1 Corinthians 9:26-27 NIV
There it is again! The need for self discipline is exposed in the self revelatory fashion of the Apostle. Self Discipline is the most despised of Spiritual Fruit (Gal 5.23). It might be possible to blame our lack of love or joy upon some lack in the Spirit's motivation in our life but it is not logical to blame him for our lack of self control. It simply defies logic. Here is a challenge to the very soul of the man or woman of God. It is a challenge to rise up from the pathetic state of being a helpless sinner to being an empowered saint. But , alas, we are more content in assuming the state of helplessness. We are comfortable in being one who is out of control and in need of divine rescue. Certainly, each of us has confessed our 'helpless estate" before the Lord, at some time or another. But something happens in redemption that empowers the sinner into spirit empowered saint. We find ourselves with the reigns to our lives, able to yield or surrender to which ever power we have determined best. That we choose sin so often probably means that we need a good mental cleansing. Rom 12.1-2 reminds us that understanding the good, pleasing and perfect will of God comes at the cost of "a renewed mind". Such a mind refuses to identify with what it once was, or what the surrounding culture tells us that it must be, and stands n its own as one both redeemed by God's infinite grace and surrendered to God's perfect plan.
The word for self control used both here in 1 Cor 9 and in the fifth chapter of Galatians is the word egkrateia which means, according to Wuest, "Possessing power, strong, having mastery of possession of, continent, self controlled'. It refers to the mastery over one's own desires while engaged in the stadium athletic games. Here there is a picture of competence and strength. Paul writes describing this Christian Life as both focused (I do not flail at the air) and determined to bring his body under the mastery of God's purpose for his life. To those outside the faith, the willingness to endure difficulty for the cause of Christ, the determination to press through hardship and suffering to bring God glory, even the living of a spiritually determined and life surrendered to the principles of the Kingdom of God is a strange pressing forward. "Why can't you relax, enjoy, and rest a while?" some will say. But the surrendered heart, knows there are broken hearts to mend, souls to win, and the comfort of heaven that is ours to mete out to the confused.
Paul gives us his reason for his diligence in gaining such mastery over himself. He fears disqualification. Some theologies have difficulty with Paul's words here. Immediately they assure us that there is nothing we can do to "earn" our salvation. But Paul is quick to remind us that we can neglect a salvation, even one this great, by taking it for granted. Paul's warning is to the self satisfied, lazy and undetermined. His warning is to anyone who thinks he stands- take heed lest he fall. Fall into a faith that is undisciplined and completely subject to the desires of the flesh.
There is a term I have heard in the past from those who live this lifestyle. It is not a term of comfort and complacency; it is not a term of rest and renewal; and it is not a passive term. It is the term "Driving Forward". Like the Pauline term, it is a sports term. It demands of us that we dig in our feet and push forward toward the Kingdom Objective that Christ has laid before us. It demands that we not stand complacent and comfortable in the Kingdom half-come, promises partially answered, and prayers unanswered. We must discipline ourselves, bring our bodies under the Spirits control, and push forward to make a difference. Drive Forward.