A true athlete will be disciplined in every respect, practicing constant self-control in order to win a laurel wreath that quickly withers. But we run our race to win a victor’s crown that will last forever. For that reason, I don’t run just for exercise or box like one throwing aimless punches, but I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body and get it under my control, so that after preaching the good news to others I myself won’t be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 TPT
This apostle of Jesus Christ who has served as an example of Christian living to millions of people (Saul, who later became Paul) did not live an easy life. Since he is considered a hero of the faith, how then can we indulge ourselves as we do and say we serve the same Lord he did?
Paul could have quit speaking about Jesus at any time and gone back to the privileged life he had lead as a Pharisee in Judaism. He could’ve stopped going hungry, being beaten and jailed, harrassed, working day and night to preach the gospel and support himself and his companions. He could have had the companionship and comfort of a wife, possibly children. He gave that up and more for his faith in Christ.
Jesus asks different specifics of each of us, but he calls all of us to deny ourselves to follow Him (Mark 8:34).
He says if we have more food and clothes than we need, we are to share it with those less fortunate. That would help us avoid several traps if we were to obey wholeheartedly. Since we wouldn’t consume as much if we shared more of what we had, we would be more likely to avoid the problem of being overweight and/or obese. If it was our passion to share what we have in the name of Jesus, we wouldn’t be so prone to go into debt for something we just had to have, and we can be tempted to take pride in material possessions, rather than remaining humble.
If we gave more of what we have away, we would be sharing the love of Jesus in a tangible, more credible way. Why did the early church flourish? They loved each other extravagantly, the way Jesus loved them. They spent time with each other, sharing meals in each other’s homes and encouraging each other in the faith. If they didn’t have a home, it was okay, because those that were materially blessed shared with those who needed it so that no one went without. And God gives everyone gifts so everyone has something to give, even if sometimes it is not material.
The early church turned the world upside down. And not by natural human behavior, which is selfish, fearful, greedy, manipulative…. we get the idea. They walked by the Spirit, and the world sat up and took notice.
We need to pray that God would give us a heart that wants to serve Him above all else, and serve our fellow man. This is the way of the cross.