When I get home after a long day at work, I like to relax. I like to watch netflix, or to play games on my console, or to play games on my phone, or to find new apps for my phone, or to hang out with Sarah, or to play on my computer, or to read a book…etc. There are so, so, so many options for me to choose from. Honestly, there are too many choices. So many, in fact, that I get bored because I can’t decide which option to choose! Nine times out of ten, I am doing something on my phone. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with any of these things. We are to enjoy ourselves, as God promises us heart-joy when we follow Him. I’ve realized something about all these choices though – they are great ways to hide God, or to hide from Him. They take away my heart joy because I don’t take the time to seek God’s heart, face, kingdom. They hide God from my life.
There is much talk in the Bible about “idols” and how God doesn’t like them or tolerate them. What does this mean to us though? Surely no one reading this worships golden calves or graven images or pagan gods. So, what is an idol? There is no modern definition I know of in the Bible, so I will offer up what I personally believe a modern day idol to be – anything and everything that takes away from the worship of God. I do not believe idols to be things of the past. If anything, there are more idols today than there were yesterday! Trust me, I am not saying that entertainment is a sin, but by allowing our desires for entertainment to displace God in our lives, we may have a problem. I don’t even see a rated r movie as a sin.
Everything is permissible (allowable and lawful) for me; but not all things are helpful (good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things). Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its power. (1Corinthians 6:12 AMP)
I think that Paul says it well when concerned with things such as the rated r movie issue and the like. The way I see it is your spirit becomes what you feed it. Be careful with what you are feeding your spirit.
Do you not know that in a race all runners compete, but only one recieves the prize? So run your race that you may lay hold of the prize and make it yours. Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness that cannot wither. Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But like a boxer I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it with hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit, not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit. (1Corinthians 9:24-27)
I love the imagery Paul uses here. It reminds me of my wrestling days. Practice was rough, losing weight was even worse (probably why I ended up always wrestling my weight). While I might not be the best example of how a wrestler punishes his body, I have trophies galore. I was always so proud of them. Guess where they are now? Some of them are sitting in my closet, I’ve lost others, and quite a few of them are broken. I put myself through hell and I loved it. Paul makes a good point though- those trophies wither, they fade, they break, and they lose sentimental value over time. At least for me they do. This also reminds me of a famous wrestling movie, Vision Quest. This is an excellent movie in my opinion. Watch it if you want to know how an athlete can punish his body – all for a temporary prize.
Why does Paul describe his faith as one who buffets his body? He wants to ensure he is found approved by God. He is scared of being found as a counterfeit. This may be a strange concept to grasp. We confessed with our lips that Jesus is the Savior and Lord of our lives, isn’t that all it takes? I say yes! But! There’s something we miss here – the adversary. Paul alludes to it here too, “I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary.” He boxes, then, like one who boxes with an adversary, right? That’s my take on it.
I believe that our goal in this race is to know Jesus. For Him to know us. Take Jesus’ words for it, not mine –
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Mathew 6:21-23 NIV)
I don’t know about you, but that verse scares me. It tells me that we can deceive ourselves, or be deceived, into thinking we are saved when we are not. I am not trying to scare you, that is not my intent. My intent is for you to recognize that we should buffet our bodies too.
Back to Vision Quest. The main character, Louden Swain, is preparing to take on Shute, an undefeated wrestler a few weight classes below Louden. He wants to beat Shute because it is his last year of wrestling and wants the challenge. It’s a rough road for him, losing that weight. He buffets his body. He loses a friend for a time. It’s an excellent example of determination. I feel we, or me, need that discipline, that buffeting, in our lives too. Every minute that he gets, he does push ups. All kinds of exercises. At work (hotel room service clerk), he does push ups while waiting for the elevator! Continuous discipline and rigorous courage! He eats practically nothing.
It’s ridiculous. I want to be ridiculous. Maybe instead of coming home and picking up the Xbox controller, I should take a minute or three to pray. Instead of turning on the TV, I should focus on God’s love. Instead of picking up a book, I should pick up my bible. I am not saying I will never do any of these things, just that I should buffet my body to be approved by God. I should get to know Him as I have never known Him before. One way to do this is to do everything to the glory of Him. If it doesn’t glorify Him, why am I doing it?!?
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1Corinthians 10:31)
Brother Lawrence say it well, “What should we set as our ultimate goal in this life? The answer: the most perfect worshipers of God we can possibly be…. I sought no more than how to be God’s and God’s alone. My goal made me resolve to give my all for the All…. Always I worshiped Him as often as I could, keeping my mind in His holy presence. When I wandered I brought Him back to my mind…. At all times, every hour, every minute, even at the busiest times. I drove away from my mind everything capable of spoiling the sense of the presence of God…. I just make it my business to persevere in His holy presence… My soul has had an habitual, silent, secret conversation with God.”