1 Corinthians 9:16-27
There’s a lot happening here.. From the oft-misinterpreted “all things to all people” passage to the essence of Paul’s call. It’s hard to pick what to reflect upon because there’s so much there.
In light of all that, I think I’ll talk about my son Nick for a bit. Nick is 6, in kindergarten, and absolutely loves life. We’re trying to give him some opportunities to try new things, knowing he’ll find one or two things he really likes to do so he can do them well.
This winter/spring, Nick started wrestling in the local school’s wrestling club. They have kids anywhere from 4 to 14 or so, at all levels of experience. I wrestled 7 years between Jr Hi and High school, so I’m able to help the little guy as he gets started. One thing about novice wrestlers: they have no sense of technique or wrestling instincts. As a result, when the whistle blows, they tend to flail. They move around, sometimes with a great amount of energy, but there’s no purpose behind their movements. A wrestler with a year or two of experience under his/her belt knows better. They have a plan for what moves to hit and when. They have developed instincts that tell them what to do next, and they do it on purpose with no flailing.
If you put a total novice up against one of those experienced wrestlers, the results are usually short, decisive, and predictable. The wrestler with a plan wins almost every time.
I think this is what Paul’s talking about in our lives of faith when he says,
24 Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. 26So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified. NRSV
Don’t run aimlessly… don’t flail the air if you’re boxing… you’ll lose. Instead, structure your workout and the match so that you have a plan, and then execute the plan. In short, willy-nilly, unintentional discipleship is going to get its butt kicked.
Last Saturday was Nick’s first wrestling meet. His first match was brutally short, because he went out there and flailed against an experienced
opponent. The second match was different. Nick had a plan, and he went out there and beat the guy with his plan. I wish we as individuals, families and churches could learn the same lesson with the wrestling match we’re in. If we’re flailing around, looking for the next flash in the pan thing that’ll make us feel good for a minute, we’re going to get rocked. Effective discipleship is intentional, purposeful, and long-lasting.