“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete but only one receives the prize? So run your race that you may lay hold of the prize and make it yours.
Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither but we do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness that cannot wither.
Therefore I do not run uncertainly and without definite aim. I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary.
But, like a boxer, I buffet my body; I handle it roughly, discipline it while going through hardships and subdue it out of fear that after proclaiming the gospel and things pertaining to it that I myself shall be found unfit, not able to withstand the test, unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit.
For I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren that our forefathers were all under and protected by the cloud, in which God’s presence went before them, and every one of them passed safely through the Red Sea. (Exodus 13:21; 14:22, 29)
And each one of them allowed himself also to be baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea and were thus brought under obligation to the Law, to Moses, and to the Covenant, consecrated and set apart unto the service of God.
And all of them ate the same supernaturally given food. (Exodus 16:4, 35)
And they all drank the same supernaturally given drink. (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11) They drank from a spiritual rock produced by the sole power of God Himself without natural instrumentality and that Rock is Christ.
Nevertheless, God was not pleased with a great majority of them, for they were overthrown and strewn down along the ground in the wilderness. (Numbers 14:29-30)
Now these things are given as examples, warnings and admonitions for us not to desire or crave or covet or lust after evil and carnal things as they did. (Numbers 11:4, 34)
Do not be worshipers of false gods as some of them were, as it is written: The people sat down to eat and drink the sacrifices offered to the golden calf at Horeb and rose to sport, to dance and give way to jesting and hilarity. (Exodus 32:4, 6)
We must not gratify evil desire and indulge in fornication and immorality, as some of them did, and twenty three thousand suddenly fell dead in a single day! (Numbers 25:1-18)
We should not tempt the Lord, try his patience, become a trial to him, critically appraise him and exploit his goodness, as some of them did, and were killed by poisonous serpents. (Numbers 21:5, 6)
Nor discontentedly complain, as some of them did, and were put out of the way entirely by the destroyer (death). (Numbers 16:41, 49)
Now these things befell them by way of a figure, as an example and warning to us; they were written to admonish and fit us for right action by good instruction, we in whose days the ages have reached their climax.
Therefore, let anyone who things he stands, who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm, take heed lest he fall.
For no temptation or trial, no matter how it comes or where it leads, has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to all mankind.
No temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear. But God is faithful to his word and his compassionate nature and he can be trusted not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation or trial he will always also provide the way out that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.
Therefore, my dearly beloved, shun, keep clear away from and avoid by flight if need be, any sort of idolatry.
I am speaking as to intelligent and sensible men. Think over and make up your minds for yourselves about what I say. I appeal to your reason and your discernment in these matters.
The cup of the blessing of wine at the Lord’s supper, upon which we ask God’s blessing, does it not mean that in drinking it we participate in and share a fellowship in the blood of Christ the Messiah?
The bread, which we break, does it not mean that in eating we participate in and share fellowship in the body of Christ the Messiah?
For we, no matter how numerous we are, are one body because we all partake of the One Bread.
Now consider those people of Israel. Are not those who eat the sacrifices partners with the altar and united in their worship of the same God? (Leviticus 7:6)
What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is intrinsically changed by the fact and amounts to anything or that an idol itself is a living thing?
No, I am suggesting that what the pagans do and sacrifice they offer, in effect, to demons and not to God at all and I do not want you to fellowship and be partners with diabolical spirits. (Deuteronomy 32:17)
You cannot drink the Lord’s cup and the demon’s cup. You cannot partake of the Lord’s table and the demon’s table.
Shall we thus provoke the Lord to jealousy and anger and indignation? Are we stronger than he that we should defy him?
All things are legitimate, permissible, and we are free to do anything we please. But, not all things are helpful, expedient, profitable and wholesome. All things are legitimate but not all things are constructive to character and edifying to spiritual life.”
-1 Corinthians 9:24-10:23 Amplified Version
At the beginning of this passage Paul relates the spiritual life to the running of a race, he uses the example of an olympic athlete who trains and restricts himself with severity in order to discipline his body and win the prize, a garland wreath, in the olympic games. This was the perfect symbolic image to use for the Corinthians since Corinth was located in Greece where the olympic games began and were held in ancient times, athletic training was something that the Corinthians well understood.
He tells them this for he does not want them to be ignorant of the truth, using ancient Israel and their exodous from Egypt as a further example, of how, even though Israel was selected and chosen as “God’s People” even they, with ALL that God had done for them, did not take him seriously at his word. They acted as lazy, whining, complaining, undisdiplined children – the complete opposite of an athlete who trains to WIN, the Israelites backtracked on God over and over and over again and God disciplined them for it! In much the same way that a farmer or gardener goes into the field plucking out all the weeds that suck the life from the good plants, so to did God “pluck out the weeds” from amongst Israel…killing 23,000 in one day, 14,000 on a different occassion…
Paul says that this historical recounting of Israel’s time spent in the wilderness is given to us as an example and a warning to not fall into the same snare. That we should take our spiritual journey and relationship with God as seriously as an olympic athlete takes his training. We can further see this same idea when he admonishes Timothy to “Fight the good fight (like a boxer!) of faith, lay hold (like a wrestler!) on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” -1 Timothy 6:12
Throughout scripture he has often used similar examples to illustrate the same idea:
1. That of growing up from a newborn babe on milk to a full grown meat eating man – “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able…” “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” -1 Corinthians 3:2; 13:11
2. That of being a soldier – “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. -2 Timothy 2:3-5
The Amplified Version says: “Take, along with me, your share of the hardships and suffering which you are called to endure as a good first-class soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier when in service gets entangled in the enterprises of civilian life; his aim is to satisfy and please the one who enlisted him. And if anyone enters competitive games, he is not crowned unless he competes lawfully and fairly, according to the rules laid down.” …why else do you think he tells us to “put on the WHOLE ARMOR of God”? He is presupposing that you are already a soldier, with the mentality of a soldier, engaged in (spiritual) warfare to endure hardships and horrors for the sake of him who has enlisted you…for it is soldiers, not civilians, who typically wear armor.
