Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:26-27)
We, as Christians, are all surely in a fight for our faith and for the faith of others. This fight has to do with whether or not we will continue to be witnesses of character and virtue that will be above reproach. Our example matters. Think of the acronyms that Paul uses for this. We are in a “race” and are all running to win the prize.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
There is a crown on the line for each one of us. Whether or not we earn this crown and get to wear it for all of eternity will depend on how we ran the race of life. Did we run the race to just finish, barely squeaking by, or did we run full bore with passion and perseverance in an all-out effort win it? The only way to win the race is to remain temperate and self-controlled in our daily life. We are called not just to preach the Word but to live the Word, for if we preach the Word and not live the very thing we preach we will not find ourselves at the head of the pack when we cross the tape.
You, therefore, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? (Rom. 2:21)
I do not fight as one who “beats the air.” I am not looking to miss the mark. What’s the point of putting on the gloves and fighting if I am not hitting my target? My target must be to practice what I preach. That will truly be the winning move in the race and boxing match of life. Then I am competing according to the rules.
Are these analogies meant to make us feel burdened and weighed down by commandments we can never achieve? No, of course not. We just need to “get in the game” and “put on the gloves” and God’s grace will win the battle. The battle belongs to the Lord (2 Chr. 20:15). He is just looking for your willingness to step into the ring and give it your best. Put on the gloves and never stop training. After all, it truly and surely is “a good fight”!
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:7-8)