1 & 2 Corinthians: Day 11

Paul’s Example


Today's Text: 1 Corinthians 9:1-27, Matthew 15:11, Romans 15:17-19

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:1-27, Matthew 15:11, Romans 15:17-19

I was a gangly eighth grader with the athleticism of an opossum. As one does in middle school, I signed up for the track team strictly because my friends had done the same. There was not a cell in my hormonal body that wanted to run the four-lap race assigned to me. I lumbered to the starting line hauling a bundle of nerves and a posture of defeat.

Then… Bang! The starting pistol fired, and we began circling the track. As I crested the final turn of my third lap, I noticed a few frontrunners were crossing the finish line a full lap ahead of me. Hungry for glory, I sealed my fate in the Track Hall of Shame. I squared my shoulders and crossed the finish line in style, confident no one would notice I still had a lap left to run.

Assuming I’d successfully cheated my way onto the winners’ platform, I celebrated my victory. It was a brief moment of glory followed by a humiliating spectacle of defeat. As the last of the runners crossed the finish line, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“You,” said a man with a stopwatch in his hand. “Run your last lap.” I ran the final lap of the race on an empty track. It was the opposite of a victory lap.

Such is the image Paul paints for us. As disciples and disciple makers, we are runners on the track of faith. God’s truth is a baton that has been passed from Abraham to Isaac, to the apostles, to Paul, to us. We are pushing toward the prize of making Christ known. Yet, it’s easy to forget what we’re doing here. We’re so often distracted by the crowd in the stands or the other runners pumping and huffing beside us. Paul reminds us that those sideways glances can cost us the victory.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (vv. 24-27).

The apostle isn’t writing about salvation here. No amount of training or self-discipline could earn us that. Salvation is ours forever because of Christ’s work, not ours. But, let’s be honest; it’s possible to be saved, but not sowing. To be redeemed, but not reaping. To be an ambassador of faith, but not a good one. It’s possible to run the race of faith, but not run it well.

Paul’s obsession with the gospel (vv. 15–18) is what glued his eyeballs to the finish line. He could face criticism, hardship, and scarcity, and still keep running because allegiance to the gospel was the medal he imagined hanging around his neck.

Since we don’t want to cross the finish line with heads hanging in defeat, how do we keep our own eyes on the prize? Like a runners cadence, we repeat. . .

It’s about the gospel.
It’s about the gospel.
It’s about the gospel.

Let us keep running!


Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

  • Shelby Lynn

    Wonderful post. Running track in high school makes this very personal. Life remains a track race, eventually we all make it to the end. It’s not about how you made it to the end, it’s about our run. Same thing with the “-” (dash) between the dates on tombstones, how did you live your dash? Lord thank you for salvation despite my sins making me feel as if I don’t deserve it, you are a Great God!

  • Kellie Cajas

    I just stepped out of leadership in church ministry to embrace my calling as a sexual assault nurse examiner. With full faith and peace I made my decision, but it came with a lot of hard conversations. We all get so distracted by the details of life, I think it can be difficult to keep that runner’s cadence going when change in life and ministry forces a change in stride. Thank you for the reminder this morning that my cadence doesn’t change, even when the look of my ministry does!

  • Heidi Jones

    I was reminded the other day of how much the Lord blessed me with my godly upbringing. Today, I feel the Holy Spirit telling me not to waste it…I am running the race of life and I feel like it’s so easy to be distracted while running. Why am I running? I need to remember my purpose in running is for the spread of the Gospel.

  • Lacey Mawby

    Living a life of self control so we will not be disqualified from being a messenger of the Gospel! The virtue of self control is so lacking in our culture and it’s important we model it. Not through our own strength or abilities but remembering it is through God and His grace that self control is initiated, produced and enabled in us!

  • Needed this. In youth ministry and have a particularly challenging group of teens right now. Easy to get discouraged… It’s about the Gospel!

  • Maria Saleh

    So should we still run the race if we are not running it well?

    • Danielle Merriweather

      Absolutely!!! We all fall short at some point in time. If there are things that are preventing you from running the race well, talk to God about it and ask him for help on how to proceed in getting back in the race on the right track.

