1 Corinthians 9:24-25, 27—Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 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.
The Apostle Paul gave up whatever rights he needed to give up to connect with the people he was trying to win and teach. To him, the most important thing was not his personal desires or advancement but the spiritual growth of those he was ministering to. In this passage, he compares his attitude toward ministry to a Greek athlete. An athlete doesn’t do what is comfortable or take the easy route. He has a goal and denies himself to reach it. He puts boundaries on his desires and freedom so that he can reach that goal. He pushes himself to the very limits of his ability and endurance. Then when he is in the race, he gives it all he has to win. He ignores his body’s demands and goes all out to win, and all he gets is a little momentary glory and a crown of leaves that soon decay. Paul is doing it for an eternal crown and encourages us to do the same. Paul wrote that he made his body his slave. He did not give in to its demands. He knew that if he did give in, he would not obtain the prize he was after. When the Greeks broke the training rules they were disqualified. Paul did not want that to happen to him in the spiritual sense. He worked late into the night to support himself when he thought the church might be offended if he asked for the support he deserved. What an example he set for us! Is your body your slave or your master? Are you running for a temporal crown or an eternal one? Are you running to take first place or just jogging along comfortably? When we look at the ministry of the Apostle Paul, we can see he really lived what he wrote. He was out to take first place. What is your pace?