Day 11

Paul’s Example

from the 1 & 2 Corinthians reading plan

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

BY Guest Writer

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.

Post Comments (61)

61 thoughts on "Paul’s Example"

  1. Lacey Mawby says:

    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!

    1. BB says:

      Yes! We are part of a culture that’s mostly about self! Let’s pray to be examples as Paul was.

  2. R F says:

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

  3. Maria Saleh says:

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

    1. Danielle Merriweather says:

      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.

    2. Lacey Mawby says:

      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!!

    3. Melanie says:

      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

  4. Monica Davis says:

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

  5. Monica Davis says:

    It’s a race.

  6. Angel Logan says:

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

  7. Jennifer Brennit says:

    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!

  8. Elizabeth says:

    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!

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