|Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.|
|I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. |
|Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.|
|1 Corinthians 9:26-27 |
Paul was not an aimless competitor. He had a clearly defined goal. Like an athlete preparing for a race or a boxing match, Paul knew that he had to discipline his body; he had to force himself to maintain the strenuous, consistent practice needed for success.
The race that Paul prepared himself for, the race that all Christians need to prepare themselves for, was the calling of God. Paul taught that Christians are rewarded for the calling that God gives them. Paul had an apostolic ministry for which he sacrificed all things. He knew that if he was faithful to his calling he would receive a reward from the Lord for his service (4:2). Paul also knew that if he ignored or treated lightly his mission he would not receive from God the victor's crown for service. Having seen some of his close friends forsake their calling (2 Tim. 4:10), Paul recognized that the loss of the victor's crown was a very real possibility for any believer, regardless of his or her standing in the Christian community. The apostle's overwhelming passion was to fulfill his ministry at all costs, to stay faithful to the "fight" (9:26) to the very end. In Paul's last letter, written shortly before his death, we discover that he accomplished his goal (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
Paul's spiritual training was the very best available. Yet he did not assume that he would automatically persevere to the end of the race. He continued to discipline himself, to fight, and to follow his calling from God. In doing so, Paul provided an ideal model for all Christians striving to become champions.
Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson's new illustrated Bible commentary (1 Co 9:27). : T. Nelson Publishers.