Warm Up: Galatians 5:16, 17, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”
Stretching: Read 1 Corinthians 9: 19-27
Running: I didn’t do well in physics. Actually, it was the only class I had to drop out of in high school. Today, my simple understanding of physics is limited to work: I exert less energy and work more efficiently when I employ the laws of physics. By using simple machines like pulleys, levers, wedges, wheels and axles, inclined planes, and the like, I can don’t work as hard! This is not true for those who exercise however. If we want to train to be stronger, we have to increase resistance. Increasing resistance strengthens us. When I was running in college, my best friend and I used to go into the mountains to spend long weekends fishing, hiking, and running. When we were in training, we would always head for “Killer Mountain”. It was practically the face of a cliff on the side of a mountain that was more mountain climbing than running up a hill. The rule was that you couldn’t stop moving your feet. That was the only failure. We would moan and complain the entire first leg of the run knowing what was ahead or us. Then we would arrive at the base of Mount Killer-manjaro, crane our necks back to see the summit, grit our teeth, reach deep down inside, and start scaling the path up the mountainside. By the top, you were practically crawling, and completely exhausted. But in the end, we knew we were stronger.
Paul liked resistance training. In our reading for today, he related his work as an apostle to training for an Olympic-like sporting event. In this case, he was probably referring to the Isthmian games which held competitions every five years in running, wrestling, boxing, and throwing a discus. The Corinthians understood the intense training required by the athletes to compete in these games. The reference alluded to sacrifices, disciplines, hardships, and struggles. There was no cutting corners in preparation and these elite athletes took no short cuts in their training. Likewise, Paul resisted anything that might weaken him in ‘running the race set out before him.” This was a recurring theme in Paul’s epistles. He spoke often about the fight between the flesh and the spirit and the need to be vigilant and disciplined. His prize was in winning souls and he resisted anything that would keep him from that goal.
Cool Down: “Lord, I admit that my flesh is strong. But I understand from your word that gratifying my own desires is contrary to living a life led by your Spirit. Help me to run towards spiritual disciplines instead of running away from them. Sometimes my greater obstacle in overcoming is myself. Thank you for sending your Spirit to guide and strengthen me in my resolve. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
“He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.” Proverbs 147:15