There is a good reason there are so many 5k races these days. What aspiring runners have realized is that without a goal, the training is much more difficult. If you just want to run because it’s good for you, that may never happen. But if you first sign up for a race and then start training, that goal drives you on to prepare with more intensity, commitment, and endurance.
In his comparison to running Paul writes, “I do not run aimlessly” and then in reference to boxing, “I do not box as one beating the air.” He has a goal. The call of God drives him onward and rather than pointlessly beating the air, he disciplines himself. He knows what he needs to do in order to best meet the task before him.
I fear that for many Christians, their faith is pointless. Not that it doesn’t mean anything, rather it is pointless in that it lacks direction. There is no goal that drives them. Some think believing in Jesus is the finish line. But believing in Jesus enters us into his kingdom and into a new way of being. It’s a new creation and a new beginning. As Paul has mentioned earlier in 1 Corinthians we are no longer like the natural person for we have been gifted with the Holy Spirit. We are given God’s wisdom and all of us should have a calling and purpose.
But if we think we have no driving purpose it takes away from what we’re called as Christians to do. For what good is discipleship with no purpose? Why read the Bible? Memorize scripture? Pray? The goal of these things isn’t to make ourselves good. The goal is to do the good to which God calls us. The goal is to discipline ourselves like an athlete so that as we run the race and seek the goal of sharing the gospel, we will be ready. Discipleship should be seen as training–not training for no reason, but training in preparation for whatever God intends for us.
We can view the spiritual disciplines of our faith as aimless jogging, just to make us fit. Or we can view discipleship as training for a race, and a race that we intend to run hard. If you see it as the latter and you know that God wants to use you, doesn’t that then encourage you to be in the best shape possible?
So what goals do you have? What purpose do you see in your life? What do you think God wants you to do for the kingdom? That’s the first step. See the race God wants you to enter and sign up. Then “discipline your body and keep it under control,” as Paul writes. Looking toward the goal, commit yourself to whatever God needs you to do in order reach that end.