Every one of us has motives for what we do. Motive is an underlying purpose, desire, or what moves us. There’s a motive behind it, whether it’s sweeping the floor, washing dishes or anything else. People think they’re free to do whatever they like when they don’t have any discipline in their life, but that is not real freedom. God wants us to have self control, like Paul speaks of in this verse.
I Corinthians 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Paul’s motive for acting as he did was that he might gain some to the Lord. Everything we do needs to have a purpose that we just want to please God. Jesus motive in coming to the earth was to do the Father’s will and to please him. If our desire is to do our own will, there won’t be self control like God wants us to have. Our motive in life should be to do God’s will in everything and to do it for the gospel’s sake.
I Corinthians 9:22-25 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you. Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 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.
Have you all run in a race or been in track at high school? There were rules you had to follow, like staying in the lines and not elbowing those running beside you. You were disqualified if you didn’t follow the rules. A map of places Paul travelled shows that Corinth was across an isthmus (neck of land) that joined the peninsula to the mainland. Across the peninsula from Corinth was Olympia where the Olympic games were held every five years. On the isthmus, they held the Isthmian Games every two years. Anyone that wanted to run in the races had to sign up and to sign a contract agreeing they would abide by the rules. They followed an 8-10 month regimen of practice that included eating a strict diet, drinking no wine or liquor, and no sweet delicacies. They exercised at certain times for hours a day and had to get their proper rest of 8-9 hours sleep, so they couldn’t party with their friends. They were disqualified if they broke the rules. The apostle Paul went from Athens to Corinth and stayed with Aquila and Priscilla where they worked together as tent makers. When the games were held, people came from all over and stayed in tents. There were no hotels so they prospered because the people bought their tents for the games.
Acts 18:1-3 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.
Paul was very familiar with the games. When he said those who strive for the mastery are temperate (not excessive or moderate, self controlled). We all need self control and in some things no one is going to control you. You have to control yourself. One of the fruits of the Spirit is temperance and God wants us to be temperate in all things. Paul said if we’re going to strive for the mastery, we have to be temperate in all things. Those working to be a runner had to be temperate in their eating and sleeping habits. They couldn’t stay up until 12:00 or 1:00 and get proper rest so they could do their best in the race. Lance Armstrong the bicyclist rode 5 or 6 miles through rain, sleet, and snow so he could prepare for any weather he faced in the race. Those running the race had to run in all kinds of weather, dusty conditions, with muscle strains, and sometimes with broken bones because they wanted to win the race. When you’re about start a race, you can’t have your foot over the line but behind the line. The runner isn’t waving hello to their family. They’re not looking at who’s cheering them on, but their motive is to win and make it to their final destination. They aren’t looking back at the other runners or they will be slowed down. The scripture says that any man who looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God. God doesn’t want us looking at others but to keep looking forward to the goal.
Sister Edith told about her father sending her out to plow the field on a tractor. He put a white rag on the ground and told her to keep her eyes on that so the field rows would be straight. After about 15 yards a rabbit ran in front of her and her eyes followed the rabbit. The wheel turned but she straightened her direction. In a few more feet a flock of quail flew up and she watched where they were going, but she straightened her direction again. At the end of the row, she saw that it was not a straight row. She thought she’d do better when she headed back on the next row but experienced similar things on that row. She took her eyes off the goal and didn’t make straight rows. The third time she was determined to make a straight row and she succeeded. That’s how our lives are, we can’t get distracted if we want to make the goal God has for us. The devil wants us to be distracted by our trials, cares of life, our self, work, being too busy, not taking time to read and pray in the morning. If we don’t read and pray in the morning, we will be distracted from our goal. God doesn’t want us to get our eyes on people or situations, but it takes temperance – self control. No one is going to control me or you to read our Bible and pray in the morning. We have to do it for ourselves if we want to make heaven our home.
Acts 20:24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
What is it that would move us? The devil is trying to get us to move from the goal. Paul had suffered a lot of trials but he didn’t count his life dear. If we count our lives dear, the devil is going to make sure something will move us. We have to be sanctified so we can keep our eyes on the goal. When we get saved the Holy Spirit is not in us but is with us. Jesus said the Spirit of truth (the Holy Spirit) was dwelling with the disciples, but they weren’t filled with the Holy Spirit until the day of Pentecost.
John 14:17-18 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
We need to be saved to have our sins forgiven and make us holy. We also need to dedicate ourselves completely for God’s service, to be sanctified, by having the Holy Spirit come in and purge us from the inbred sin. It’s going to be hard to have temperance working in our lives without sanctification because the carnal nature will be working. The apostles were saved but they had trouble with the carnal nature when they were contending about who would be the greatest. Jesus rebuked them, corrected them, and told them what they needed to do.
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
When Paul said “none of these things move me,” he was sanctified and didn’t count his own life as dear. If you count your life dear to yourself, then you haven’t been sanctified. You’ll be moved because you haven’t given yourself completely to God to use however he wants. Paul suffered the loss of all things as a Jew and counted what he lost as dung (something he wouldn’t hold onto). According to the historian Josephus, Paul’s family deserted him. He suffered a lot. Whatever we lose, Christ is more precious to us. Whatever God wants, we need to give it willingly as a sacrifice to him. We won’t make a sacrifice if we want to do things our own way. We’ll be holding onto things.
Philippians 3:7-8 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
The people that ran in the races then received a crown of olive or laurel leaves that only lasted a short time. We’re running the race to win an everlasting crown. We can’t run with uncertainty. People give up along the way for many reasons. They think it’s just too hard or they decide it’s not a big deal. People that give up in the race are going to lose everything. Winning this race isn’t just winning but it is everything – the only thing. If we don’t win, we will lose everything and be lost to go to hell. We have to run because it is the only thing that will last forever.
I Corinthians 9:25-26 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. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
Sometimes there will be trials and hard places in our race where we’re not running full speed, where we’re just walking – like Job when he had his trial of grief. He was walking because he wouldn’t give up God. Sometimes will get weary and need to ask God to help us not be weary in well doing. We might not be sprinting down the race way but we will keep going, heading for the finish line. There will be times when we need our strength renewed. That’s why we don’t compare ourselves to others. We keep going whatever our own ability is to go through the trial.
Isaiah 40:29-31 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
The Rechabites were scribes in the lineage of Israel. According to the law, the Levites weren’t to drink wine, own houses, or do certain other things.
Jeremiah 35:1-2 The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord…saying, Go unto the house of the Rechabites …and bring them into the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.
Jeremiah 35:5-8 And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine. But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever: Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers. Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he hath charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters;
God told Jeremiah the Rechabites obeyed what their father told them just because he told them, but the people of God wouldn’t obey. If we’re going to run by the race, we have to obey God’s rule and be temperate, having self control. We have to control anger, to not be bitter, and have forgiveness. We control that. God said he asked his people to obey but they refused, yet the Rechabites obeyed because their father told them. God is saying listen to me so you can run the race, keep your eyes on the goal, and win the crown.
Jeremiah 35:13-16 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words? saith the Lord. The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father’s commandment: notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me. I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me. Because the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commanded them; but this people hath not hearkened unto me:
Ask God to help you keep your eyes on the goal so you can win the race.
(Notes from the Mature Class Bible Study, teacher Edith Tolbert)