The following is a meditation on 1 Corinthians 9:25-10:17. AUDIO OF THIS MESSAGE CAN BE HEARD HERE.
Christians are not called to become rich, to find ease, nor to experience relief. Christians are called to struggle. Our faith is no guarantee, or even promise, that our troubles will walk away from us.
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. 1 Corinthians 9:25-27
No matter what mansions we think we may deserve, or what relief we believe God owes us, we are called into a struggle that makes great demands of us. There is strict training involved in our race. We are to beat our bodies into subjection. This is tough talk from Apostle Paul. In our shortcomings we seek refuge in God’s grace – and find there His ministry to our hearts. But many rest there wondering why the struggle never disappears.
If you continue reading into 1 Corinthians 10 the familiar example of the rescue of the Children of Israel is placed before you. What great advantages they had! They saw the destruction wrought by the hand of God in Egypt while they remained safe in neighboring Goshen. They celebrated their way out of Egypt, to the edge of the Red Sea. In amazement they walked across the dusty sea bed … and in shock they observed the Egyptian army drown as the sea returned to its rightful place. Yet in spite of everything they saw, heard, tasted, felt, heard, and experienced their hearts were still turned to evil.
What do you need to remain faithful to Christ? Do you need to see a miracle? Do you think that if God whispered in your ear or appeared in a giant vision that you would finally be able to give your life to Him? If he took away your pain, would you follow Him then? No, these things would not remove your struggle of faith. There are some struggles we should always maintain, and from which we should not seek relief.
We Are To Struggle Against Self Assurance (1 Cor 10:12). Did you grow up in the church? Have you been baptized? Do you attend all services? Do you participate in all activities? Have you read the Bible through? It is easy to develop a pride from our spiritual experience. But when we are self-assured, we can fall into the trap of excusing our actions. We may tell ourselves that our sin isn’t much to worry about because we have done many good things for God. We may also fall into the trap of ignoring our actions, as if they do not matter to God. We can easily become self-assured and like Israel allow ourselves to be turned to evil – even in the context of our good deeds. Struggle against self-assurance! So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
We Are To Struggle Against Giving Up (1 Cor 10:13-14). In the trials and heartaches we face, it is so easy to think it would be better to just give up. But be alert to the truth that God is faithful. He is monitoring the situation. He is aware of your ability and your strength. Be alert for the way out – it is there. We do not always want to take it – and some give up while rejecting the way out of their sin. Struggle against giving up because there is no hope offered anywhere else.
We Are To Struggle Against Idolatry (1 Cor 10:14). Though you may not bow down to a statue or kiss a necklace, anything we place before God is idolatry. This includes our own self-will.
These are huge struggles that we all face. They are not going away. But we are not alone in our struggle – we are going to find power in the blood of Christ. I think Paul uses an interesting phrase in 1 Corinthians 10 when he talks about ‘participation in the blood of Christ’. How does one ‘participate’ in something that splashed upon the filth of Golgotha 2000 years ago?
Participation In the Blood of Christ (1 Cor 10:16-17). I can think of several ways in which we are participants in the blood of Christ. We trust in the blood when we make our decision to give our lives to Christ. We appreciate the ongoing cleansing by the blood as we pursue discipleship and kingdom living. We give thanksgiving for the blood in the weekly communion with the assembled Body. We have a blood-bound relationship with the Body, the church, that is evidenced by our relationship. In many ways our entire life is strengthened and empowered by the blood of Christ. We’re not going to persevere above these struggles on our own, the power of His blood will enable us.
Participation in a Lifestyle (1 Cor 10:21-22). In our struggle we cannot keep one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom. We are called to make a decision. The Corinthians could not be participants in the sacrifices to idols one day and the next day sit with the Saints and enjoy a relationship. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. God will not accept our divided interests. When we divide our interests we stir the Lord’s jealousy – he desires for us to live by our stated commitment. We died with him in baptism, He raised us … shouldn’t we belong to Him? When we divide our interests we put ourselves on His throne and determine what He ought to be willing to accept. Christ alone was sacrificed for us – He alone has the power to save and keep and empower us.
And so in our struggles we are invited to choose our Table. The Christian call is an invitation to struggle. God invites you to sit at His table, but he will not share you with others.
One of the great issues of modern Christians is the decision not to struggle. And when we decide not to struggle, we follow the Children of Israel into wilderness death. Struggle, Christian! In your struggle, trust Him to save and keep you.
Thanks for reading,