Devotions

Author Archives: Trevor Cole

1 Corinthians 9:26-27

1 Corinthians 9:26-27 – So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

I have already told you that I am no marathon runner but I would not call myself a fighter either. Apart from my younger brother, I have never been in a fistfight in my life. Regardless of not being a fighter, I can get the picture Paul paints when he talks about keeping his body under control. We know that he is a goal setter because he does not want to run “aimlessly.” Anyone who has ever trained for anything can relate to that concept.

I remember a few years ago when I realized I had put on a few extra pounds since my college days. I knew I needed to take care of the body God has so graciously given me, and I was sick of feeling as if I was going to die every time I simply jogged down the basketball court. So off I went to get “back in shape.” It did not take me long to realize that I needed some goals, so I started writing everything down. Distances and times for runs, weights used, pushups done, and all that. It is funny that when it comes to fitness we know what it takes to get better and move forward. If we are really serious, we do not just want to get by with our training we want to do everything we can to get the best results. If I just go out for a jog every day and do not have anything to compare one day with the next, how will I know if I have grown at all? I won’t and I will end up stuck in a rut going nowhere.

God wants us to have the same attitude about goals for our spiritual life. I would encourage you to regularly examine yourself and ask God for some spiritual goals. That can be something as simple as reading a certain book of the Bible for a month or spending a certain amount of time in prayer for a season. We do not want these goals to be a checklist that makes us feel more spiritual; they are to help us grow closer to God.

I would also encourage you, do not try to do it all on your own. Hebrews 3:13 – “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Find someone that is almost a spiritual workout partner. Someone you respect that you can be open and honest with about the spiritual goals you want to set. God made us social people and that is no different when it comes to spiritual growth.

 

Trevor Cole
Communication Pastor

Crown Me

1 Corinthians 9:25 – “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”

Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Have you ever failed at something? Have you ever given your all toward something and still come up short? It hurts doesn’t it? Trying to live for God sometimes feels that way. We know the sacrifice that Jesus made to give us forgiveness and we long to live for Him in return, but it often feels like we fail Him all the time. For many years I’ve asked God to make me the man He wants me to be: To lead people to follow Him, to live a holy life, to lead my family His way, to be a loving, kind, and strong husband and so on. I wish I could tell you that I am always all of those things, but I am not.

In 1 Corinthians 9:25 Paul talks about this imperishable wreath or crown: Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Yesterday we learned about staying on course and keeping eternity in mind as we run the race that God has for us. Today I want to encourage you with the promise that God has made for those who run the race well. Paul reminds us that those who win races here on earth receive a crown that will eventually be meaningless but that believers run their race for one that is imperishable, but what is the crown he is talking about? The word Paul uses here can be found in other parts of the Bible but the most similar use can be found in 2 Timothy 4:7-8: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness… This crown of righteousness that is promised to those who keep the faith is what makes us fit for heaven. Here on earth we are not perfect. We do the best we can with God’s help, but we still make mistakes; we fail Him. I find it so encouraging to know that there will come a day when I no longer falter in this race we run.

It is important and encouraging to remember that this world we live in is not our final home. We are just racing through it, and we must keep our eye on the prize or we will run off course. I’m going to date myself here, but Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song that never ceases to give me hope; it is called “Not Home Yet.” If you have a moment, give it a listen, but let me leave you with these words from the song: “I know there’ll be a moment, I know there’ll be a place, where we will see our Savior and fall in His embrace. So let us not grow weary or to content to stay, because we are not home yet.” We may not be perfect yet, but when we reach our final home, we will be the best version of ourselves that God always had planned for us.

 

Trevor Cole
Communication Pastor

Run with Purpose

I have never loved running. Plenty of people I know have asked me “isn’t it on your bucket list to run a marathon?” Nope, not even a little bit. Don’t get me wrong; I am a pretty competitive person. I’ll bust out the occasional 2-5 mile run just to see what I can do, but 26.2 miles? Yeah, I’ll pass on that.

Even though I would not consider myself an avid runner, I think we can all understand the point Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 9:24: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  There are so many things grasping for our attention on a daily basis with many of them being very worthwhile, valuable pursuits. A successful career, physical fitness, financial security, a happy marriage, who would criticize such pursuits? In and of themselves these goals are benign, but when we allow them to control our every decision, we have left the course of the most important race we must run.

Let’s just take a moment and focus on one area that almost everyone desires, a happy marriage. We can all agree that a happy marriage is a good thing and that God has the power to give us just that. The problem arises when we make a good marriage our goal. We believe that a happy marriage will help everything else fall into place. When that happens, we are no longer running in the right race. Our life’s goal should be to follow Jesus with everything we have and to share the message of His forgiveness and freedom.

