Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1Co 9:25-27 NIV)
With the first comparison the apostle directed our attention to the zeal and perseverance that the saints demonstrate in the ongoing struggle of sanctification. Now in the second example he points us to required abstention of all that prevents optimum performance and competition. Strong wrestlers and competitors follow a strict diet and stick to a life-style that is most conducive for best results in contest. They don’t pamper indulgence, but rather perceive the entire life as an ongoing preparation for the challenging race ahead. They toughen their bodies and push it to its boundaries, they even train to take hard blows and severe punishment in their stride. That’s how much they strain to gain the earthly price and rewarding crown. Similarly a Christian is called to fight the good fight and not to spare himself in this struggle. If he is out to be crowned, then he should shun all impediments that decrease his fighting prowess and avoid all that makes him feeble, faint and inefficient. Zeal in sanctification goes hand in hand with the austere will to renunciation. Whoever wants to progress in good, will have to put off what’s evil. That’s what the apostle lives out as an example to the congregation. He practices to control his body, his mind, desires, will and ways. He strives to lord over his heart and emotions, taming and regulating them, so that he does not preach others and himself is disqualified.
Almighty Lord, eternal God! Help us to persist patiently in the trials confronting us and that we continue to reach out towards the goal that is ahead of us, so that we will receive the crown of victory on the day of your Son’s glorious return. Amen.
Whoever wants to be a Christian soldier, rather than opposing Jesus the Lord, is called to report to war. The banner of the cross flies high and blessed he, who stands by it. Trumpets are calling loud and clear: Get up, get up to arms and to war!
God enamour you with the power of David and teach you the art of war, so that in this crusade you will promote victory. This victory is never far away, remain steadfast and bravely hold your ground. The reward of honour and glory and eternal life are waiting ahead. (Hieronymus Annoni, 1697-1770. The translation is rather literal and neither poetic nor hymnal)
(Translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for Wednesday after the Sunday Septuagesiame as found on Pg. 99 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and puplished in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.)