"I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." - 1 Corinthians 9:27 (NIV)
In this verse, Paul is admonishing us to be disciplined and to be diligent about it. He doesn't literally beat his body; he is saying he has disciplined himself so that he is not a slave to it but is in control of it. Not just his body, but his mind also. He does this so that he will be worthy of the prize that is waiting for him --- Heaven!
Self-control, self-discipline, self-denial....whatever you want to call it....isn't fun nor is it easy. But it's what God calls us to have. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) says this: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." And 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NIV) tells us, "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." When we diligently practice being disciplined in our thoughts and actions, God will reward us.
What does diligently practicing discipline look like? I can only speak for myself, but, for me, it's being in constant contact with Jesus. It's asking Him to help me with my decisions throughout the day. Do I really need that piece of cake? Should I watch a violent movie? What can I do to help someone in need? Do I really need to spend money on a new blouse? Why are these mean, judgemental thoughts running around in my brain? Should I really say that? Do I want to participate in what everyone else is doing? Why am I so upset because this didn't turn out like I hoped? Why am I worrying about this? I could go on and on. But, when I view things through His perspective, He will change my view of the world. He will guide me into making the correct decisions, into being disciplined and self-controlled.
What happens if we don't practice self-control? The Bible is clear on that, too. In James 3:16 (NIV) we are told, "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice." Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV) spells it out even more clearly: "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." WOW!! Talk about taking our eyes off the prize!!
As I said, discipline is not fun or easy. Whether it's coming from God or I do it for myself, my sinful nature rebels against it....big time!! However, it is the best thing that can happen to me. The prize waiting for me - Heaven - and the riches God has for me there, are worth keeping my eye on.
"To go to Heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here." - Jonathan Edwards
Dear Lord, the Bible clearly spells out Your expectation that I live a disciplined life. I ask that You remind me, constantly, of Your Presence and of Your desire that I turn to You in all areas and decisions in my life. Help me to filter my view of the world through Your Son. May I give all control to You each day and keep my eye on the prize You have waiting for me. In Jesus' name I ask, Amen.