If in my marriage all I am trying to do is make my partner happy and vice versa, we may end up with a “good” marriage by most standards. We stay faithful to one another, enjoy going to dinner and on vacations with one another, and everyone around us thinks “they’ve got it pretty good.” A happy marriage may be a wonderful thing, but it should never be our ultimate goal. Our marriages would be much better off if husband and wife kept eternity in mind. We must remember that God did not bring us together simply for our enjoyment and happiness but so that we could serve Him better. A couple dedicated to giving their all to God instead of just to each other has enormous power.

This idea of keeping eternity in mind applies to any other pursuit in this world as well. Career, fitness, and finances can all be good things if we remember why God has given us those opportunities and abilities: for His glory and to reach others with His good news. A great runner of any kind keeps the end in mind. That is what we must do; focus on what is ahead. It is not easy to live with eternity in mind every day of our lives, but we must give everything we have to focus on the end of our race.

 

Trevor Cole
Communication Pastor

By All Means

Before we look at anything else Paul writes in this section we need to establish why he did what he did and why we should follow his example. We find his reasoning at the end of verse 22: “that by all means I might save some.” What exactly was he trying to save them from? He may not state it explicitly in this verse but Romans 5:9, another of Paul’s letters, reads “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” That is exactly what Paul and we are trying to rescue people from, the wrath of God.

Maybe it is because, as Americans, we have so much. Maybe it is just because we do not want to be reminded of God’s justice. Whatever the reason may be, we often avoid the fact that the Holy God, who created this earth, must pour out His wrath on those who do not put their faith in the saving work of Jesus. Many people emphasize the help that Jesus can give psychologically, the power to overcome hate, fear, loneliness, and so on. Those things are wonderful, and He does help us to overcome those issues, but the best and most important part of the gospel is that we do not have to experience God’s almighty wrath. Do you believe that?

It is entirely possible that we do not share the message of Jesus because we do not believe, deep down, that God’s wrath will reign down on those who reject His truth. Our lives have become so busy and so filled with an excess of doing that we take little time to remind ourselves that our lives are short, and people need the truth of Jesus. Take some time today and simply think on the wrath of God that will come. Allow it to impact your view of this world just as it did Paul’s.

Once you have allowed the truth and power of God’s wrath to sink into your heart and mind, then read the following verses.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 – For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Now that we understand Paul’s reason, his heart, we can truly understand what it means to be all things to all men. We have freedom in Christ to put aside the petty differences that can alienate us from society and more specifically, from those who do not follow Jesus. We must also remember to examine ourselves regularly before God to make sure that we are not becoming too much like the world that they no longer realize that there is something different about us. This task is not an easy one, but I challenge you to see what God can do through you when you ask yourself this question often: “Am I doing everything I can to reach those around me while remaining true to the God who saved me from His wrath?” Can you say like Paul “that by all means I might save some”?

 

Trevor Cole
Communication Pastor

1 Corinthians 9

“I deserve.” “Get mine.” “It is my right.” These phrases have become commonplace, not just in the world around us, but in our lives as well. In the verses we looked at yesterday, Paul emphasized his right to be supported financially by the church.

I have been married for 12 years now. They have been 12 of the best years of my life. Despite having the best wife ever, I’ve still found myself expecting more at times. I have had some moments where I felt like Paul, except on a much more selfish and immature level. You know those classic stupid guy thoughts like “I put my dishes in the dishwasher, I deserve to just sit on the couch the rest of the night now,” or even better, “I made the bed once this week and now you have the audacity to ask me to take out the trash?”

Take a moment to examine yourself and remember a recent moment where you had a similar thought about your rights. Read 1 Corinthians 9:12. Remember, Paul has spent most of this chapter reminding the church just how much sacrifice he put in for their lives and how it is his right to be supported by them.

Let’s take a closer look at verses 12.

12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

In those moments of excessive self-worth, we rarely take into consideration how our “rights” affect the people around us. One of the most disruptive, dare I say, destructive forces in the church today takes place when we misuse the freedom or the rights we have been given by God. Throughout the Bible, God emphasizes the importance of helping and supporting the people around us. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” I often find myself focusing on what I am allowed to do instead of focusing on what I should do for those around me.

Paul set himself up as an example to follow. He showed us how he had every right to be supported by the church at Corinth, yet Paul laid down that right for something he knew was far more important: “the gospel of Christ.” He knew that these young believers in a relatively young church might have a difficult time supporting him, so he laid his right down for the greater good. When you find yourself demanding what you deserve, ask yourself “is my right what’s most important here or do I need to lay down my right to help build someone up?”

 

Trevor Cole
Communication Pastor



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