V. DISCIPLINE (1 Cor. 9:25-27)
“Every competitor in an athletic contest practices abstemiousness [self-discipline] in all directions.  They indeed do this for the sake of securing a perishable wreath, but we for the sake of securing one that will not perish. That is how I run, not being in any doubt as to my goal. I am a boxer who does not inflict blows on the air, but I hit hard and straight at my own body, and lead it off into slavery, lest possibly, after I have been a herald to others, I should myself be rejected” (Weymouth’s translation of I Cor. 9:25-27).
Paul tells us that he exercises constant discipline lest, after being a herald to others, and telling them how to win the prize, he should lose it himself.
The word translated “a castaway” in the Authorized Version is adokimos, and means disapproved, just as dokimos in 1 Corinthians 11:19 means approved. A man may be a child of God, and yet disapproved as a servant of God. To be approved, to reach the maximum of our spiritual privileges, involves constant self-judgment, self-denial, self-crucifixion. Many are accustomed to think that the question of their personal security is the only question of any moment. That is a great mistake, for by careless living, by giving lodgment to Self in any of its forms, whether hateful or beautiful; by carelessness and unwatchfulness; by neglect of communion; by failing to keep the Master’s sayings, we forfeit the highest possible service to the world–that of manifesting, in our life, the loveliness of Jesus Christ.
If we are to know the blessed secret of making use of Jesus as He reigns enthroned in our life, we must take care to do always the things that please Him. Will He be pleased if we spend our early morning leisure moments over the newspaper to the neglect of His Word? One of the greatest preachers of the age resolutely refuses to look at his newspaper until the afternoon. He does this as a matter of discipline, because he found that the reading of the news encroached upon time needed for the study of God’s Word. The tongue must be disciplined, for the temptations to superficiality and shallowness through over-much talk were never greater than today. The mind must be disciplined, and its loins girded up, to use Peter’s figure, otherwise there will be great mental slackness in all directions [1 Pet. 1:13 ]. So easily do we turn aside and grieve our gracious Guest, if we neglect self-discipline [Eph. 4:30].
“Want [lack] of self-control,” says one, “makes one a poor slave–slave of his impulses, slave of his passions, slave of his surroundings: disqualifies him for great and noble uses in this life [2 Tim. 2:20,21]. It was not Paul’s life, it was Christ’s life in Paul–a great, real, Divine thing that had caught Paul in its current and was bearing him on, flowing through him soul and body, and reducing him daily to its own heavenly complexion. Every believing man knows that. He knows that he is perfect master of himself only in the proportion in which Christ is Master of him, and he knows that Christ is Master of him in proportion as he shrinks from sin, and puts Self-seeking and Self-indulgence under his feet. The Christian man is bound to call into solemn review every sinless enjoyment and every innocent habit which he finds to be encroaching on his reserve of moral power, and lessening in him that moral enthusiasm which is the spring of all moral attainment.” This is true Christian discipline.
My omnipotent Lord, enable me to do what, apart from Your enabling, is impossible. Yet since it is Your will I can ask in the utmost confidence. I would be detached from everything that would hinder me, and therefore hinder You, in the accomplishment of Your purpose.
Let me be willing that Self should be completely dethroned in my life. When I have sometimes thought the victory was won, I have found to my humiliation that I was still in bondage to my old enemy. He is too strong and subtle for me. Do, therefore, cleanse the temple of my being as You did in the days of Your flesh. Drive out all the buyers and sellers, and make my heart a house of prayer.
Teach me the life of absolute dependence upon You. I am so prone to creaturely activity and creaturely self-assertion. I have so often failed to realize that apart from You I can do nothing.
My Master, lead me to Thy door;
Pierce this now willing ear once more:
Thy bonds are freedom;
let me stay With Thee, to toil, endure, obey.
May I show my devotion to You by my love of Your Word, and by my glad and quick obedience to Your sayings. May I never pick and choose among Your commands, but regard every Word of Yours as binding upon me. To this end help me patiently and diligently to study Your precepts; to be as glad to come to You for law as for life; and to remember that Your commandments are not grievous.
Let me never through carelessness or self-indulgence be disapproved; but, submitting to the discipline of the Holy Spirit, may I lay aside every weight; run the heavenly race; and at last finish the course and win the crown. I ask this in the Name of Jesus my Saviour and King. – Amen.
Conclusion, part 5 of 5, from Beyond Humiliation: The Way of the Cross, by John Gregory Mantle. Washington, D.C: Testimony Book Ministry, 1974. 8th edition, Chapter 16.
 abstemiousness – Latin abstemius, from abs- + -temius; akin to Latin temetum intoxicating drink; “marked by restraint especially in the consumption of food or alcohol ; also: reflecting such restraint.
Bracketed references added. Pronouns and verbs updated in the closing prayer. – JBW
This chapter has emphasized the daily cross in the life of the believer. For other aspects of the Calvary road, consider Grace Notes: The Four Dimensions of the Cross.