I Corinthians 9:24-27

Dr. Steve Viars March 3, 1992 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

- tonight we're going to be looking at one of the most
  familiar passages in the book of I Corinthians
- these verses are used a lot at graduation banquets and
  other special occasions
- I imagine practically everyone here tonight has heard them
  and been blessed by their message

- it's good that we've been studying through this book
  chapter by chapter and verse by verse because we'll have
  the opportunity to put these familiar verses in their

- I'd like to "set these verses up" tonight by asking us to
  think about a question

- Often in counseling, we begin the sessions by asking
   something like "How was your week?"
- we do that for a couple different reasons
    1) to determine if their were any major upsets
    2) to determine how they decide what constitutes a good
        week, and what constitutes a bad week

- often during the first few sessions, folks respond to that
   question with exterior circumstances, like:
    - It was a good week because: (INPUT - can you
       guess//what kinds of exterior circumstances they might
         - good week because:
             - I got a raise
             - my spouse treated me better
             - my child didn't throw as many fits

         - terrible week because:
            - had to get my car fixed
            - my spouse was a bear to live with
            - my co-workers don't pull their share of the

- over time, we've got to help that person change their
   definition of what makes a good week/what makes a bad week
     - a good week isn't when all the exterior circumstances
         go my way
     - a good week is when I take steps of growth and please
        the Lord regardless of the circumstances around me

- point is - until we have the correct evaluators and the
    right goals, we can't possibly determine whether the week
    was good or bad
      - see, how was your week?  -- we can't answer that
          question correctly unless we can properly decide
          what constitutes a good week or a bad week.

- now, let me broaden that out and then we'll try to tie it
   in with I Cor. 9
- let's say that someone asked you - how's your life?


- I realize people don't ask us that everyday, but if someone
   did (on board)
     - what kinds of things would constitute whether things
       were going well or not?
     - "things are going well because...."
          (growing, effective in evangelism)

- point is - I can't possibly determine how things are going
   in my life until I have the correct evaluators and goals

- now let me ask you this - is it possible for a person to
   claim to be a Christian, and also be very busy doing a lot
   of things--yet in the final analysis---not accomplishing
   the kinds of things we've listed on the board?
     - of course the answer is "yes"

- I think of a young mother I spoke, not connected with our
  church in any way
    - had three small children
    - her and her husband claimed to be Christians

    - their schedule went something like this

        1) husband worked tremendous amounts of over-time
             - worked doubles - sometimes triples
        2) wife woke up every morning at 4:30
        3) had the kids out of bed just after 5
        4) to the daycare by 6:00
        5) she worked a 10 hour shift, had an hour commute
        6) picked the kids up at six, grabbed some fast food
            on the way home

          - they were making a tremendous amount of money
          - but by their own admission
              - had no time for each other
              - no time to find a church home or attend
              - no time or energy to invest in raising their

- if they were here tonight -- they would look at that list
    and say
       - you could take any "slice" of our lives you wanted
          to (3 months, 6 months, etc)
       - you would find that we have made practically no
         progress on any of those goals

       - It's easy to be busy, it's hard to be effective

- we're talking about the problem of aimless living
- now in these last verses of I Cor. 9 - Paul's going to say
   "The Lord doesn't want us to live aimlessly--and here's
    four steps to avoid that kind of lifestyle"

- read 9:24-27

I. Run To Win - v. 24

    A. Background

        - If the apostle Paul were here tonight and he wanted
          to liken the Christian life to some sports activity
          that you and I would relate to - he'd probably talk
          about Purdue basketball, or maybe one of the high
          school teams, because that's something we'd relate

    - for the Corinthians, it was naturally for him to refer
      to a foot-race, because that was part of the Isthmian
      games that were held right there in Corinth
    - there were two great athletic contests in those days,
      of course the Olympics held in Greece
         - and second to that was the Isthmian games
    - the athletes would come to Corinth months before the
      games in order to train, so the Corinthians were very
      familiar with athletics

- Paul is capitalizing on that and saying--let's liken the
   Christian life to a footrace, one of the most exciting
   events in the games, both then and now

    - we need to talk about what is being stressed and what's
      not being stressed