    • Lacey Mawby

      God is the one who enables and by reading His word and applying it to our lives we can run it well! Our lives are a sanctification process and we all have room to run the race better!!

    • Melanie

      We won’t always feel like we’re running the race well I think. There are times where we get tired and need to walk a little bit and recover. If that’s the place you’re in, don’t feel like you’re failing. Rest. Spend time in solitude with God and listen to what he had to tell you. Read his word and pray with some godly friends. When you’re ready to ruin again, go for it, but not of your own strength. The Spirit wants to be your running partner until you cross the finish line. Trust him to get you there. This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Let the Spirit set the pace for you <3

  • Monica Davis

    It’s a race. Against ourselves and our flesh.

  • Monica Davis

    It’s a race.

  • Angel Logan

    This was absolutely beautiful. Everything about this message spoke straight to my heart

  • Jennifer Brennit

    It’s about the gospel.
    It’s about the gospel.
    It’s about the gospel.
    Love this reminder! I needed this today! Home with three bickering kids on summer break… two with special needs. So so easy to get bogged down and defeated. Thank you, Jesus, for your grace!

  • Elizabeth

    I love the illustration of not being distracted by the sidelines or the other runners. It is so easy to get caught up in the “rat-race” of life; bills, jobs, success, etc. We get easily distracted and forget our main purpose on this Earth! “It’s about the gospel.” And also get distracted by comparing ourselves to other runners. Celebrate your fellow sisters AND be the best you that God created you to be.

    The last verse about being a castaway I’m not sure I agree with. It’s the same Greek word translated as “rebrobate.” I think there is importance in that Paul understood he was to share the Gospel, but he was also called to obedience as well. If he never took care of his own spiritual life, his relationship with God could turn out to have vanished. I think scripture shows it is possible to turn our back on God, and we must ask God to help us stay on track personally as well. His arms are always open to receive us again!

  • LOVE love love love this devotional! This really hit home for me. Probably my favorite one yet!

  • Erika Corson

    Such an awesome analogy to how easy it is to be distracted by who is on the sideline watching…causing a “fear of man” and focus on self-glory.

    Such a awesome analogy to how easy it is to be distracted by the runners ahead, beside, and behind you…causing a competitive spirit that relies on our own strength instead of a faith & goal in Christ alone.

    Such an awesome analogy to the motive of running the race…the prize isn’t for others to see your reward while standing on a podium. No, the prize is to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good & faithful servant…” Matthew 25:14-30

  • Brianna Foshie

    I too ran track in high school and I was always worried at first about others watching me. Near the end of my first season I got the hang of just doing it without worrying about what others were watching me do because I realized that slowed me down. I want to run the race with people who are focused on the gospel and this post makes me thankful for those I’m running with now.

  • This is also a reminder of why running our race of faith is so important. Many people have yet to hear and recieve the gospel of truth. We just continue to pass the baton through every community and nation for generations to come!

  • Tanya Rodriguez

    I feel like Erin always nails it in the devotionals. I’ve definitely been that kid that wants to cheat a lap all the time especially now that I’m older. Keeping our eyes fixed on the gospel prize is key.

  • Rochelle Walker

    I needed this! Thank you.

  • Chris Swan

    I work at a pregnancy resource center—- what a great lesson today! Share the gospel!

    • Lisa S

      I have worked in that field and it is a daily battle but the best kingdom work I have ever done. Thank you for reaching out to our vulnerable and scared!

  • Sometimes I find Pauls writings to be a bit confusing. He asks so many questions and answers them in indirect ways that confuse me. I wonder why he talked so much about getting fed as we share the gospel? Why is he saying “don’t we have the right to be accomplished….? Then I think it is interesting when he talks about saving people he says he becomes like the “Jews, those under the law, and not under the law”? He told us in earlier readings to not be a stumbling block, speak the truth…now do we act like those who’s souls we are trying to witness too? I like that he speaks of self control and discipline vs 25-27 “after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified”. Meaning ? Practice what we preach? What’s your thought and guidance on some of these questions?

    • PamC

      Jen, too can find Paul confusing. If I remember correctly, Paul is talking about how he doesn’t live off the generosity of donations like others do but supports himself by being a tent maker. When he’s talking to a group that’s Jewish, because he was an educated Jew, he could state scripture, etc that they would understand. The way we relate to others is to remember that we too are sinners, just forgiven ones. We’re not better or worse, just saved. It’s the salvation we’re sharing. Does that help?

