“but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” I Cor. 9:27
Discipline, most of us shudder at the word. We detest it and certainly do not intentionally inflict it.
This past week, I have lacked discipline in getting up on time, in my eating, in exercise or lack there of it and spiritually. Due to this, I have thought often about this word and began to pray that the Lord would show me what Paul meant by this and how to apply it in my own life.
The greek word here is hopopiazo, which literally means to buffet or batter. In this verse the word is used in present tense which signifies that this was Paul’s continual practice. This was no one time event, but was inflicted daily. Paul knew how weak his flesh was and he knew how much he needed the Lord and for the Lord to work in Him. Paul disciplined his body so that instead of being a slave to it and its desires, his body was a slave to Him. doing only that which He allowed. In Romans 6:12-14 Paul paints a vivid picture of this when he says, “Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lust and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourself to God as those alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
In reality however, most of us are slaves to our bodies and it’s desires. John McArthur said, “Most people, including many Christians are instead slaves to their bodies. Their bodies tell their minds what to do. Their bodies decide when to eat, what to eat, how much to eat. When to sleep and when to get up. An athlete can’t do this. He follows the training rules, not his body. He runs when he’d rather be resting. He eats a balanced meal when he’d rather have a chocolate sundae. He goes to bed when he’d rather stay up and he gets up early to train, when he’d rather stay in bed. An athlete leads his body, he does not follow it. It is his clave and not the other way around.” I’m not sure about you, but as I read the above, I realized how much a slave I am to my body. Eating what it wants, doing what feels best, being lazy instead of working hard. Sleeping in instead of getting up early to pray.
Paul said he disciplines his body, making it his slave. Meaning he sought the Spirit to bring his body, his flesh into a state of servitude. He did this by, denying his flesh, taking us his cross, and following Jesus. Instead of doing what his body craved, he pressed on to do the will of God. Most of us don’t like to deny ourselves and we live in a culture that says indulge yourself and tells us we deserve the best. The Bible’s concept is then very foreign. For though we know a banana would be better than chocolate, we give into the indulgence. Though we know it’s be best to rise early to pray, we press the snooze button and go back to sleep. Though we know we are supposed to put others first, we selfishly think only of ourselves.
Today in church, our pastor preached on I Timothy 4:7 where Paul tells Timothy not to have anything to do with worldly fables, instead to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” Pointing out that most of us want the Lord’s blessing, His mercy and His grace, but we want them just given to us without any effort on our part. The Christian life takes works, it takes surrender, it takes discipline. But don’t miss this for this is huge. It is God who begins the work (salvation) and it is God who completes the work in and through us (sanctification) as well. As we yield ourselves to Him through Bible study, prayer and meditation, it is the Lord who then works in us through His Word to make us more like Christ! Awesome! Let us then be committed to spiritual discipline that the Lord may work in us to produce this godliness. May we as Jesus said, deny ourselves, not being slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness. That we may enjoy intimate fellowship with the Lord and so we may glorify Him.