    B. What is not being stressed

        1. run "for your salvation"

            - Paul's obviously not talking about a contest in
              order to earn your salvation
            - that would contradict all that Paul and other
              Bible writers had taught about salvation being
              by grace through faith solely apart from works
            - even though the Corinthians had a lot of
              problems, Paul addressed them over and over as
              brothers and sisters in Christ
            - the issue here is not their salvation

        2. run "against other believers"

            - an important principle of hermeneutics is
              determining the kind of literature we're
              seeking to interpret
            - when we're studying parables or figures of
              speech, it's important not to "push" the
              meaning of every last detail

            - we talk about illustrations "breaking down"
            - where that illustration no longer fits

            - that's true here
            - when Paul talks about the Christian life being
              like a race -- he's not saying we're racing
              against one another
            - we're racing against ourselves---fighting
              against sin, flesh, and the devil---and every
              believer who applies these principles can be a
              spiritual winner

- so Paul's not talking about salvation---he's not talking
   about racing against one another

     (C. What is being stressed)

   - Instead, Paul's talking about a Christian's desire to
     spiritually succeed
   - NASB (end of verse 24) - "Run in such a way that you may

   - he says - look out there at those folks competing in the
        - "What do you notice about them?"
            (they're running in to win)

    - that’s exactly right
       - they're not hoping to come in second
       - they're not just glad they got to make the traveling
       - they're out there to win

- that ought to be true of a Christian spiritually
    - not - "I'm just happy I found the stadium"
          - "it doesn't really matter how I do"

    - we ought to run to win!

- natural question is:

    D. What does it mean to "win" in this context?

- that’s a very important question
- sometimes these verses are used out of their context
    - that’s not necessarily bad
    - there's some general truths which are appropriate and
       applicable to many occasions, but in light of the
       context of these verses (which we've studied the last
       several weeks) - what kind of winning is Paul talking
       about here?

    (on board - funnel - handling Christian liberty
       correctly, winning others to Jesus Christ)

    - winning in this context is enslaving my liberty and
      being in the best possible position to win men and
      women to Jesus Christ

- one writer said it this way - "The athlete's disciplined
   self-control is a rebuke of half-hearted, out of shape
   Christians who do almost nothing to prepare themselves to
   witness and consequently seldom do."

- Paul says - we ought to want to win
   - we ought to have some spiritual ambition
      - we ought to want to look at a certain period of our
        lives and say
           - here's some clear evidences of how I enslaved my
             liberty in order to minister to others
           - here's some clear examples of how I sought to
             tell someone else about Jesus Christ and the
             salvation that's available in him
           - here's someone who trusted the Lord who's now
             been baptized and is a growing disciple

- I don't want to coast - I won't be satisfied simply being
- I want to win

- see, what's one of the evaluators to determine how things
   are going?
     - am I running to win?
     - what evidence is there that I am?

Paul also says:

II. Run With Self-Control

    - read v. 25

    - verse 24 talked about the what - now he's going to
       begin giving us the how-to's

    A. Assumes tremendous effort

        - KJV - everyone who "strives"
        - NASB and NIV - everyone that "competes"

             - its the original word "agonizomai"
             - INPUT - what word do we get from that?
                 (agony, agonize)

        - that undoubtedly would have called up some pictures
          in the Corinthian's minds about athletes that
          trained and worked so hard that it was agony

        - I think of a woman several years ago who was
          running the marathon
        - by time she got to the stadium she was exhausted
          and they showed her trying to make the last lap
          around the track
            - by that time she was disoriented and not even
              able to run in a straight line
            - you could just sense her agony

- that’s the image that Paul's calling up here

- now you know we're not talking about human effort alone
- none of this could be accomplished apart from God and His

- but when it comes to the issue of how we enslave our
  liberty, and how we go after people who don't know the
    - the way we pray
    - the way we act
    - the way we witness
    - the way we treat our freedoms

       - it's agonizomai - agony - tremendous effort

- Paul says - its effort directed at self-control

    - "everyone that competes in the games exercises self-
       control in all things."

