Oh, how thankful I am for the precious call of God upon my life. Aren’t you thankful that He called and chose you too?
God has a special plan for each of us. The main goal of believers should be to find God’s plan for their lives and then to go after it with all their might and strength. That is what I want to talk to you about in my letter today! But first, I want to say THANK YOU for your faithful support of all that we are doing right now. We are pursuing the goal of providing teaching people can trust and to get that teaching to hungry hearts all over the world. But we can only do this effectively because of partners that support us to accomplish it. There is simply no way I can exaggerate or emphasize enough the important role each of our partners plays in this work — for all eternity. You are making a huge difference, and Denise and I want to personally thank you!
I also want to tell you that we are inching closer to the finish line for what we need for the expansion of our TV offices in Moscow. We are almost there! Thank you for your continued prayers for this venture — that we’ll soon have all the funds we need to finish this assignment. I want to express my deep thankfulness to every person who has participated in this faith project. When we reach the finish line, we’ll let you know it’s done, and we’ll all be shouting together about this amazing victory!
Today I want to take you to First Corinthians 9:24, where Paul wrote, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.”
The Holy Spirit through Paul is teaching here that each of us is in some kind of race. That word “race” is the Greek word stadion, which later became our word “stadium.” However, it first described a racecourse that was 600 feet in length or one-eighth of a Roman mile — the exact length that was used in the athletic competitions of the ancient world, including the Isthmian Games that were held near the city of Corinth. Because Paul was highly educated, he knew precisely what he was doing when he used a word that described the racecourses of his day.
As I just noted, eventually the word stadion became the word for a stadium, the place where athletic competitions were held. Since this is the picture Paul had in his mind as he used the word “race,” let’s stop to consider the competitions of that time.
The winners of these competitions were rewarded both materially and with great honor. However, if you study these champions of the ancient world, you will see that the primary emphasis of the reward was not material wealth, but rather the distinguished honor bestowed on the winners of those games.
You see, these champions were only able to achieve victory in those games by being disciplined, balanced, and committed to excellence. For possessing these qualities that they had to develop and display so consistently and perseveringly, they were held in high regard. These champions became revered as heroes, gods, or icons in their society. Respect, honor, notoriety, and fame became their lifelong reward.
In addition to these ideas, it’s important to notice something else about the word “race,” from the Greek word stadion that depicted the huge arena where the competitions were held. Paul used this word to tell us that when we enter our race of faith, it puts us in the center of the arena. People see us as we walk by faith. They know of our struggles, and they watch as spectators to see if we will win our battles.
We must always keep in mind, therefore, that we’re not running a private race of faith, but rather a race that has influence on many people’s lives. Hence, Paul urges us to run our race in a way that encourages bystanders who are watching from the sidelines to jump into the race themselves and pursue their destiny in God!
By using these ideas, Paul was communicating to us that we need to see ourselves as spiritual competitors! But this life we lead is no game; it is the most serious competition we will ever face in this world. And the rewards of a life well lived are enormous. Not only will God materially reward us as we are faithful to His call, but He also reserves eternal rewards of honor and glory for those who run their race well in this life (see Romans 2:10).
It is interesting that Paul said, “…They which run in a race run all….” Notice particularly the words “run all.” It means every believer is in some kind of race. That person may not have awakened to the race he is in yet, or perhaps the race hasn’t yet been revealed to him. Nevertheless, the fact remains that God has a specific plan for every individual.
Our task is to find the divine plan for our lives; to “get in shape” so we can run our race; and then to run like mad so we can finish in first place! That’s why Paul exhorted us, “…Run, that ye may obtain” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
You see, runners have one thought foremost in their minds — the finish line! With this analogy in mind, Paul is telling you to run your spiritual race with all your might, keeping your focus on the goal — the divine call on your life as God has revealed it to you. You may ask, “How long am I supposed to keep running and trying to reach my God-given goals?” The answer is, until you “obtain” what God has called you to do!
