I had a conversation with my doctor one day. I have several issues in my family tree and several of these relate to health issues I have already experienced. It is why I am on blood thinners and some other medications. In my discussions with the doctor, she said two things I have never forgotten. She said, "You can't do anything about what you have inherited, but you did lots of athletic stuff in your youth. That work and training has paid off in your later years and keeping active (working) is what will keep you well as long as possible." She was saying that my hard work growing up, and my continuing that work, will be lasting benefits to my health.
I wonder if Paul was into athletics? He writes about it a lot, and maybe he has a healthy respect for the work it takes to be a good athlete. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Paul talks specifically about running. Paul says all runners run, but only one wins the prize. He says all of the competitors train for the games, and they strive to get a crown that won't last. Then he says "but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." NFL coach Herm Edwards stated the obvious ... "We play to win the game!"
Two thoughts about this passage. First, life is not a game. It is real, though we do a lot to forget that little truth. Time is real, and doesn't stop. People are real, and we must learn to connect and relate to them. God's plan is real, and we ignore or evade it at our own peril. Paul reminds us of this when he says the prize we pursue is eternal. Paul, I believe, wants his people and the flock he is tending to train, work and strive to reach their highest potential. I like that!
But Paul also is dealing with real issues as he writes to the Corinthians from Ephesus. It is AD 55. The Corinthians are quarreling. The church in Corinth had drifted from Paul's teaching and had become confused. Paul says it takes work, effort and training to (as we say it) "keep the faith." The work includes listening to apostolic teaching. The work includes knowing what Jesus said and did. The work includes addressing (directly) people drifting to false teachings, false teachers, sinful practices and the non-Scriptural philosophies of his day. In verse 26 Paul reminds the Corinthians, "I do not run aimlessly or fight like someone beating the air." Paul knows that God leads in a direction. Our goal is a present life that is aimed to God's purpose (not our purpose) so that when we finish the race we will find God's place, presence and our heavenly home in Christ. As Herm Edwards said, "We pay to win the game!" Randy