Tuesday, 23 September 2014
Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 1 Corinthians 9:26
In this verse, Paul sums up his thought concerning running which he has referred to for the past two verses by saying “therefore.” Because of what he stated, his concluding thought is that “I run thus: not with uncertainty.” In his run towards the Prize, he had a positive end and goal. The word he uses for “uncertainty” is adēlōs, a word used only here in the New Testament. It means something out of sight or obscure. For Paul, there was nothing obscure about his goal. He had a marked determination which led directly to Christ. The author of Hebrews says it this way –
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1, 2
There was nothing that would hinder his race to the finish line, and to him that finish line was never out of his sight. After having conveyed this thought, he then suddenly switches from running to another metaphor, boxing. Not only was his race unhindered and with an end that was perfectly evident, but his attitude in reaching that point was also comparable to the boxer. Again in this one verse he uses another word found only here in the New Testament, pykteuō. It specifically refers to a boxer; one who uses his fists in a match.
As he ran; so he fought. In his battle, he was one who fought “not as one who beats the air.” Before boxing matches then, and still in boxing matches today, boxers will punch the air in front of them as they warm up. It loosens the muscles and it gives an advanced demonstration of the fight ahead. When they do this, they don’t arbitrarily let their arms flail about. Rather, they are focused and punch as if there was already a face being hit. They also remain focused as if punches were expected to come back at them.
Once the fight actually began, they would use this same marked determination to ensure that every punch landed on its intended target. If the target is missed, it becomes too late to control the arm and additional energy is lost as the body moves with the arms. The boxer becomes unbalanced and susceptible to a good pounding from his opponent. Additionally, the tendons and muscles can be more easily strained during such a miss. For this reason, “beating the air” rather than the body of the opponent was a big mistake, a mistake which could end in defeat.
Paul determined that any attack by Satan would be deflected and that his prowess as a fighter was to fight back with exacting blows, not just in defense, but in an offensive manner. He prepared himself for the battle and he always determined to be ready and on target with his actions.
Life application: Paul likens our time in Christ to a race and also to a boxing match. Both of these are extremely strenuous activities and the implication is that we need to be prepared both mentally and physically in order to meet the challenges we will face. The surest way to be ready is through three distinct avenues – 1) prayer; 2) fellowship with other Christians; and 3) reading, studying, and adhering to the word of God. If we do these, we will be like Paul as we strive forward. We will be prepared for the race and for the battle.
Lord God, I thank You that You haven’t left us here in a battle without tools to get us through it. You have given us the avenue of prayer to speak to You and wait upon an answer. You have given us the opportunity to fellowship with other believers and to be built up and strengthened in our race and in the battles that come our way. And Lord, You have given us Your word to instruct us and to build us up in what we should do. We can face the challenges that come and we can even take the offensive position because we have Your word as our guide and our light. Thank You for these implements of battle, O God. Amen.