Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after having preached to others, I myself would not be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
We are continuing our study on the Character of a Godly Man.
Having discussed much about discipleship and personal pursuit of growth, what is the goal? That we would be men of the Word, men who are spiritually mature. In a word: godly. When it is holiness that we are pursuing, we must be men who flee temptation.
While you may immediately think of Joseph fleeing from Potiphar’s wife, this is not about running from sin in a moment of sudden and unexpected temptation. Instead, our whole life should be oriented away from sin, and even its temptation. John MacArthur has noted that “when a man falls in ministry, he usually doesn’t fall very far”. Which is to say that a big public sin has long been foreshadowed by small secret sins and temptations that he has long entertained.
Do not imagine that temptation is safe. Today, temptation has become entertainment. We no longer flee temptation, but play with it and enjoy it. We should be praying “Lord, lead me not into temptation – deliver me from evil.”
Always remember that in your heart – in embryo form – is every kind of evil (Mark 7:20-23), just waiting for the right provocation, the right situation to emerge. Don’t underestimate indwelling sin! Mankind, left to himself, quickly will be described as “every thought and intention of his heart is evil, continually”. So we need to be blocking every possible entrance of temptation in our lives.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul describes the Christian life with the athletic games metaphor – we’re in a race to stay faithful and glorify God. We should be running with the attitude of one that is determined to win. Olympic athletes display years of staggering self-control and discipline – and for what? A perishable prize. We won’t even remember their names in a generation. What about us, who run for an imperishable prize!
Remember, sin in your life is like a web. Everything is interconnected on some level. Not dealing with anxiety, for example, often leads to temptation in private sexual sin. We must have self control in all things. Let’s consider five general areas – portals and gateways – where temptation gains entrance into our lives.
Order you life to close off these areas of danger:
1 – Be aware of our tendency to fear and worry
- Fear is connected to idolatries of time and personal gain
- Fear is self-preservation (Matt 6:25-34)
- it can be life-consuming
- this results in pursing earthly security in your own strength
- spiritual priorities become muddied
- Fear is a lack of trust in God’s provision (Col 3:1-4)
- Fear leads to selfishness resulting in lack of concern for others (Phil 4)
2 – Be aware of our tendency to be inordinately attached to ‘things’
- This is the other side of what produces fear and anxiety in your life
- We must guard against being weighed down with earthly concerns that begin to rule our affections
- this is particularly challenging as our comfort and security is challenged by the political climate
- we live in great luxury, but we must be discerning with our freedoms and resources
- The ruling affection in our hearts must be “the Lord can give and take”
- Failure to guard against this inhibits wise decision-making
- We must consider Job “shall we accept good from God, and not adversity?” (Job 2:10)
- Christ must be our controlling affection (Luke 9:57-62)
- Relational affections may not rival Christ (Luke 14:26)
3 – Guard against the temptation to become bitter or easily offended
- The Christian must be ready to forgive (Proverbs 19:11)
- When we don’t forgive, it’s a reflection of what’s going on in our own spiritual life
- Bitterness as a Christian is like saying to Christ “I will take all your benefits and blessings, but I refuse to offer that to someone else”
- Not only forgive, but give a blessing to those who offend you (1 Peter 3:9)
- Carrying bitterness invites Satanic deception and folly
- Carrying bitterness steals joy and peace (1 Peter 3:10-12)
- our focus dwells on human justice
- we lose focus on God
- Bitterness not dealt with erodes conviction in other areas
- Bitterness causes unnecessary battles in sanctification
- Being easily offended turns into personal baggage
4 – Guard against a strong appetite for amusement (a love of pleasure)
- This is a massive issue for young men (Prov 6:6–11; 19:15; 1 Tim 5:11–13; 2 Thess 3:6–8)
- Enjoying leisure is not inherently wrong
- The problem comes when you love it (Eccl 3:10; 4:5; 5:12; 10:18; 1 Cor 6:12)
- It steals from your ministry of service
- It erodes sober-mindedness
- Real life is a spiritual war and it is serious (1 Pet 1:13)
- Unguarded pleasure and leisure is a floodgate of temptation
5 – Guard against the fear of man (Prov 29:25; Gal 2:11-13; James 1:9-11)
- This is not a concern over your life, but your reputation
- This is the opposite of Proverbs 3:6
- Our great concern must be the reputation of God
- There are times that your reputation may be criticized and it may be unjust, but there are plenty of other things they could have criticized and been right. They just picked the wrong thing.
- This is an idolatry of your own significance
- Be honest with God and ask “What am I trying to portray to others? Is it even remotely connected to who I am on the inside? Am I a spiritual hypocrite?”
- Nothing will plague your godliness and ministry as a man and discipler of other men more than wanting to be “somebody” (James 3:16)
- Can God shelve your ministry and you be okay with that?
Let us order our lives toward holiness, understanding the weakness of our flesh, the provision of the Holy Spirit and the eternal prize before us!