I do not consider myself an athlete. This is not because I don’t have the physical ability because while I may not have that ability now, I know I could if I really wanted to. But I don’t particularly want to spend my time to do what it would take to become such an athlete. I’m lazy in that regard.
Today’s reading tells Christians that they don’t have that choice. They cannot be lazy when it comes to proclaiming the gospel. In fact, Paul goes so far as to say that you must punish your body and enslave it. He also advises us not to run aimlessly, meaning to be deliberate about the effort and the prize, using self control to win. And to do all this of your own will.
That’s a tall order. But what is at stake is much more than a few extra pounds of belly fat. For me, the hardest thing about a regular physical work out routine is actually starting one. Once you get through the first few weeks of regular exercise, it’s routine and doable. Those folks who jump out of the gate with extremely high expectations (i.e., I’m going to lose 20 pounds this month) tend not to reach their goal and end up getting discouraged.
Perhaps, then, establishing our personal spiritual work out should be approached the same way. Make it regular and start with achievable goals. Increase the output and the expectation to just beyond what you are capable of doing. After a while, you are likely to be surprised by the headway you have made and how far you have come in your journey. Buoyed by your success, you push yourself on to higher heights. I think this is exactly the kind of thing Paul was talking about in this reading.