“Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside”
1 Corinthians 9:27 TLB
I would love to speak a little bit more on this matter of being cast away, or like The Living Bible used it ‘ordered to stand aside’. Normally, this verse is being discussed in the light of a Christian going to hell fire. Now, that may be it, but I want to face our discussion in a slightly different direction.
Many years ago, I remembered my conversation with a brother friend of mine whom I commended on his prayer life. Then, he could pray for 2 hours or more, but I could not, and many other things. So, I expressed my wonder to him at the weight of his spiritual life. But he smiled sadly at me and remarked, “Brother, you are just seeing me here. Those I started this race with have outran me. If you see where some of them are spiritually, you will marvel”. So, I asked him what happened to him, why others outran him, and he replied to me, “immorality”. He shared his story briefly of how he walked with God and then slipped back to immorality, more than once. These things, he remarked to me, actually set him back. I am happy to say that he is one of the firebrands today burning for God on the front line altars, and you probably may have benefitted from his ministry.
I shared this story to tell you that sometimes, the Holy Fear is not necessarily about hell fire, but about the fact that you may miss your crown, you may fail to reach the end, and receive your due reward from the Lord. You may still end up in Heaven, but like a man who never ran for God, like one merely saved from fire (as Paul described it in 1 Cor. 3 vs. 15).
You have a race set before you, and a crown waiting for you at the end of that race. You have a purpose which God gave you from the beginning of the world, but there is no guarantee that you will fulfill it. You could be ordered to stand aside, if you are not careful.
Look around you, where are those who began this race with you, may be in your days in University? Yes, some of them actually backslided, but did you notice that some of them had gone far, far into God and into His agenda for their lives. This was because they kept a straight course, they disciplined their body. Yes it was Grace, but that Grace was made available to you, and you never took advantage of it.
Take a cue from athletics. I may pay for you to have a coach, I may provide you with all the latest sports wears and gears. You do not have the money or the connections to be able to get great sporting opportunities, but I helped you with them. That is Grace. However, I cannot run your race for you. I cannot force you to wake up every morning and jog. I cannot force you to choose your food wisely in order to keep shape. Grace may provide you with all that you need, but it cannot force you into a life of discipline necessary to win the race. You have to be willing, and you have to work.
God is choosing His army for the end time. God is raising managers for His household. Are you sure you are not being sidelined? While men are setting themselves apart to seek the Lord, you are fondling a girl on your bed. While brethren are downloading messages and books on their Android devices to keep track with the wisdom of God, you are watching pornography, the latest music video, BBNaija, and wasting your time on games.
Elimination is going on, whether you realise it or not. Just like the 9,700 men of Gideon’s army who were told to go home, choices are being made and men are being tossed aside. I hope you are not being ordered to stand aside.
There is still hope. Maybe you have made mistakes. No qualms. That is why God’s word is coming to you. As long as God’s word is coming to you, there is still hope. When you have been ordered to step aside, God will stop bothering you with the Greater Glory. But for now, there is still hope. But let hope be mixed with fear, the Holy Fear. May you never be dropped from God’s army, whether in this life, or in the life to come. Amen.
PRAYERS: Lord, I’m sorry for the times I walked in carelessness, and what it has cost me. Help me to value the race which you have set before me, help me to value so much the Grace you have given me, help me to arise and discipline my body for the race, so that I will not be found wanting and ordered today stand aside. Keep me on track, and always available for you, as I commit myself to walk carefully. In Jesus name. Amen.
For further reading: Genesis 49 vs. 1-8, Numbers 25 vs. 1-9; Judges 7 vs. 5-8; Acts 1 vs. 16-20; Romans 11 vs. 18-22; Philippians 3 vs. 12-14