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

// 1 Corinthians 9:25

There is something magical about cheering on a great athlete. We love to see them succeed because we know it is the product of years of dedication. They put everything else in second place in order to equip themselves to be the best.

One of the most famous athletic games was held near the city of Corinth, where Paul writes this verse. The winning prize was a pine-wreath from a sacred grove. Athletes would compete for a few minutes of victory; the winners of the games got a crown of green leaves that would wither in a week and fame that didn't last much longer.

Paul draws the parallel for the people of Corinth, who would be very familiar with these games, that if they are inspired by the dedication of someone whose prize is ultimately perishable, how much more should they feel inspired about living a life of self-control in their own worlds, where the prize is the greatest: seeing God’s kingdom here on the earth.

Paul knew very well the value of a life of self-control, because he lived it out, facing opposition, fear and doubt every day, and in the midst of it all he would choose God’s truth. As Paul grew to know God’s character better, he was able to grow in understanding of God’s eternal plan.

God wants our lives to reflect the promise He has for us. When we choose to dedicate ourselves to the most important thing – our relationship with God – we put everything else in second place.

He has given us the ability to master every area of our world. No problem is too big when our ability to overcome it is rooted in our identity in Christ. This is what a life of self-control looks like: a mastered pursuit, an eternal perspective where fear and doubt take second place, an imperishable prize of living out our best life with faith leading the way.

Like a great athlete, we can set our sights on what is most important and live the life we are called to live, inspiring others with our dedication and mastery. When God’s best is in mind, we don’t have to settle for what’s in front of us.

// Tabitha Akins