And no proper soldier when in service gets entangled in the enterprises of civilian life for, as Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” -Matthew 6:24. A soldier is trained to wholly give up himself to the work and and in service; ready to part with all worldly enjoyments and suffer the loss of all things, when called to do it, for the sake of the one who leads him. The person who professes to be a Christian is not here on this planet to be a people pleaser, nor to please himself, by seeking his own ease and rest, his worldly paycheck and insurance, his “scooby snack” and pat on the back, but to please the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose book his name is written. This is the mentality of a soldier and in our modern day “christian” church it is exhibited by few and far between.
After discussing Israel’s failures, their succumbing to trials and temptations in the wilderness, Paul gives us assurance that we need not be like the Israelites, that God will never give us more than we can bear but that we must bear up under it patiently with full strength of resistance and power to endure. Like the athlete who buffets his body, I love that word “buffet” (and Paul is NOT talking about food here!)…it means to strike repeatedly, to strive with or contend against, to make one’s way through with blows (punches) and struggling. Struggle against the body, against the flesh, handle it roughly allowing it no mercy and subdue it, bring it under subjection to The Spirit Man, The New Creature in Christ. For, if you do not, just as the Israelites in the wilderness, you will very quickly return to your old ways.
Chief among these “old ways” to which they returned, Paul lists first their pagan idolatry and, most specifically their mixing of the two, as being especially heinous. Israel’s continuing to propagate and participate in pagan traditions, feasts, and rituals while at the same time professing to be God’s People. This is devilish evil in his sight and the same practice continues today in so-called “christianity” with their propagation and participation in pagan traditions that they use to “worship” God on what they declare are his most holy of days: Christmas and Easter…when, in reality, these days and these traditions proceed Christ by a couple THOUSAND years (at least!) and have nothing AT ALL to do with holiness or proper worship of him. Just do a quick google search on “the pagan traditions of christmas” or “the pagan traditions of easter” or better yet, do a search on youtube, there are a lot of good videos there! If you do not wish to learn more about these heinous practices then you can stop reading right here, otherwise you’re just wasting your time.
At best, most christians have been decieved. As dear children who understand as a child and think as a child, in only the most simple of ways, deceived into believing that what they do is good and pleasing in God’s sight. Just like the toddler who gifts his mother with a booger or a worm, she can appreciate the act and accept it with grace because she understands the love in his heart, even if the gift itself is gross in her sight.
Likewise, God understands our hearts and the love we have for him, he knows us inside and out and does not reject our gifts of boogers and worms. But, eventually children grow up and they become adults. And, try as you might, you cannot stay a “spiritual baby” in mama’s lap suckling at her breast forever, that is not the natural way of things and this isn’t Neverland, at some point you have to grow up! If the adult son gifted his mother with boogers and worms she would likely be angry and throw the gifts back in his face (I know I would!), this would be an insult to her because she knows that her son’s understanding has deepened, that he has matured and “knows better” than to give his mom boogers and worms.
Likewise, it is the same with God, our Eternal Parent. There comes a time where it is expected that we grow up and start acting like spiritual adults who “put away childish things” like the pagan traditions (our gifts of boogers and worms) that we, in our former childish ignorance, thought right to worship God with.
This all goes back to the beginning of the passage where Paul likens the christian walk to an athlete training to win a race. An athlete’s lifestyle, if he wishes to be at all competitive, is quite rigid and severe with a specific diet and specific times of training for a specific amount of time doing very specific exercises, along with getting enough sleep so that his body might recharge and become stronger. The way that he lives his life is very different from that of the average couch potato. The same can be said of the soldier who undergoes rigorous training in boot camp and must be established in the ways of survival and how to kill the enemy so that he may endure the hardships and dangers of the battlefield. His life is very drastically different than the life of a civilian. And quite naturally much more is expected of the adult than of the child, but at the same time much more freedom is given as well.
Twice throughout 1 Corinthians Paul says this, almost word for word both times:
“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient : all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” – 1 Corinthians 6:12
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient : all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” – 1 Corinthians 10:23
Twice in the same book he tells us this, for it really isn’t about “right vs. wrong” or going to hell. No, once you reach a certain point of christian maturity it becomes all about The Mission, The Goal, The Purpose…the “what” that he has you here to complete, as different for each christian as there are individual christians with differing talents and strengths and weaknesses. And what is most conducive to accomplishing the “what” vs. the things that are just a complete waste of time (and I don’t as much view christmas or easter as being evil per se as much as I view them as just being a complete and utter waste of time and energy for no real discernible purpose) and not edifying AT ALL to The Mission, The Goal, The Purpose that he has for you. Only you can make that decision.