You’re driving down a mountain road.
What helps guide or create margins that prevent you from driving off the side of the mountain, or directly into it?
You would probably guess yellow painted lines, rumble strips, and a guardrail.
Even in driving, we have created protective boundaries or margins for ourselves to re-correct or reorient ourselves to keep us on a better path.
Paul, far before automobile metaphors but knowing the customs of the Corinthians, used the life of a devote athlete as an explanation for this idea of protecting margins in 1 Corinthians 9.
The Isthmian games were held in Corinth every two years, so its people were familiar with athletics, training, self-discipline, and the severity of disqualification. This intensity, this dedication, the understanding of consequences, honor, and victory Paul is all relating to the life lived by a follower of Christ.
“If you and I want to avoid the shame of being disqualified and the dishonor that would bring to our Savior, then we must listen to God and pursue a lifestyle that is most often seen in champion athletes.” – Brian Frost
Champion athletes, whose minds are intent on winning, ask the right questions, they run light, they never train alone.
All of these are guard rails, protecting the margins in which they have set on their time in order to bring assurance to their goal of victory.
Paul is calling believers to behave the same way. We are to put up these guard rails, ask the right questions, shed any encumbrances in our lives, avoid living isolated lives, and others in our lives to protect our margined time for the mission of God.
“Because Christ has already run the race for us, our running is the overflow of already having Jesus and wanting others to have it too. Our intensity is absolutely covered by joy, peace, and hope.” – Brian Frost
Knowing these resolved truths, Paul continues to urge the Corinthians to run with the end in mind; focusing on the day and time where we will stand in front of Jesus, and He will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
This focus brings further motivation to practice self-control on urgent needs and investment in important needs. So that our time may be spent on the souls of those who are running endlessly towards the edge of the mountain with no guard rails whatsoever.
He is calling for believers to deny themselves, as Christ did, for a mission worthy of our life.
God urges us to run with the intent to win. (1 Corinthians 9:24)
Hebrews 12:1 – Champions run light. We could live the Christian life with a ton of encumbrances, but we don’t have to.
Hebrews 10:24-25 – Champions never run alone. Christians sing, pray, train, and carry each other together. They remind each other that Christ already ran for us!
Philippians 3:12 – Christ has already run the race for us. Our running is the overflow of already having Jesus and wanting others to have Him, too.
God urges us to run with the end in mind. (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
2 Corinthians 5:10 – If an athlete can find motivation in a perishable prize, imagine the motivation of a believer who sees the everlasting prize waiting for them.
God urges us to run with self-control. (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)
Proverbs 25:28 – Self-control is the ability to control urgent desires for the sake of important desires.
Am I running my race of life as one who has been rescued by Jesus?
Am I considering the return on my investment of time? What is the cost or consequences of my time investment?
How can I yield to Christ, say no more easily, and practice advanced decision making this week?
Am I numbering my days? Am I seeking to understand God’s will? Am I running like a champion?
What are the guardrails in my life that protect the margins of my life? Do I have any at all?
The sudden death of former NBA star Koby Bryant is proof alone that life is a vapor. Time stops for no one, and our lives are ever rolling forward towards an expiration date. This ought not to stir fear, regret, or sadness within us, but rather, it ought to spur hope, urgency, and drive.
Through training together and avoiding isolation, shedding the heavy encumbrances of the world off, and asking ourselves the right, accountable questions, we build protections around the margins of time we have built in our lives.
This not only allows us to leverage our time so that, when we stand in front of Jesus, He will look at us and say, “Well done,” but it also provides fertile soil for opportunities to bring others who are squandering their lives away into the fold of the gospel.
Watch the entire sermon below or on the Providence mobile app.