INPUT - what are some ways an athlete has to exercise self-
        control in order to be ready to give his best

- a very important point to notice about the things we just
   listed is: many of these things aren't wrong in and of
     - but a disciplined athlete still lays them aside
       because it might hinder their ability to win

- someone has defined discipline as "giving up the good and
    the better in order to accomplish the best"

    "everyone who competes in the games exercises self-
     control in all things."

- see, how would you complete this sentence--"If I had better
   control of ____________, I'd be a better witness."
    (if time, take hypothetical examples)

- Paul also says - this self control:

    C. Results in a crown

        - one of the thing that amazes Paul is what the
          Corinthian athletes were willing to do in light of
          the crown they received
        - we're not talking about lucrative advertising
        - we're not talking about interviews on late-
           night TV

        - historians tell us that the crown the winner
          received in these games was often made of celery or pine
        - it was corruptible, perishable

        - it wilted after a few days
        - that is so true of sports today

        - Could you name who won the Super Bowl five years
            - the world series?, the NCAA Basketball finals?
            - the Stanley Cup?

        - yet athletes worked months and years for those
          honors -- but they're fleeting

    - Paul says - but our race is different
    - we're talking about crowns that won't perish
        - we're talking about crowns that can be laid at the
          Savior's feet in worship and praise to him

- Paul is saying - "shame on us"
    - shame on us if an athlete gets more excited about
      earning a perishable celery crown than we do about
      earning an imperishable one

    - shame on us if an athlete is more willing to control
      himself for temporary rewards than we are to earn
      eternal rewards

- see, if we're going to avoid aimless living, we'll have to
  I. Run to Win, II. Run With Self-Control

- next Paul says:

III. Run With Purpose - v. 26

    - read 26

    - Paul says, we've got to run with purpose, and he:

    A. illustrated (that) in two ways

        1. in running

            - if you've been around here a while, you've
              probably heard me tell about Bert
                - develop - where you going - "I don't know -
                   I was just running"

        2. in boxing

            - Paul says - I'm not just "beating the air"
              - there's some disagreement here over whether
                Paul's talking about shadow boxing or actual
                wild punches thrown during a boxing match

            - the bottom line is - the point the same
               - it's purposeless

            - running without a goal is a waste and so is
              boxing without a clear target

- Paul says--this isn't a purposeless exercise
    - it's not a meaningless game

    - he says--these athletes take this serious, and so
       should we

- one of the reporters asked Coach Keady about one of guys on
    his team and he said - "How do you coach someone who just
     giggles all the time at practice?"

- now that's one kind of bad in Big Ten basketball--but its
    something completely different when we talk about living
    for the Lord
- "Holding tightly to liberties and rights is a sure way to
    lose the race of soul-winning"

- Paul is saying --- this is serious

- the couple I mentioned earlier who say they have to work
   all that overtime and have to throw their kids in the day-
   care for 60 hours a week and have to have the new boat and
   all the rest
     - when confronted about the fact that they weren't
       taking time to develop relationships with each other
       and with the Lord
          - and certainly weren't having any kind of
            spiritual impact on others--you know what they
              - they laughed!
- I recently read several notes of a young woman who had just
  attempted suicide
    - as I read them I thought - "this is a game to this
    - she doesn't have any idea of the seriousness of what
      she just attempted

- how is that possible? - by running without aim, by getting
     in the habit of boxing at the wind

     - purposeless

- we're talking about eternal issues
- we're talking about someone's eternity, and whether it will
   be spent in heaven or hell

   - the person who all the time wants to say - "but I've got
       liberty, I've got freedom"
         - doesn't realize the serious of these issues

- Paul says--Run to Win, Run W/Self-Control, Run With Purpose

IV. Run With Self-Discipline - v. 27

    READ v. 27

    - Paul says - "here's how

    A. How

       1. I buffet my body

            - Buffet - "lit under the eye"

       2. make my body a slave

            - instead of being a slave to my body, I make my
              body a slave

INPUT - what do our bodies have to do with the issue of
        Christian liberty?  (so many of the Christian liberty
        issues have a physical component)
          - what we eat, drink, wear, listen to

- some of us are not as effective at evangelism as we could
   be because we haven't buffeted our bodies and made it our

    B. Why?

        - because I don't want to be a castaway

        - word literally means - "be disqualified"

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video