All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. 1 Corinthians 9:25-27
Athletics were taken very seriously by the Greeks. The Olympic Games were established in 776 BC and were held in Olympia every four years. Corinth itself had its own games known as the Isthmian Games, which were second only to the Olympics. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that the apostle Paul often made references to athletics. In preparation for the games, athletes were put through a punishing regime. They were required to prepare for ten months and the entire focus was upon winning. Unlike today, there were no prizes for coming second or third.
The winner in Paul’s day would be given a pine wreath to wear but, great as that honour was, it would soon fade. Paul knew that he was working for an eternal prize and so he was determined to be fit to ensure that he could keep going. Of course, the Christian life doesn’t only have one winner. All of us need to ensure that we keep fit for the work that God has called us to do.
A contemporary described Paul as “a man small of stature, with a bald head and crooked legs”. It would seem unlikely that he was an athlete himself, but he had no doubt of the importance of keeping physically fit. Whether he was in prison or was engaged in his demanding missionary journeys, he needed to keep strong.
Not many of us are Olympians but, whatever our age, physical fitness is important if we are to do all that God wants us to do.
What do you do to keep physically fit?
Lord God, thank you for the gift of my body. Help me to see it as one of your gifts to me, and help me to use it well. Amen