Talented and trained soccer athletes have descended on Sao Paulo, Brazil this week to participate in the 2014 World Cup. These individuals have spent time and money in training their bodies and minds for one purpose – to win. Like all athletes, they know the importance of self-control in order to become the best at what they do. Many people look up to these athletes but don’t realize the sacrifices they have made and the physical pain they suffer to train their bodies.
Being self-controlled shows itself in choices. Athletes make choices about how much time they spend in physical training, who trains them, what to eat or not eat, and mentally training their minds to know the sport and think about winning. Athletes that win are self-controlled and disciplined. They sacrifice what others would not in order to gain a reward.
As a follower of Jesus, my goal and desire is to know Him, to abide with Him, and to glorify God, the Father. Jesus said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8). Abiding with Jesus and bringing glory to God has eternal rewards. The writer of Hebrews said, “…for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Even Moses chose to follow God and His people for an eternal purpose, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:26)
Living in this world I can be constantly sidetracked by things around me that distract from the goal, the eternal rewards of knowing Jesus. I have to be determined and focused like an athlete who wants to win the prize. I must have self-control in all my daily choices and ask Jesus to give me the strength to say “no” to things that will distract me or say “yes” to things that will lead me to an eternal reward.
Paul knew that self-control was crucial to following Jesus and the eternal reward it would bring. Paul’s life choices made him qualified, like an athlete, to be an example of Jesus as he preached to others. He wrote:
“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:25-27
As I abide with Jesus, He gives me the strength to have self-control in my daily choices. I will have to make daily choices to spend time with Him, listening and praying and reading His Word. I will have to make choices about what I put in my mind, what I read and look at that influence my speech and writing. I will have to make choices about how I use the resources God has entrusted to me – my finances and possessions. I have many choices in my training today.
How about you? Are you ready to make self-controlled choices in your daily training to receive the reward? Take some time to watch this and let me know what you think.