Paul gave an example of runners and fighters. When someone is planning to run in a marathon, they don’t stay up all night or just decide they’re going to run on the race day. They prepare, train, and restrict themselves (practice temperance, self-control). Paul said he kept his body under so he didn’t become a castaway – someone who is lost. If a runner doesn’t follow rules, gets out of line or punches someone, they’re disqualified. God has rules we must follow or we’re disqualified.

I Corinthians 9:24-27 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. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 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.

To run and be qualified we have follow the principles for serving God. We need a motivation to run. Some people run to win a prize, for exercise/enjoyment, or because someone asked them. When we serve God, our motive needs to be because we want to win the end prize – heaven. We’ll get lazy and won’t care if we don’t have the everyday motive to win. We’ll be like someone that only runs for exercise. We have to exercise spiritually and continually have it on our minds.

I Timothy 4:7-8 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and…which is to come.

Our motivation can be hindered by what we do with our mind. We all have mind battles. They are hard to overcome. You can wish it away, pray for God to take it away, but it comes right back. Our mind has to be changed from the way it is in sin so we have the mind of Christ. When we get saved, God forgives us but the carnal nature is still in our heart. If that nature isn’t removed, our mind will not be like Christ’s. God said he would circumcise our heart (cut away or remove the flesh). We have to be sure we get sanctified so doing the word is 100% in our heart – so there’s nothing to hinder us.

Deuteronomy 30:6 And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

God doesn’t hide his word from us but it’s very near us. We have to keep the word in our heart so we’re not cast away. People backslide because they let other things in their heart that are more important to them.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 For this commandment…is not hidden…neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us…Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go…and bring it unto us…But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

Today the commandment hasn’t changed. Jesus said the first commandment was to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37). We have to bring our mind under control. If our mind isn’t under control so we give into thoughts from the devil, pretty soon we’ll be acting out what the mind is thinking.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee…But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce…ye shall surely perish, and… not prolong your days upon the land…I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days…

When the word says to bring every thought into captivity, do you believe it? In a mind battle the same thought goes through our mind over and over: thoughts of discouragement, what someone said or did. We have to learn to fight mind battles or they’ll destroy us. People backslide because they don’t learn to fight a good fight of faith. It isn’t easy. You have to do some exercising to make your mind think the way God wants you to. The devil has access to your mind. He’ll give thoughts to cast you down, to separate us from the family of God, to cause issues so we don’t have love and concern for each other. He will be laughing in glee if he separates you from the body because he doesn’t want unity. It happens if you don’t fight a good fight of faith in mind battles, bringing every thought into captivity. We overcome mind battles by singing, being thankful, think on good things, come to worship service.

II Corinthians 10:3-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 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…

God tells us to not worry or “be careful for nothing.” We’ve all worried. The devil wants us to worried, be upset or agitated. We have fear, doubt, and a lot of anxiety if we’re worrying. Thoughts of worry have to be cast down because they won’t glorify God and won’t help us. We fight mind battles almost every day. If we resist the devil, he will flee. Our part is to resist him. If we continually worry and think about things we shouldn’t, we’re not resisting the devil but are giving into him.

Philippians 4:6-7 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds…

The peace of God is vitally important. When you’re worried and having mind battles, there’s not much peace there. When we worry about something, we haven’t committed it to God. We have peace when we commit ourselves 100% to God. Jesus will had to be committed to God when he was in the garden and troubled, then he had complete peace. He said “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). Our way has to be committed to God for us to have peace.

Isaiah 26:3 (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition) You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on…and hopes confidently in You.

God wants to guide us with his eye – his word. Parents sometimes give their children the eye that tells them to behave. God doesn’t want us to be like a mule (part donkey and part horse). The mule’s skin is tougher and they’re stronger – able to carry more weight. David rode mules. He told servants to put Solomon on his mule and go through the city announcing that Solomon was king. They have some good qualities, but you can never train them to always do what you ask. It always has a mind of its own. If you put too heavy of a load on it or it doesn’t want to do something, you can pull the reigns but it won’t move. We can’t be like a mule that won’t be taught and always wants its own way. God wants to train us with his eye so we’re willing to do whatever he says to do. We have to be humble and not want our way above God’s way.

Psalm 32:8-9 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle…

Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego were only part of the 14,000 brought to Babylon to be slaves when Jerusalem was destroyed. They were 16-17 years old, were chosen because they had been in the temple and were considered wise. They were relatives of priests and had gone to school. They loved God. The law said they couldn’t drink wine, or eat meat sacrificed to idols or unclean things. The Babylonians wanted them to eat and be like them, and changed their names. Daniel’s name meant God is judge but was changed to Belteshazzar meaning Bel was judge and god. Hananiah meant God is gracious and changed to Shadrach meaning illuminated by the sun god. Mishael meant who is like God and changed to Meshach meaning who is like Venus. Azariah meant the Lord is my helper, and changed to Abednego – worshipper of Nego.

Daniel 1:1-6 In the…reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it…And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed…Children in whom was no blemish…and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science…whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and…wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years…might stand before the king. Now among these were…Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: Unto whom…gave names…unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

The Babylonians wanted to assimilate them, but they had purposed in their hearts to not defile themselves. We have to purpose in our hearts that we won’t be assimilated by the world: to talk, dress, or act like the world. We have to act like Christ if we’re going to serve him. If our attitude and behavior are like the world, we won’t show Christ. The enemy and the rest of the world will try to get us to give in. They will press, and press, and press to get you to do like them. We have to determine we won’t give in but continue to do God’s will, even if we’re pressed. Daniel and his friends took a stand. It’s not easy but we need to do what we know God wants us to do.

Daniel 1:8-14 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank…God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And …said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king. Then said Daniel…Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked…and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.

God blessed Daniel and his friends for doing right. Daniel was 90 years old and stood before Cyrus, still serving God.

Daniel 1:15-21 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all…which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse. As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days…the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.

The king saw there was no other god but the one they were serving, but they had to yield their bodies to do what God wanted. We may have to yield our bodies to do what God wants. God blessed them in the end. The only thing that burned was the cords that bound them. When we’re in a fiery trial, the only thing that is burned is things we don’t need. It may be attitudes, the way we carry ourselves, things we’re not aware of until we’re in the fiery trial. They were willing to be in the fiery trial. We have to purpose in our heart, have things completely settled in our heart, and be willing to go through the fiery trial. We’ll be like a mule if we don’t willingly purpose in our heart to go through the fire. If we hold back because it’s hard on the flesh, God won’t get the glory like he wants to. Because they willingly stood, the king changed his opinion and said anyone that said anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would be destroyed. We have to live a life that shows there’s no other god that can deliver us except the God we’re serving. God will not get the glory if we get upset, angry, throw fits, act carnal, or are fleshly in our thinking. We have to crucify the flesh and not act that way. There were only 4 boys that purposed in their hearts to not defile themselves. We are small in number as far as the world is concerned. We have to determine in our hearts to not defile ourselves so we can make it to heaven.

Daniel 3:28-30 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.

(Notes from the Mature Class Bible Study, teacher Edith Tolbert)