corinthians 9 included foot-racing, wrestling, and boxing among other things. Verse 24 does not mean that only one person can win the prize in the "Christian race," but that all Christians should run as winners run. That is, we must be disciplined in training and in competing like every winning athlete. In the days of the Greek games there was the discipline of "self­control in all things" (v25), such as strict diet, strenuous exercise, chastity, curfew, etc. Every aspect of the athlete's life was under discipline.

The application of all this to the maturing Christian is obvious. We mustexercise self-control when it comes to fun and sports and other wholesome activities. It's easy to become so busy doing good things that we have no evening left to meet with other Christians for fellowship and prayer. Wemust practice self-denial in things like excess sleep time, TV time, and magazine time to make room for prayer time. Verse 27 doesn't mean that you should beat your body with a baseball bat (!) but it can mean that you should set your alarm for 5:30 A.M. for time alone with the Lord. We mustregulate our study time to include time for study of the Scriptures. We are commanded in 2 Timothy 2:15 to be diligent in this matter. If we are just reading "a psalm for the day" then we are disobeying the Lord's command. "Accurate handling of the word of truth" demands discipline. "Approval by God" is a lot different than mere approval by men. So let's get organized and begin to study a book in God's holy Word. (Use a course or a helpful book to get started.) We must purpose to make every action count. Otherwise we are like blindfolded runners or shadow boxers. What a waste of time and energy!

Although the disciplined life is hard (even a drag at times), we are assured of reward which will last forever (v25). If the runners in the Greek games so disciplined their lives for a mere wreath or garland of dead leaves, how much more should we discipline our lives when eternal values are at stake! 2 Timothy 2:5 reminds us that there is no wreath for one who breaks the rules of training or the rules of the race. Discipline must be maintained all the way through. Can you imagine a runner who is behind in the last lap cutting across the infield to catch up? Forget it! There is no short-cut to spiritual maturity either! There must be the disciplined keeping of the rules for Christian growth that God has laid down in His Word. No discipline, no wreath!
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