Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:48 NASB
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control…..
II Peter 1:5-6 NKJV
In this session, we want to deal with another aspect of Self-Control. As mentioned earlier in the previous article, another word for Self-Control used in the English Bible translations (especially KJV) is Temperance from which we get the word temperate.
Self-Control is listed as among the various aspects of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). This shows how important self-control is in the life of every Christian. Without Self-Control, no Christian can obtain the ultimate prize placed before them. This prize is pictured as a Crown or gold medal; one that is eternal and imperishable.
Paul illustrates the whole concept of Self-Control in the Scripture passage of 1 Corinthians 9:24- 27 as that of an athlete in the Olympic Games contending for the prize of the gold medal. This is how He begins:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
His statement is quite clear. In the Olympic Games, many run a particular race but ONLY ONE actually wins and obtains the prize of the gold medal. He then urges each and every believer to run with an ambition-a vision, which is to receive the crown. Notice that we are not competing with our fellow Christians. Each of us have a goal placed before us and so we compete with all the forces that oppose us trying to keep us from obtaining the prize. These forces can be demons, our very own individual weaknesses etc.
Paul then continues:
And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate (enkrateuomai – exercises self-control) in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
In Paul’s days, the gold medal / crown(Stephanos) was a laurel wreath which was placed on the brow of the winner in the Olympic Games. This prize was a mark of tremendous honor just as the gold medal is in our days. Paul asserts that this crown that the athletes were striving for was only going to wither away. The athletes with the actual gold medal cannot take this prize with them also in their deaths.
But what we Christians strive for is a tremendous honor that is not only imperishable but will be respected by every single being of Creation.
For this prize, Paul says this:
Everyone who competes for this prize is temperate in all things
The word temperate means to exercise self-control. Before the grand season of the Olympic Games, the athlete undergoes severe training extending over several months. He controls his diet, body weight etc. If they do all these for a perishable crown much more we the Christians?
Paul, being a Christian, applies this metaphor to himself in verse 26:
“Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.”
The picture Paul presents as one who beats the air is that of a boxer who just recklessly swings punches without knowing what he is trying to hit. Many of us are like that even in our prayer life. We know we are fighting something, but we do not know exactly what it is.
The same goes with our vision in life. Many believe that goal of being a Christian is just to enter Heaven whereas Scripture has already stated that as Christains, we are already in Heaven as full official citizens (Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 12:22-23).
There is a purpose, a vision, an assignment set before you to achieve and if you do not realize that, you are simply beating the air and the prize won’t be yours.
Paul speaks for himself as one who runs the race but not with uncertainty. He knows the mark to which He is running to. The assignment, aim and vision set before Him by the Lord and so He will not swerve to the left or right. He is going straight toward the Mark.
He ends in the verse 27:
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
Because of this prize set before Him, He disciplines His body. He sets it and it’s fleshy desires under control. His vision enables him to discipline himself. His vision motivates him. His vision gives Him hope.
This is the same for every athlete. The vision of winning the medal is that which drives them to undergo this rigorous training.
Paul states that he disciplines Himself in order that he may not be disqualified in the end.
Do you think this is about going to Heaven? Absolutely not. We are already Citizens of Heaven. Our mark of citizenship is the seal of Holy Spirit residing in Us.
So what is this about?
This is about the PRIZE. The imperishable Crown of Honor.
Paul already states that not every believer wins this. They are still Christians, citizens of heaven but not the winners of the race. The Bible calls them Overcomers.
In the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Jesus speaks to the Angels(messengers) representing the different kinds, growth stages and dispensations of the Church about those who overcome and those who are just part of the church.
I will give one example of that from the church dispensation of Laodicea.
To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
Revelation 3:21 NKJV
He states; “to him who overcomes…” This is quite obvious that to all. In that Church stage, not everyone overcomes. Those who do, have a special prize awaiting them. The others, though still Christians, are disqualified as concerning that special prize.
This is why self-control is built on the block of knowledge. You need to know the Vision set before you. Your purpose, your assignment and your aim.
Proverbs 29:18 KJV speaks of the importance of Vision:
Where there is no vision, the people perish (cast off restraint/ self-control NJKV)…
As a member of the Body of Christ. You have a specific role to play (Romans 12:4). The function of a kidney is different from that of the feet which is different from that of the stomach though all are members of the same body.
From Knowledge of God’s Word and Will concerning you, you gain Vision and with this Vision set before you, you discipline yourself by being temperate (exercising self control) in all things.
Set God’s Purpose for you as your vision for which you run the race and strive to exercise self-control in all things; training hard in order to attain the prize. Ask, seek and Receive God’s offer of help for His Grace will always be sufficient for you!!
E. O. UcHe