Last night I attended my small group study of 1 Corinthians at
Ninevah Christian Church. The study covered chapters 9:1-10:13 and the study had a profound impact on me, specifically 1 Corinthians 9:24 – 10:13 (ESV). I learned new insights into the bit about examples and instruction.
What I learned last night gave me cause to reflect on how I was taking advantage of the examples laid out in the old testament, and whether I was running the race to win.
1 Corinthians 9:24 – 27
My preacher, Terry Cooper, leads the class and we covered most of chapter 9, and I was pretty comfortable with my understanding. But when we got to verses 24-27 Terry brought out some points that gave me pause as I listened and reread the text.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
As I read this again this morning, I felt an urgency in Paul’s speech. It was like a plea for me to listen carefully to what he was saying and this message. It was no joke, but a matter of life and death.
1 Corinthians 9:27
Paul speaks of our need to run the race to win: Discipline our bodies like an athlete does. But as I read this I realized it is not just our physical bodies that we must discipline, but our spiritual body as well.
This morning I am looking back on the emphasis Terry put on verse 27 and even more than last night I am forced to do a little self-examination.
27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
If Paul kept this thought in the forefront of His mind shouldn’t I do the same?
Then Terry did something that I had not fully considered. He tied to verse 27 the verses in chapter 10:1-13.
1 Corinthians 10:1-5
As Terry shared the message with us, I could not help but keep verse 9:27 in my head mulling it over as he spoke of verses in chapter 10:1-5
“1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”
As I listened to this and Terry’s passionate delivery and I kept thinking of how it relates to us. Terry noted that five times “all” was used and once “most” was used to describe the people. This morning as I consider his emphasis I am reminded of Matthew 7:13-14
Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)
3 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
As I thought about this passage and how Jesus warns us to take care in our lives, I remembered, He was speaking to followers, and he was warning them that like the followers of Moses, not all would find the narrow path and the narrow gate. Only a few. So what do I need to do? What must I hold onto?
1 Corinthians 10:6-11
I looked closely at verses 6-10 and looked at the example that God had left for us to learn.
“6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”
I look at these verses, and I started thinking about the need to trust in God. Hold fast to Him and heed His counsel. I looked at verse 11 and found it to be very humbling for me. These things that happened to the Israelites could happen to me, and I needed to take them seriously because God made certain that they were written down for me.
11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
That is such a powerful statement. When I think of all the times that Kings and rulers wrote something down, they could not change it. If they took the trouble to write it down, it must stand. I think of the book of Daniel, and when the Babylonian Kings wrote something down, they were going to follow through. I think of furnaces and lion’s dens when I see the phrase “written down” and how much more when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords takes the time to use the phrase… If God is to write it down, I better pay attention.
When we got near the end of the study last night, Terry spoke of spiritual arrogance and this morning I am doing a bit more self-examination. Verses 12-13 should make me pause a bit and humble myself before God.
“12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
That thought of “trusting God” came back again this morning as I read these. The adversary would have me think that every struggle I face is unique and insurmountable… but that is a lie! Through Paul, God reminds us of the truth. And if I am honest with myself the Holy Spirit always shows me a way to avoid the sin that follows a temptation. Sometimes it is as simple as turning the other way.
Last night one of the big realizations for me was Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9:27
“27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
As we read this passage last night, I got a “Gibbs Slap” to the back of my head. I thought of Moses at the waters of Meribah, Numbers chapter 20 where Moses struck the Rock in anger rather than glorify God as He had asked. At that moment God told Him that he would not see the Holy Land of promise.
Then I realized the example Moses was to Paul… and to me. Yes, Moses got his reward after his death, but because he sinned against God he did not step foot on the Holy Land of Promise, and that was sobering for me.
As I think about all of these verses all I can think is “trust in God”. God sets out all of His Word to guide us to assure us there is only one way to Him. He asks us to believe and to trust in it all.
Paul reminds us that we are all susceptible to temptation. That reminded me of the example of Moses who was favored by God.
God gives us His Word and the Holy Spirit to guide us through it. How thankful I am for that. There is no substitute for spending time with him in His Word.
One Last Thing
I read 'Utmost for His Highest', by Oswald Chambers this morning and he said something that for me fit with last night and the trust I must have in God…
“If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He doesn’t ask you to make it right; He only asks you to accept the light of truth, and then He will make it right. A child of the light will confess sin instantly and stand completely open before God. But a child of the darkness will say, “Oh, I can explain that.” When the light shines, and the Spirit brings conviction of sin, be a child of the light. Confess your wrongdoing, and God will deal with it. If, however, you try to vindicate yourself, you prove yourself to be a child of the darkness.” ‘Utmost for His Highest’ March 23
Father help me to be a child of light. Help me to hold fast to your teaching and trust in your faithfulness.
Thank you, Lord, for your Holy Word; the living water. My hope and My salvation.
In Jesus name, I pray, Amen