1 Corinthians 9:26-27 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
When I think of a castaway, I think of a once great boat or ship, which, due to a storm, or instruments, or human error, has come to a low state, or to ruin. As a preacher, this passage is a stark reminder of a somber reality. I may preach to others, but I myself can become a castaway. I think sometimes we feel exempt. But if Paul, arguably the greatest Christian since Christ walked the earth, felt that he might become a castaway, we’d do well to heed his admonition. He gives a few insights into avoiding this tragedy:
- “I therefore run, not as uncertainly”. First, Paul knew what he was running for. He was pressing toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling in Christ. He continually pressed toward that mark. I am reminded this morning that I must keep the prize, the mark, the vision before me. I love the song “keep the race before us” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K93uKU6puc).
- “Not as one that beateth the air”. Secondly, he also knew who he was fighting against. He wasn’t taking wild swings at the air, or into the dark. No, he knew the enemy, and that enemy started with his flesh. I believe our flesh has brought down more great men that probably any other pitfall. But he often mentioned his flesh and the devil.
- “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.” Still speaking in sports or fighting terms, Paul realized the importance of keeping his body under subjection – as when a fighter overcomes his opponent, and brings him into “submission”, or “subjection”. This is something we must do. We must die daily. We must crucify the flesh. We must realize its power, and that if we allow it, it will get back up. It will come back at us.
- “When I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Finally, Paul understood that it didn’t matter his spiritual stature, or longevity. He knew he was still a potential casualty, and was willing to say it. Might we never get to a point to where we think we’re above the world, the flesh, and the devil. For it’s when we get to that point, that we’re susceptible to it happening to us.
“Let us therefore walk circumspectly, not as fools…” – Paul.