STRIVING FOR THE MASTERY
To strive for the mastery is to make effort to gain ascendancy or to maintain pre-eminence in anything. Where there is no desire for mastery, it is mostly because there is a lack of goal, vision, skill, or perseverance. It's either there is a failure to plan or there is no guidance in regard to what is to be done, and what should be done, to gain it.
Reference: 1 Corinthians 9:25 King James Version (KJV) 'And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.'
Paul used race competition as a metaphor for our Christian life and service to God. Speaking to the Christians in Corinth, he drew the metaphor from the circle of Corinthian community whose practice was highly competitive. There was an annual event, in form of Olympic games going on in that city, with the sporting activities highlighted by foot races. So Paul pointed out to the Corinthian Christians that for participants in such contests, their strive for the mastery was just to obtain a momentary or corruptible crown. However, in their participation, winning took a lot of self-discipline, self-sacrifice and extreme severity of training. So they endured a lot, obeyed strict orders, ate sparely, slept for lesser hours, beat their weaknesses and fought fatigue, to keep fit.
In every race, the aim of the athletes or participants is to win, yet its only one person that obtains a 'reward' in the contest or a 'prize' at the athletic festivals. Most of the time, the competitors prepare themselves for several months ahead of the contests, and they abstain from strong wine, heavy food, and other entertaining gratification, or festal enjoyment, just to gain the mastery. Yet the honour of winning the prize in the race is short-lived.
In our Christian race, every candidate strives for the mastery to obtain an incorruptible crown. The requirements for this mastery is purity, soberness, and endurance, and holiness. And we are not there yet unless the dominant motive of our Christian lives becomes the holy fear of God and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Also, as Christians we don't literally compete "against" one another, just like we see in earthly contests. So the emphasis here is not rivalry or having another Christian as your opponent, but on commitment, faithfulness and purity as Kingdom stewards. This is because we aim to win a prize that will last forever and so we train ourselves in the kingdom way to avoid being disqualified before crossing the finish line.
Divine mastery is the gift of God, on condition of our faithfulness, diligence and earnestness. Where there is no mastery, the faithfulness of the Christian steward is either compromised or exchanged. Mastery is what makes an eternal difference in the condition of our Christian lives. It positions us to function from a place of rest, victory and absolute dominion. It is the flashing light of divine glory, the fullness of dominion, the beauty of distinction and the decency of righteousness. Here's the golden news: No matter the situation in our Christian walk, it is never too late to strive for the mastery. We can make such commitment to God from today, and live to follow the commitment.
Striving for the mastery is not craving for God's acceptance or approval. Paul's teaching is clear about it: No amount of self-denial or effort will earn for us God's approval or eternal life. Jesus already earned and secured that for us on the cross, and it is by His grace alone. Instead, Paul is describing the key to a reward or a crown for service to Christ that will be given in addition to our salvation.
Scripture Reading - 2 Corinthians 7:1; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:23-24; 1 Timothy 4:12.
Guided Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, your Word is the light of my life and the wisdom that propels me to go in the right direction. I live for you and function with your grace daily, striving for the mastery in all good things. By your Spirit, I'm conditioned to be temperate in my way of life, and I'm dedicated to exercising self-control and self-discipline in order to obtain an imperishable crown that will never die. Thank you for helping me to master my gifts, skills and talents so that I may place them in your service, fulfilling my purpose in Christ, in Jesus' Name, Amen!