The word “obtain” is the Greek word katalambano, which is a compound of two words, kata and lambano. The word kata describes something that is coming downward, and the word lambano means to take or to seize something. When compounded into one word, katalambano means to grab hold of, to seize, to wrestle, to pull down, and to finally make a desired object your very own. This is the picture of someone who finally sees what he wants — and instead of letting that goal he desires slip away, he pounces on it, seizing it and latching hold of it with all his might!
Paul uses this word katalambano to depict the attitude of a runner who is running with all his energy, straining forward as he keeps his focus fixed on the finish line. At last, the runner reaches the goal, and the prize is now his! He gave that race all he had to give, and it paid off! Had he approached the race with a casual, lazy attitude, the prize would have gone to another. But because he ran to obtain that prize, in the end, that’s exactly what he did!
There is no doubt that you have a divine purpose for your life — something God has called you to do. God has marvelous ideas and plans for you! The question is this: Do you WANT to fulfill His plans for you? If your answer is truly yes, then set your heart on your goal. Don’t be halfhearted, mealy-mouthed, touchy, or easily discouraged. It’s time for you to develop some resolve!
Do you see yourself as someone who is running the spiritual race of his or her life? Or are you simply “jogging for Jesus”? If you’re serious about fulfilling God’s plan for your life, it’s time to shift into high gear and to start putting all your spiritual, mental, and physical energies into getting the job done. You have to remove all distractions and commit yourself to a life of discipline, balance, and devotion.
To maintain the many victories the apostle Paul had won, he knew he had to remain vigilant. That is why he wrote, “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” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
The word “castaway” in Greek is adokimos, which means disapproved, discredited, or disqualified. This is the picture of a person who won some type of victory, but lost it due to negligence. Now that person has become a “castaway.” It is the portrait of a winner who has lost his victory.
People often make the mistake of thinking that just because they’ve had a victory in the past, they will automatically have a victory in the future. Many people — having won a great victory — later make the mistake of letting down their guard and giving in to their flesh. As a result, they lose their victory!
Paul didn’t consider himself so high and mighty that he couldn’t imagine this happening to him. Rather than letting his flesh get the best of him and making the same mistake others had made, Paul chose to keep his flesh under control. That is why he said, “…I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.…”
The word “subjection” is a compound of the word doulos and ago. The word doulos is the word for a slave, and the word ago is the Greek word that means to lead. Placed together, these words for “subjection” mean to lead about like a slave. This means that Paul mastered his body rather than allowing his body and flesh master him. He was determined to keep his body in “subjection” and to lead his flesh about as his slave rather than become its slave, pandering to its carnal desires that would inevitably lead him into defeat.
By mastering his body and keeping it under his control, Paul turned his flesh into a mighty instrument:
- His feet became his tools to take the Gospel to places that had never heard the Good News.
- His eyes became his instruments through which he was able to identify needs that God’s power could meet.
- His voice became a voice of salvation to bring healing and deliverance to those who heard him preach.
- His hands became the hands of God that brought a healing and compassionate touch to those in need.
After winning many victories, Paul knew he still needed to keep his body and flesh under control so he could keep winning and not lose the victories he’d already won. So Paul kept his flesh under his command and made it his slave for the purpose of accomplishing God’s will.
Is your body an instrument God can use, or is it a tool the devil uses to lure you into seasons in which you lose the victories God gave you in the past? Don’t join the ranks of those who once had great victories, but now live in defeat because they refused to master themselves. Instead, turn your body into a mighty weapon that the Holy Spirit can use!
To win your God-ordained race, you MUST have the attitude, “I’m going to RUN this race, and I’m going to WIN it! I’m not going to live my whole life missing out on what God has for me! No matter what inconvenience I must endure, what price I have to pay, or what adjustments I need to make, I am going to faithfully run my race so that one day, I can obtain the prize — the fulfillment of God’s call on my life! Furthermore, I’m going to master my body so that it becomes a mighty instrument God can use to touch those around me!”
My friend, God wants you to jump in the race and run it to complete victory — and then to do all that is needed to maintain that victory! You can do it! If you need someone to pray with you about this, please contact us and let us know. We count it a privilege to put our faith together with yours for the victory that you need to reinforce in your life right now.
Thank you so much for allowing me to minister this word to you today. Oh, how I pray it has been a blessing to you. We love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Jesus Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families