Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
As Paul so often does in his letters, he shifts to a sports metaphor to finalize his point. Remember, he’s been telling the people that they must be willing to make sacrifices for other people and for the sake of the gospel, and here he expresses the same thought in a different way. Likening Christians to an athlete in training, he uses the sacrifices great athletes make in training to living for Christ.
An athlete training for a big event will adhere to a strict training regimen that includes a strict diet. They will push themselves to the limit of their endurance to win the prize, and during their training, they will abstain from all kinds of things, because they want to win their event.
In the same way, we who are followers of Christ must be willing to do whatever it takes, to endure training, to make personal sacrifices, and to impose self-discipline, to share the gospel with those around us, and to help them through that growth process that we call “making disciples”.
While Paul has made this point, he still hasn’t completed the section, for he isn’t addressing problems of self-discipline and sacrifices; remember, this is a section about idolatry. As he continues in chapter 10, his discussion will focus more directly on the lesson he is teaching…