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Galatians 5:7

Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?

As you may be aware, churches across America (and here in Chattooga) are facing a defection of faithful membership. There are many people who name the name of Christ, in these days, that simply cannot be found, or counted on, when it comes to loyal service to Christ through the local church.

The Apostle Paul spent his life, at the command of Christ, establishing and organizing local churches. Does this generation purport to know more than God and the man that wrote 13 (14) books of the New Testament? What is really going on here. Why are so many who call themselves Christians not “running well” anymore in this crucial area of truth that seems so clear cut? Consider these thoughts.

Two of Paul's favorite metaphors for the Christian life were those of running a race and boxing. Please read I Cor. 9:24-26 and also II Timothy 4:7.

1 Corinthians 9:24–26

24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

2 Timothy 4:7

7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Paul said, “I Therefore Run.”

Paul strove for mastery as a competitive runner would. The “mastery” would be the prize, the ultimate goal, the endpoint of his efforts. In the Biennial games (near Corinth), the prize was a pine wreath that one wore upon his head and the knowledge that he was the best.

What was the crown for which Paul ran?

Read Philippians 4:1 & I Thessalonians 2:19

Philippians 4:1

Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

1 Thessalonians 2:19

19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

Paul’s crown was people; people he had led to and influenced for Christ....Oh how Paul loved people.

Paul said, “ I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course.” He was looking to receive a full reward for his labors. He called it a “crown of righteousness.” Do you understand the importance of viewing life in this fashion? So many these days are a law unto themselves. Paul realized that in any competitive game there were rules and guidelines and practices that would help one to win and receive a full reward! The Christian life is no different!

What is required to fight a good fight, run a good race, and finish your course?

First is Temperance. Read I Corinthians 9:25 again.

I Corinthians 9:25 - And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

Included in temperance are two things self denial, and self control (the ability to control one's desires. The ability to abstain for the achievement of a greater goal). If one is to follow Christ and run his race faithfully, he must be able to control his desires and often subordinate them to a greater cause and purpose…. Temperance involves self denial and sacrifice - exactly what the people at Corinth seemed unwilling to do. Consider I Corinthians 8:10-12 in this context. In relation to self control, please read Proverbs 25:28

1 Corinthians 8:10–12

10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

Proverbs 25:28

28 He that hath no rule over his own spirit

Is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.

How do we achieve better self control / self denial? We achieve better self control / self-denial (Temperance) through discipline.

Paul said, ”But I keep Under my body" - This is discipline! This phrase means to bruise - to strike the face forcefully, in such a way, as to black the eye or make a bruise.

This is what Paul means when he says that he "keeps under" his body in I corinthians 9:27. (Body, as referenced here = His complete self - Body, soul and spirit - his emotions, desires, thoughts, physical aches and pains, etc.). Paul was willing to forcefully control self, to discipline self, to deny self so that he might successfully run his race! He was a runner and a fighter in training....

Because most of our problems originate in the mind (thought life) before they manifest in

outward life....let me deal with that just a moment.

Please read 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5

2 Corinthians 10:4–5

4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Notice the phrase "bringing into captivity" - He is referring to

getting control of every thought....making every thought consistent with obedience to Christ. Believe me, this is a battle. But winning that battle is critical to us being what we should be for Christ!

This uncontrolled, undisciplined thought life is a HUGE problem in the world (Christian and otherwise) today.

What is the Answer?

The answer originates in what you truly know and believe about God (See again verse 5 of II Corinthians 10). What do you really know about HIM? Do you know HIM in the free pardon of Sin? What do you know of HIM beyond the fact that He is a Savior?

Your Primary objective in life should be to know Christ and obey Christ (v.5). If you will set yourself to know HIM and obey HIM, you will be well on your way to a life of victory! Strongholds will fall...Your life will change.....

By the way, in the context, Paul is not just talking about how to conquer yourself, he is also talking about how we fight the battle for God in this world - Demolishing strongholds, etc. Although he doesn't specifically say here what his weapons are; looking at his writings as a whole, we must assume they involve preaching (the Gospel and the whole counsel of God), knowing God, prayer, divine wisdom, holiness, meekness / gentleness (humility), boldness, etc.

You say, "oh this is tough.” Yes, it is. But it is required as a part of our training if we are to please Christ, be champions for Christ, and see victories!

Listen to this interesting analogy that builds upon the idea of running.

The prevailing training philosophy in the 70’s was “more is better,” and weekly mileage was the stuff of competition. If Derek Clayton was quoted as running 160 miles per week, then someone else would try 175 miles per week. Runners tended to put in as many hard days in a row as possible before their bodies made them take an easy day. This approach to training may sound harsh, and it was, but it reaped rewards. Distance running in the U.S. was improving markedly, and although there were a few casualties along the way, pure hard work generally paid dividends.

During the 90’s there was a bit of a backlash against the "more-is-better" approach to training, and a preoccupation developed for avoiding “overtraining.” Unfortunately, in the running press, the normal day-to-day fatigue associated with training was often misrepresented as “over-training.” This over-reaction thankfully missed most elite runners and appears to have waned in the past few years.

This almost parallels what has happened in the Christian ranks - We had the "diehards" of the fundamentalist movement and these guys were tough and austere (supposedly). Today we want a kinder, softer, gentler Christianity, no sacrifice, no self denial, no laboring over, going after and travailing for souls.... but we are discovering that we aren't having as many victories as our forebears had.

One more thing. Be alert to the “who” hurdles in running your race (Read Galatians 5:7 again). "Who Did Hinder You?” Usually it is not a what that hinders is a who! Don't let anyone trip you up. Even A little leaven is bad (Galatians 5:9) - Separate yourself from sin, false teaching and corrupting influences... Keep your mind fixed on the Christ and the truth! (Galatians 5:10)

Galatians 5:10

10 I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.

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