but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27 NASB
Discipline – We live the lives of Jacob, so maybe we need the same faith as Jacob. What I mean is that we aren’t Job. We are not righteous men and women. We struggle with Torah. We make mistakes. We take “vacations” from the commandments. We are “foremost” among the sinners, just like Paul. I would imagine that most of us have at one time or another attempted to manipulate God’s grace in our favor. It’s difficult for us to say with complete confidence, “Even if you slay me, yet I will worship you.” We are much more like the schemer Jacob, trying to figure out how to stay out of trouble and still get what we want.
Jacobs’s faith is a fighting faith. He has to wrestle with God. He loses (so do we all) but he won’t quit even in defeat. That’s why his name becomes Israel – and for the rest of his life you will find that he vacillates between his old name and the new name God gave him. Sounds a lot like me.
What does Paul’s statement about discipline have to do with Jacob? Well, the word Paul uses is the Greek hypopaizo. Yes, it does mean discipline, but it is a word from the boxing world. It is used by Diogenes Laertius to describe a fight where one man gives the opponent a black eye. Hypopaizo is a punch in the face. It’s a graphic, powerful, confrontational word that belies the idea of mental asceticism. Paul literally says that in order to follow the leading of Yeshua he must pound himself into shape. He gives himself a black eye in order to stick with the Lord. He and Jacob go through the same “discipline,” that is, they have to use every ounce of energy to hold on to God in order to be worthy of His blessing.
Discipline is not for the weak. It’s not for those who aren’t willing to be beaten up a bit. It’s not for those who are out of shape, who think this life should be easy and God will “take care of things.” Discipline is for those who are willing to be knocked down and still get back up again. This is what I need, and for the same reasons Paul states. What is the point of providing all this elaboration of the Word if I myself fail to meet its standard? I have to be ready to be given a black eye for God’s sake. Most of the time that black eye doesn’t come from some other person. I’m the only one, other than the Lord, who knows how much I fail to keep the instructions that I teach others. I need to beat myself into shape. God will certainly assist, but until I take off the face guard, I am not really in the fight. In this battle, I have to be ready to give myself a black eye.
Far too often we opt for a comfortable spirituality. Of course, we are willing to take on difficult tasks “for the Lord,” but when it comes to beating myself, to wearing down all those offers from the yetzer ha’ra, we would rather play the church video game from the couch. No blood in that! If you get hit, it doesn’t hurt and you can just push the OFF button. God, unfortunately, is the God of life, not games, and life is in the blood. If you’re going to play in His world, you better bring bandages.
Topical Index: hypopaizo, discipline, wear down, 1 Corinthians 9:27