1 Corinthians chapter 9

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Paul Gives Up His Rights

Am I not as free as anyone else? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes? Isn’t it because of my work that you belong to the Lord? Even if others think I am not an apostle, I certainly am to you. You yourselves are proof that I am the Lord’s apostle.

This is my answer to those who question my authority. Don’t we have the right to live in your homes and share your meals? Don’t we have the right to bring a believing wife with us as the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers do, and as Peter does? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have to work to support ourselves?

What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? 10 Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest.

11 Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink? 12 If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.

13 Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings. 14 In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. 15 Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge. 16 Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!

17 If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. 18 What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.

19 Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. 21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.

22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

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25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 

To be good enough to win an Olympic medal, whether it be bronze, silver or gold, takes a tremendous amount of talent, skill and, for most of the events, a high degree of physical conditioning.  Preparing for an Olympic competition requires  discipline and perseverance. In the end the award that athletes receive is a medal, along with the distinction of being recognized as the world’s best athlete in their respective sport

Our life as a Christian is like an Olympic athlete training to win a medal. Whereas the prize for the athlete is a medal, our prizes are at least two-fold.

One prize is the abundant life (John 10:10) that we are able to live because we are walking day to day with Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The more disciplined we are at incorporating spiritual exercises into our lives on a daily basis, the more rewarding and fulfilling our life can be.  The more we live according to the guidebook that God gives us, the Bible, the sweeter our life can be. God has this “prize” for us on this side of heaven

Paul encourages the Corinthians to run the race of life with endurance and that the crown we will receive will last forever.  He encourages us to press on, to persevere, to endure.  As athletes require discipline in physical training and in what they eat to be competitive enough to win an Olympic medal, we must be disciplined in various forms of spiritual exercises to win the crown of a full and abundant life.  ( Corinthians 9:24-25 )

The more disciplined and consistent we are in our spiritual exercises, the more abundance we will tend to receive this side of heaven.  This is one reason Jesus died on the cross for you and for me.

The other “prize” that God makes available for us is the crown of eternal life that we’ll spend with Jesus after we leave this earth.  It becomes available to us when we accept Jesus in our heart as our Savior.  Isaiah 35:10 tells us that everlasting joy will crown the heads of those who walk with Jesus in a personal way. Unlike the tarnish that will probably occur with the metal of the Olympic medals, our crown of everlasting life and our joy will continue forever.

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My challenge to you to you is to be disciplined in applying the principles of the Bible in such a way that you’re experiencing a full and rewarding life – the kind God desires for you. Here are a few questions to consider.

What disciplines in your life contribute most to your level of spiritual fitness?

Are you experiencing an abundant life in the way Jesus has made it available for you?

What spiritual exercises could you incorporate into your life to give you a more full life?

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Lord thank you for the purpose you gave each of us to share your Gospel with the world. Lord we ask for the endurance to run the race of life with passion and integrity. Show us today where we can improve our walk and experience you in a more full way. Help us increase our spiritual fitness. Thank you for another day of life, in Jesus name, amen.

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