Striving for the Mastery – Part Five

“Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that strives 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 beats 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.”  (I Corinthians 9: 24 – 27)

If an athlete didn’t follow the rules in striving for mastery, he became disqualified. If he did strive for mastery and became a winner, there was a reward. Why would one go through nine months of agony?  Why would one be willing to box in such a fight?  Because of the award awaiting.

They didn’t give medals. They gave leaf crowns. In verse 25 it is described as a “perishable crown.” That was only part of the award.

The Olympic Games honored Zeus, also known as Jupiter. The wreath was made of olive branches, a tree preferred by Zeus. At the Isthmian Games, which honored the Greek sea god Poseidon, the wreath was made from the god’s sacred tree the spruce.

Before the contests the wreath was placed at the feet of the statue honoring the god of the games. At Olympia it was Zeus. At the Isthmian Games it was Poseidon. This was referred to as “the joy lying before them.” A similar term was used of Christ enduring the cross because of the “joy lying before Him.”

The victorious competitor was then taken back to his home town for a celebration. If the city was walled, as most were, a hole was cut in the city wall in the profile of the athlete. After he entered through it, once again it was sealed. 

A parade followed in which the athlete rode through the city in a chariot. The people threw flowers in his path. Women splashed perfume on him.

The parade led to the center of the city where he was greeted by the equivalent of the mayor. There the city poet read an ode to him about himself. Next, the mayor presented him with a citation which in part gave him a life-time exemption from income tax. Now you know why they were willing to compete!

If they did all that for an corruptible crown, how much more we should be willing to strive for an incorruptible crown! That is a term referring to a heavenly home with our Lord.

The reward awaiting all faithful citizens of the kingdom who go through agony in obedience to the Master is a heavenly home. That makes it all worthwhile.

In the Book of the Revelation is given another depiction of the honor given a winner. It has a spiritual application.

“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21)

That is the ultimate reward awaiting the person who will spiritually “compete for the prize,” that is, “strive for mastery.”