Paul was fond of athletic images and used them often in his letters. The Corinthians would have been familiar with the Greek Olympic Games as well as their own local Isthmian Games. Knowing this, Paul used a metaphor very close to their experience.
An athlete must be disciplined if he is to win the prize. Discipline means giving up the good and the better for the best. The athlete must watch his diet as well as his hours. He must smile and say “No, thank you” when people offer him fattening desserts or invite him to late-night parties.
There is nothing wrong with food or fun, but if they interfere with your highest goals, then they are hindrances and not helps.
The Christian does not run the race in order to get to heaven. He is in the race because he has been saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Only Greek citizens were allowed to participate in the games, and they had to obey the rules both in their training and in their performing. Any contestant found breaking the training rules was automatically disqualified.
In order to give up his rights and have the joy of winning lost souls, Paul had to discipline himself. Authority (rights) must be balanced by discipline. If we want to serve the Lord and win His reward and approval, we must pay the price.
Scripture to remember: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such away that you may win. . . .I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified”
(1 Corinthians 9:24, 27, NASB).
Also consider: Philippians 3:7-14; 2 Timothy 2.
Action assignment: Talk to God about how your personal race is going and confirm that you want to win His reward and approval.
WARREN W. WIERSBE