      • Jen

        Pam, yes that does help. I think because he talks a lot his letters are so full and could be simplified for people like me. Your explanation was great! I also forgot he was a tent maker. Love the history too! Thanks

    • Lizzieb85

      At the start of chapter 9 Paul is talking about how one’s vocation is a means to feed oneself. You plant the field, you eat some of what you get. Paul views his vocation as preaching the gospel. He is saying he has a right to live off of that vocation. Meaning he could stay with people he is preaching to & eat their food. But he is not doing this. He is working as a tent maker to feed himself so that no one can accuse him of taking advantage of the people he is ministering to.
      So being a Christian, he does not have to follow the law, however he will subject himself to it in order to minister to the Jews. On the other hand, the Gentiles are not under the Jewish law, so Paul will act like them to minister to them. BUT he is still accountable to Christ, so he will not do anything morally wrong. WE as Christians can do the same. We can become like those we want to reach without sinning. It takes self control & discernment to do that.
      Paul is doing all he can to reach as many people as he can without taking advantage of them, or compromising his own righteousness to do so. He is not telling us to be fake, but he is also telling us to reach people where they are- sincerely & without fault. How do we do this? Christ/the gospel must be our source & goal.

      • Jen

        Thank you for your understanding of this and sharing it with me. That makes a lot of since, if we don’t do go to others thinking we are better and at their level of understanding it makes since. Thanks for helping me have a better understanding.

  • These days, my race is more a walk. One step at a time. One day at a time. A pace that lends itself to a quiet prayer and encouragement to keep focused on that which is loving and kind and good. God be with me and in me. Lord work through me in all I do.
    All glory to You. Amen

  • Penny McAuley

    Good reminder for me this morning. We are all in this race. Our performance matters.

  • It’s so easy to grow weary of running when I’m distracted by the world around me. But when I keep my eyes on Him, all else falls away. Lord give me the strength to keep running. Make my steps sure. And never let the demands of the crowd distract me from my divine purpose.

    • Jessie

      Thank you. That prayer gave me the stregth to power through the day!

  • Vicki Del Boccio

    Amen and amen!

  • Valerie Schlabach

    “It’s possible to run the race of faith, but not run it well.” <- This. I feel like this is where I am, not just in my faith, but as a mother, as a wife, in my job, as a friend. I am participating in all these things, but doing none of them well.
    Lord, give me the energy and the focus and the awareness in my heart to be intentional in the most important ways. I want to run the race well…

  • Katelynn Barlowe

    May I run the race a little better every day.
    May my eyes and heart better understand the Gospel and it’s incredible beauty more each day.
    By the power of your Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.

  • Erin, Thanks for the huge smile (you STILL would have outrun me) and the excellent meditation!

  • Jessica Terpstra

    What a great reminder on a hectic morning of the most central thing…It’s all about the gospel!

    • Kaylah Drakeford

      yes!! it was such a good reminder! my morning is about to start and keeping Him central will help me stay cool lol

  • Sandy Forsythe


  • Sandy Forsythe

    Each person’s race is unique and personal- don’t look sideways

  • Amen!!

  • Kelly Chataine

    Terrisa, Anne, and Churchmouse all said it well!
    Run the race. Fight the good fight. Get out there and preach the Gospel of Christ.

  • There were so many years I was not sowing or reaping, barely had a jog in me. But today I can say that I have picked up the pace and am running. Oh, I trip and fall many times, but with God beside me I am able to get back up and continue the race. I have a long way to go and I am so thankful for His faithfulness. And I am repeating…”It’s about the gospel”, as I run today. Thank you for this devotional.

  • Anne Jones

    Father forgive me for my distraction with what is going on at the sidelines. Please help me to keep my focus on you in this race, for strength and endurance come from you.

  • Churchmouse

    “Are you not my work in the Lord?“ A reminder this morning that I don’t need to look far to see my mission field.

  • Terrisa Stewart

    This is a timely reminder that while I may be doing the basics as a Christian woman, there are areas where I need to strengthen my spirit and walk further with Christ

Further Reading...