What is Paul's race? It's preaching the Gospel.
|Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the . (1Corinthians9:24-27)|
The life of every believer proclaims a message. It's part of the job description of being a believer. St Francis of Assisi wisely said, "Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words." You preach even with your mouth closed. You preach even without ever entering the pulpit. You preach, whether you recognize this fact or not because you preach with your life, your actions, your decisions, your choices, and you preach with your words.
Paul was a preacher who, fortunately, recognized God's calling to run the race of preaching the gospel of salvation to the world. You may or may not be called to the specific ministry of preaching, like Paul, but your life preaches anyway. You may think: "I didn't sign up for this," but proclaiming the word is at the core of what you signed up for when you signed up to being a Christian.
This is why Paul's message is for us all. As Paul advises, there is a need for each one to "strike a blow to my body and make it my slave" (v.27) if we are to win this race. The type of blows to our bodies that Paul is advocating for here involve:
- getting our ego out of the way as we preach (ouch!)
- practising humility in our preaching (ouch!)
- and making our 'sermons' a slave to God's agenda and throwing out our personal agendas (ouch!).
There are benefits to running the race in this way: not only does it transform the hearers of the message, it TRANSFORMS THE PREACHER! The preacher is transformed into the likeness of Christ, the "crown that will last forever" (v.25). What a prize – what a priceless prize!
(Lydia Neshangwe is the minister at St Andrew's Presby in Bulawayo. She is stimulated by the diversity that exists in the world, especially the diversity in the church).