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  • Rick LoPresti


The root word of disciple is discipline. Paul used athletic analogies several times to illustrate this:

He used running:

1. Rom 9:16 – him that runneth

2. 1Cor 9:24-26 – run that ye may obtain

3. Gal 2:2, Phil 2:16 – I had run in vain

4. Gal 5:7 – ye did run well

5. 2Thes 3:1 – that the word of the Lord may have free course

6. Heb 12:1 - run with patience the race which is set before us

He used wrestling:

1. 1Cor 15:32 – I have fought with beasts

2. Eph 6:12 - we wrestle not against flesh and blood

He used gladiators: 1Cor 15:32 – fought with beasts (wild beasts)

He used boxing:

1. 1Cor 9:26 – so fight I, not as one that beateth the air

2. 1Tim 6:12 – fight the good fight of faith

3. 2Tim 4:7 – I have fought a good fight

He also talked about the place of the contest:

1. Stadion – furlong, about 600 feet for Greek foot race (1Cor 9:24)

2. Theatron – theater, place for public games (1Cor 4:9)

3. Agon – arena or stadium for games, the place of the Olympics

a. Phil 1:30 – having the same conflict

b. Col 2:1 – what great conflict I have for you

c. 1Thes 2:2 – the gospel of God with much contention

d. 1Tim 6:12 – fight the good fight

e. 2Tim 4:7 – I have fought a goof fight

f. Heb 12:1 – run with patience the race

He also talked about the athlete’s prize:

1. Brabeion – award to victor of games (1Cor 9:24, Phil 3:14): garland of

bay, olive, or pine

2. Stephanos – laurel wreath

a. 1Cor 9:25 – a corruptible crown

b. Phil 4:1 – my joy and crown

c. 1Thes 2:19 – crown of rejoicing

d. 2Tim 4:8 – crown of righteousness

e. Jam 1:12, Rev 2:10 – crown of life

f. 1Pet 5:4 – crown of glory

An athlete that wants to win must deny himself other things and focus on his training. It will take time and effort to get ready for the competition. There are others also trying to be the champion, so we must be at our best. It takes hard work. It takes time and commitment. It takes practice. It takes skipping other things. It takes some knowledge of the opponent. It takes having the right equipment and knowing how to use it. Paul used the Greek word agonizomai, which means to contend in gymnastic games, to describe this:


1. Lk 13:24 – strive to enter in at the strait gate

2. Jn 18:36 – then would my servants fight


3. 1Cor 9:25 – strive for the mastery

4. Col 1:29 – I also labour, striving according to His working

5. Col 4:12 – laboring fervently for you in prayers

6. 1Tim 6:12 – fight the good fight of faith

7. 2Tim 4:7 – I have fought a good fight

Paul also used military analogies for this. General George Patton said that no soldier won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the adversary die for his. A soldier also must train, be disciplined, learn equipment and tactics, know the enemy (2Cor 2:11), and be always ready to engage. He must be mentally prepared to endure hardness. He must have resolve. Wars are not usually over quickly. Any discipline requires doing things repetitively. The athlete, the soldier, and the musician must do drills over and over to develop and maintain their skills. The best ones never stop doing this. People like to see the athlete accomplish a great feat to the cheers of the crowd, but they don’t get the same excitement from watching them do it over and over and over in practice. The best are not necessarily those with the best natural talent and the easiest opportunities. They are those who work the hardest. When we love and believe in what we are doing, we are willing to go through this process. When we stay focused on obtaining the results of our efforts, we endure. When the discipline becomes a drudgery and we take our eyes off the prize, we get discouraged and can quit. Athletes have coaches. Soldiers have drill instructors. Those people are there to instill discipline. They are not there to control or oppress. They are there to prepare people for their performance. A Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ. The Lord disciplines His children like a good father so they can be ready to accomplish their mission – knowing Him and helping others know Him (Heb 12). God also gives us leaders to help us do this (Eph 4:11-12, Heb 13: 7 &17). The athlete and soldier must follow rules (Lk 6:46, Jn 14:15, 2Tim 2:5 - athleo – public games, 1Jn 5:1-3). When one player is penalized, it affects the whole team. When one soldier fails, it can jeopardize the mission and the lives of other soldiers. Discipline is the key to success and victory.

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